Day 7 – Tuesday
Today was one of the best of the trip so far! We made the right decision to spend 2 nights here, so we had the rare luxury of a full day to explore!
First stop – the Oklahoma National Stockyards. I read about this in the book 1000 things to do before you die, and it is truly unmissable. It is the world largest stocker/feeder market, and on Mondays and Tuesday’s they trade, and you can go watch! What a privilege?
The stockyard area is in what can only be described as a town within a town, totally western, celebrating all things cowboy (and girl)! It is also where we went to dinner last night at the Cattlemen’s.
The auction room is reached via a series of connecting raised platforms, which allow you full view of the hundreds of pens of livestock beneath. Today it was mainly cows.
The action room itself was small, compared to the size of building it was housed in. Seated in amphitheatre style seating, traders and farmers bid on the animals below, in a pit in front of a raised auctioneer platform. An auction hand presses a button, and a hatch lifts to the left of the auctioneer, allowing for a cow to come through and pass between the auctioneer and the audience, helped along by two auction-hands, with flagged sticks to keep them moving to and fro. Then out through another hatch on the right. The auction-hands are in the pit with the animals, but have a lectern style shield that they can hide behind, particularly when the bulls come out.
The noise and smell is unique. The auctioneer talks so fast it sounds like he is gargling and the smell is a mix of chewing tobacco, cows and smoke. There is probably about 60 people in the room.
We find out later that today is a quieter day – only around 800 animals to sell, but yesterday was a record day – 13,800 animals were sold, and trading went on from 8am in the morning until 3am this morning!
We have a wonder around some amazing shops – particularly loved Langston’s which it the cowboy emporium magnifique!
The afternoon is all about downtown, predominantly Bricktown and the memorial.
Bricktown is the historic district downtown, with many original brick-built buildings, mainly holding restaurants and bars. What strikes us is just how quiet the city centre is generally. It is 1.30pm on a Tuesday lunchtime, but the streets are deserted, despite there being huge office blocks all over. Very little traffic too. Perhaps there is an underground world that we don’t know about, but it feels very odd compared to London!
The Oklahoma memorial is very well done. Beautifully simple and symbolic. Each chair represents one of the 168 killed when Timothy McVeigh detonated his car bomb on April 19th 1995 – the biggest ever home grown terrorist attack in the states.. The size of chairs represents adults and children. The trees mark the outline of the building, and the third one in shows where the car was parked. The arches at each end are etched with a time – 9.01 and 9.03. The bomb went off at 9.02, and that moment of time is held between the arches. The water is the location of the original road – and represents the eternal flow of life. Its hard not to feel incredibly moved and emotional.
Oklahoma has been a delight and a highlight. One for everyone to add to their bucket lists?!