(disclaimer, some of these may be attributes of the general American population, however I see them expressed so strongly in Oklahoma that I am inclined to claim our state as author.)
1) Red Dirt
It is distinctive, it is quintessentially Oklahoman. It has a unique beauty that creates a soft palette of colors complemented by the washed sage of native grasses.
Living overseas, no one believes me when I talk about how red our soil is. I love it. But don’t expect to keep your socks white if you go for a hike or down to the river. Red Dirt is hard to wash out.
2) If you have a flat tire, this is the best place to be.
Is it just me, or does Oklahoma have the highest concentration of overwhelmingly prepared and friendly people? In other places, you rely on the “onboard” assistance program built into your vehicle, or a web maps locator to find the nearest service. In Oklahoma, I have always had someone stop in a farm truck just to ask if I needed help, or a jack, or a cold Dr. Pepper, or a hand.
3) We are Stewards. We take care of things.
To quote my Grandad who is past 90 and still farming after a knee replacement, “a good grease gun is always better than a mechanic.” Stewardship does not only describe farmers or ranchers because as Oklahomans, we also encourage good shopping cart etiquette. We also judge littering as a cardinal sin. We clean community parks and cemeteries. I often see a farm truck stopped on the side of road to straighten a post or secure an insulator on a neighbor’s fence.
4) Respect for Knives and Leather goods
On my 10th birthday, following family tradition, I received my first 2 blade case pocket knife. It was a big deal.
I know many people who still carry a pocket knife around, and I have always carried one myself.
Also, anyone with a pair of cowboy boots can appreciate the qualities of worn leather, and more specifically anyone with horses. When you look at cowboy heritage, leather was the most available and most durable material and generations of cattlemen have created their own unique take on building bridles, saddles and tooled embellishments.
My mother bought her first “new” saddle after carefully navigating 4 states before finding the perfect piece for our ranching operation. You select a saddle for the build but also for the color and the style.
Custom leather goods and pocket knives distinguish the cowboys from the guys who just wear cowboy hats.
Here are some links to custom leather and knife craftsmen.
5) Alignment with livestock and domestic animals
In our family, livestock and animals come first. They are a main part of our livelihood, our heritage and our help. We treat them as parts of our farm family and maintaining their good health and care is integral to our heritage. Like humans, animals experience stress and this stress has a negative impact on health. Just as we try to minimize the stress of doctor’s visits and immunizations for our family, we do the same with our livestock and four-legged family members when they need medical treatment.
With such a rich ranching heritage in Oklahoma, most of us know how to read animal body language and ear signals. Heck, many of us are more comfortable on a long ride with a horse and dog than in most social events with other people, particularly city folk.
See this link below to the Long family who raises cow dogs. They have some nice videos of the dogs working cattle.
6) Clean Language and quirky lingo
Compare us with Washingtonians or New Yorkers and you would think that we use a different dictionary. “Damn it”, and “well Hell” may be the strongest expressions you will hear in OK.
But for those who come to Oklahoma to learn English, we have many expressions that are hard to identify in a dictionary. Y’all Fix’in ta, or “Really” were difficult terms for my Romanian/Russian speaking husband to grasp. I wouldn’t say that we have a strong accent, but when traveling I can always identify an Oklahoman by his/her terminology.
7) Deep Faith and a United Multi-Denominational Christian Community
Whether you attend a traditional service, a contemporary service, or a streamed service. Chances are if you live in Oklahoma, your heritage is rooted in the Christian faith. If you are over 30, you may also remember a time when contemporary services didn’t exist and attending Sunday service meant that you were stuffed into “Church clothes” which pre-dated comfortable modal stretch materials. Boys wore button up shirts, and girls wore frilly socks, dreaded hose, and a dress that had 10 places where it itched or pinched. If you were lucky, someone in your family or church took the time to sew your dress and you were strictly forbidden to speak of how uncomfortable it was.
Ahh the good old days.
If you attended a rural church service, you have the rhythm of several hymns engraved in your bones. Sunday school classrooms typically had the coolest bible figures cut from felt that your teacher would use to reenact bible stories. Your church community held you accountable when your parents weren’t looking. Vacation Bible school and Church camp were core parts of your summer.
8) Everyone works together to build communities
Even in tough economies we all work together to create common value for our communities.
The vast majority of community members volunteer in one way or another to make our communities stronger. Teachers probably volunteer the most, we owe them not just our respect, but also respectable pay.
Civic clubs such as Rotary, Lions, and the Kiwanis allow the businesses and professionals to unite and pool resources in targeted ways to benefit the community and to address critical gaps in local resources.
9) We are self reliant, but humble.
We are the first to volunteer, but the last to ask for help.
Hell, in Oklahoma it is your neighbor’s responsibility to identify that you have a need and come to your assistance, you often never need to actually ask for help. Growing up we would constantly be running back to town to get enough ingredients for an extra casserole. When making casseroles you always prepared according to the following ratio;One to eat, one to freeze and one for the family who had just experienced a birth/death/major event in their family.
10) Overly polite
We say “Thank you” and “Oh Im Sorry”, more than most, and too often to be required. It is just courteous and is part of that quirky lingo mentioned earlier.
For example.. you are at a restaurant and they bring you water, you say “thank you,” they are late bringing your food, you say “oh thank you,” they ask you to repeat your desert order, you say “oh sorry.”
Oklahoma is one of those places where a thank you note sent through the mail is better than an email, and where our children can still get a healthy dose of good American values and southern manners.