Driving through eastern Oklahoma where the wind comes whippin’ down the plains is a whippin’. JustPlainBoring. You gotta be from there to love it. Carrie Underwood and those devoted OU Sooners call the Cherokee nation heavenly, but I have to use my imagination.
The drive is an unofficial tollroad for Razorback fans consisting of speed trap towns strung together just close enough that I don’t fall asleep behind the wheel. As I blink entering the outskirts of these tiny Oklahoma towns, the speed limit rapidly decreases from 75 to 45 within half the distance of a football field. Identifying the ‘outskirts’ is tricky too. It all looks the same.
Between these speed traps, when the road is bare and nondescript without even tumbleweeds to break the monotony, there are miles and miles of orange highway department cones. Alleged highway construction. Fines quadruple in work zones…
In the 1800s, this route was part of the Butterfield Overland Stage Road for mail delivery. I can easily imagine buffalo grazing and cowboys riding through the prairie grass. I entertain myself attempting to pronounce the wild-indian-named towns such as Poteau and Chocotah and Tahlequah. I look for the Eufaula prison trash gang – I have fond memories of the lunch we shared together once upon a time.
I stay alert by watching for escaped prisoners-turned-hitchhikers around the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester. And the next Choctaw Casino headliner is always big news. Rick Springfield on 09-13.
I try not to speed. I am very aware. However, a few miles on the other side of Atoka, blue lights behind me. Some sucker is getting stopped. Some sucker will be paying a toll.
I was that sucker. I got a ticket in Atoka. Oh the alliteration.
Deputy Fife – How are you today?
Me – Great! And you?
Lucy and Annabelle – Whining loudly in back.
Deputy Fife – Do you know why I stopped you?
Me – No sir. Really I didn’t.
Deputy Fife – I stopped you because you were going 69 in a 55 back before Atoka.
Me – Really? I know I slowed down to 45 by the time I was driving through – I looked at my speedometer.
Deputy Fife – Not soon enough. I followed you doing 69 for miles.
Me – Miles? Did you say miles? There are no miles in Atoka….! From one end to the other might be a half mile…..! (I only thought this. I didn’t actually say any of this. I still thought I might charm my way out of a ticket. Silly me.)
Lucy and Annabelle – Howling loudly in back.
Deputy Fife – Are you heading back home to Texas?
Me – Yes, sir. Still smiling.
Deputy Fife – Do you have a clean driving record?
Me – Yes sir. I handed over my insurance and driver’s license. He went to his car while I re-thought my driving outfit. Not nearly charming enough…
Lucy and Annabelle – Vicious.
Barney came back and explained how he would do me a favor and defer my ticket. For a mere $160 he wouldn’t report it to the State of Oklahoma nor to my insurance. Atoka gets to keep the entire ‘toll’ rather than sending a cut to the state…
Of course I’m glad it won’t be reported to my insurance, but this whole “here’s what I’m gonna do for you little lady” thing rubbed me wrong. This was a modern day Atoka stagecoach robbery! Barney rightfully assumes no one wants to spend $50 in gasoline to make the fabulous drive back to Atoka to dispute a $160 ticket. Who wants to spend the day at the Atoka courthouse?
Me! I have nothing better to do on October 3. Anyone want to join me for lunch in Atoka? It’s a lovely drive this time of year. If there were any trees, the leaves would be changing.
A donkey ride through hell. – Constance Snodgrass Donels