Finding Freedom in Freedom
Did you like my play on words there? 😉
I realized that I never published my promised update about mine and Luke’s anniversary trip to the rodeo in Freedom, OK a few weeks ago. It was one of our most unforgettable trips, so I most certainly have to share.
Texoma has many, many rodeos but there is none quite like this one. Nestled on the banks of the Cimarron River, Freedom is a tiny blip on the map; the town is so small there is no stoplight at all. There are no hotels in the quaint little Main Street area, and the closest place we found to stay was actually 45 minutes away. A throwback to Old Western days, all of the storefronts maintain an authentic Western facade, and there is literally no cell phone service for miles. We spent two nights and three days in total freedom of no connectivity, no worries about work and the outside world. In a rare throwback, it was just us, exploring Oklahoma and enjoying (my) first real rodeo–the 79th Annual Freedom Rodeo and Old Cowhand Reunion!
If you’re going to a rodeo, you have to look the part! These beauties were my Anniversary gift from Luke! We have always given one another “traditional” anniversary gifts. (Year 1- Paper, Year 2- Cotton, Year 3- Leather.) It worked out really well that we could incorporate our gifts into our trip. Luke got a cowboy hat!
We both took three days off work and headed out for Freedom, a 3.5 hour drive away. As we drove down winding country roads, past the massive wind turbines that are so common in this part of the country, and farther and farther from modern civilization, we relaxed into peaceful, companionable silence at times and excited chatter at others as we discussed all topics from future dreams to current ones. Then of course were the loud, off sync singing sessions to our favorite songs on the radio! There is nothing like being “stuck” in a car for a few hours to get in some good quality one-on-one time with nothing but miles and miles of green, gently sloping hills, a lot of soil and cattle.
After we checked into our hotel, we were ready for the first night of the rodeo!
We grabbed a quick dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, and the rain began to pour. It had been gray and cloudy all day, not ideal weather for our long-anticipated rodeo weekend. But, as we drove the 45 minutes to the town of Freedom, the sky really fell out. We were about 10 minutes out and hopelessly anticipating a cancellation of the whole event. However, the sky cleared up as we were pulling into the parking lot, and in spite of a few sporadic showers during the evening, the show went on! It was less crowded than a normal Friday night at the rodeo, according to the locals, but it was lovely just the same!
I thought Luke truly looked like a real cowboy; he looked ruggedly handsome, and we got compliments from a few of the very sweet hospitable residents of Freedom on what a cute couple we made!
We called it an early night after the rodeo since we were exhausted from traveling, and because the events did not start until noon the next day, we enjoyed sleeping in and a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before heading back to Freedom for the Chuckwagon Feed on the town square. You have to keep in mind that the Freedom Rodeo is entirely a volunteer event, and church ladies, local stores and even McDonald’s made it possible for every single person to enjoy lunch free of charge! The sense of tightknit community here was impossible to miss, and just like in days gone by, we could tell it is the kind of place where you never leave as a stranger!
During our brief stay, we met some of the kindest old ranch hands, business owners and rodeo fans. The Freedom Rodeo is considered part of the PBR circuit, so the clowns, commentators and many performers were professionals who come back year after year because it is their favorite rodeo to participate in!
After lunch, we enjoyed just exploring this tiny town! The charm of these buildings drew me in, and I could have taken pictures here for hours. Here were a few of my favorites:
“You plug ’em, we’ll plant ’em!” The undertaker’s sign truly cracked us up! While we waited under some much-needed shade for the Longhorn Steer Drive to begin on Main Street, a crusty old man in denim overalls approached us on the steps of the Post Office. He spent a few minutes describing days gone by; he has spent his entire life in Freedom, OK. Born and raised, he spent many a day ‘rebel rousing’ in these streets and hanging out at the Cimarron Saloon. He told us of his Pa’s many “punishments” including forcing him to eat raw meat and plow a field under the hot summer sun after he had one too many as a teen and was too sick to help with a pre-planned project. As he described his life between a piece of straw perched precariously between his teeth, leaning against the blue mail box, I could not help but think of what life must have been like here one century ago. Kids played in the street near the General Store, dressed in period clothing for a skit that would be performed later in the afternoon. “Saloon Girls” swarmed the street in front of the saloon, and the butcher stood slicing his meat under a small awning. With no modern amenities in sight, life seemed simpler for a moment, easier. More free.
The Longhorn Cattle Drive is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the weekend. They bring this herd up from Texas, and it was over so quickly that I am very glad I snapped a few photos to truly appreciate the magnitude and sheer size of these Longhorns.
Next was the Bank Robbery and Shoot Out, a skit performed again by volunteers of the town! This was Luke’s favorite event of the weekend, and it was quite a sight to see. I was grateful for the complimentary ear plugs because rounds (even blank ones) are quite ear jolting.
At the end of the reenactment,
Luke I could not resist getting a photo with the Outlaws AND Sheriff’s deputies!
We had a few hours to kill before the evening’s rodeo activities began, so we decided to do a little exploring. We had heard talk that the Alabaster Caverns State Park was something to see, so we went down into the Cave for a brief tour. The coolness of the darkened cave felt heavenly compared to the hot Oklahoma sun that had been beating down on us all day. (Rain, Rain, Go Away!) It was nothing but clear blue skies the entire rest of the weekend!
The recommendations had been right–it was a sight to see! The guide had us experience “total darkness” for about two minutes, and I was shocked at how pitch black it actually became. You could not see your fingers in front of your nose!
We got in a much needed nap (Yep, we’re old folks now!) and headed back for the closing night’s festivities.
The Cimarron was illuminated by the most incredible orangey-red sunset; this photo truly does not do it justice. The skies out here are expansive and the sunrises and sunsets go for miles and miles.
Our last night at the rodeo was much more crowded than the first; it seemed like everyone for 50 miles was there to cheer on the local boys (and gals!) And, others, like us, had traveled much farther, some coming from Texas, Arizona, Kansas and Arkansas.
I didn’t quite know what to expect, but found myself enjoying the competition, the fast events, the clown’s antics. Laughs and good times were held by all, and even though only one rider qualified in the bull riding event, it was still quite an experience!
I was saddened to head back to Reality the next morning, but so grateful for the opportunity we had to get away from it all and spend one weekend together in Freedom.
Well, I am off to some adventures for THIS weekend, now. (Nothing quite so grand, but looking forward to some relaxation with the hubby.)