Of the many lonely stretches found across the United States, few match the 5,749-square-mile rectangle known as the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Composed of three counties, today the Panhandle is home to about 28,500 people, less than half as many as when Oklahoma gained statehood in 1907.
The region suffered the ravages of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s as severe drought and blinding dust storms led many to leave for greener pastures.
The Panhandle is a relatively isolated region, dotted with abandoned buildings and hearty residents. Today, it seems difficult to believe that there was once a serious push to make the strip of land a separate territory, with the ultimate goal of statehood.
Originally part of Texas, the strip was surrendered in 1850 as a result of the Missouri Compromise. Texas, a slave state, had to give up the swath of land because federal law under the compromise prohibited slavery north of the 36°30’ parallel.
As a result, the region became known as a “neutral strip,” and was without state or territorial ownership. As evidence that advertising agencies did not hold the sway that they do today, the area was officially called the “Public Land Strip” and was commonly referred to as “No Man’s Land.”
Without a legal authority to provide oversight, the ensuing 40 years were full of confusion and turmoil.
Ranchers began moving into the region following the Civil War but officially the land could not be settled until it had been surveyed by the US government. Still, settlers flooded in, with many coming from Kansas.
A streetscape by Camille Pissarro brought more than $32 million earlier this month, more than four times the previous record for a work by the Danish-French impressionist.
Pissarro’s “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning,” a view of Paris painted in 1897, was sold by Sotheby’s in London.
The oil on canvas was part of industrialist Max Silberberg’s collection. Silberberg was forced by the Nazis to sell his artworks in the 1930s and later died in the Holocaust.
Silberberg’s collection also featured works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and van Gogh and was regarded as one of the best pre-war collections of 19th and 20th Century art in Germany, according to the BBC.
“Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” was returned to Silberberg’s family in 2000. It had never before been sold at auction.
The previous record for a Pissarro painting was set in 2009, when “Le Pont Boieldieu Et La Gare D’Orleans Rouen, Soleil” sold for about $7 million. A quartet of the artist’s works entitled “Les Quatre Saisons” brought more than $14 million in 2007.
The new owner of “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” requested anonymity.
Another Pissarro painting has also been in the news recently.
Proving that reprobates can usually find a way to adapt modern technology to their own devices while, at the same time, most of them aren’t all that smart, an Oklahoma woman was recently arrested for attempting to sell her children on Facebook.
Misty VanHorn, 22, of Sallisaw, Okla., was nabbed late last week for attempting to sell her 10-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son on Facebook, according to The Sequoyah County Times. She is being held on $40,000 bail.
After posting a number of offers on Facebook, VanHorn, shown above, made contact over the social media network with a woman in nearby Fort Smith, Ark., and offered to sell the 10-month old for $1,000, according to the blog The Social Graf.
One Facebook message sent by VanHorn to the prospective buyer in Arkansas stated: “Just come to Sallisaw, it’s only 30 minutes away and I’ll give you all of her stuff and let y’all have her forever for $1,000,” the blog added.
VanHorn also offered to sell both children together for $4,000. She apparently was not in the mood to offer a package discount.
VanHorn told the Arkansas woman that she needed the money to get her boyfriend out of jail, according to The Sequoyah County Times.
Last year proved a solid one for nearly all cotton farmers except those in Texas and Oklahoma.
While states in the South and West registered overall harvest rates of 97 percent or better, Texas farmers lost 40 percent of their crop, more than 2.5 million acres, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Oklahoma growers planted a smaller amount of cotton than their counterparts in Texas, but lost nearly half their crop, hurt by drought conditions that hit the region.
Overall last year, 12.3 million acres of cotton were planted in the US, and 9.4 million acres were harvested, according to the USDA.
Texas farmers planted more than 6.5 million acres of cotton but were only able to harvest 3.9 million acres. And the yield was just 600 pounds per acre in the Lone Star State, off from the five-year average of 700 pounds.
In Oklahoma growers planted 305,000 acres but only harvested 140,000 acres. Yield per harvested acre was just 480 pounds, down from a five-year state average of 770 pounds.
The 2012 cotton season overall hasn’t been anything to brag about, but it’s also been nothing to weep over.
While the jury is still out on cotton for this year, from all reports the crop will be good but not spectacular, according to Southeast Farm Press.
The Southeast enjoyed good growing conditions for much of the year, and Texas rebounded nicely from last year’s disaster. However, heat and drought impacted other cotton-growing areas such as Oklahoma.
Production costs have continued to rise, however, and uncertainty in world stocks has kept prices down.
In Texas, the nation’s largest cotton-growing state, the US Department of Agriculture is predicting that the 2012 cotton crop will total 6.1 million bales, a 74 percent increase over 2011, according to the San Angelo Standard-Times.
More than 350,000 acres of Texas farmland was planted in cotton in 2011, but only 18,000 acres were harvested as the state experienced its worst one-year drought since 1895.
The Tulsa race riot is a particularly ignominious blot on American history.
Over an 18-hour period on May 31-June 1, 1921, a race-fuel siege destroyed the wealthiest African-American community in the United States, wiping out 35 blocks of a residential and business community known as the “Black Wall Street,” and leaving 300 known dead and 10,000 homeless.
Yet, it’s largely an unknown event, ignored by Oklahoma history books until quite recently, and unknown by many individuals both black and white.
Otis Clark, the last known survivor of the Tulsa race riot, died this week in Seattle at the age of 109.
He told a Tulsa television station in 1999 that he remembered being shot at while attempting to secure a car to help riot victims.
Clark’s family’s home was burned to the ground in the conflagration, and he believed his stepfather died in the riot because he was never seen again.
Shortly after the melee, Clark left Tulsa on a train bound for California.
A century ago, two residents of the Oklahoma Confederate Veterans Home wanted to get married. This wasn’t as unusual as it might sound because the home admitted Confederate veterans and widows of Confederate veterans.
William H. Stoneburner, 68, of Muscogee County had fallen in love with Annie Bolling, 66, of Capitol Hill.
At first there was a bit of a problem because while the home, which was in Ardmore, Okla., had separate quarters for men and women, there were no accommodations for married couples.
In addition, there was the fear that “connubial relations” between residents might lead to “improper familiarity” between men and women who weren’t married, according to the blog My Old Confederate Home.
However, both Stoneburner and Bolling claimed they were desperately in love and asked for Superintendent John J. Galt’s permission to wed.