It wasn’t until the last of our 5-day visit that I was able to put two and two together. Seeing multiple sculptures and the various art work throughout Lawton/Fort Sill during our visit seemed to only confuse us. Then in day four we took a quick trip through Wichita Mountain, more like a canyon (about 2500ft elevation), Refuge and seeing only two wild buffalo, a couple of steer, two road-kill Prairie Dogs and one mean Longhorn at about 3 feet from our car; I realized that Oklahoma IS where the buffalo roam. There’s a song in here somewhere, but I didn’t see any deer or antelope though.
Before departing California for an adventure into the unknown (We’ve never been to Oklahoma and it doesn’t seem to be much of a travel destination), I had begun to research anything and everything I could about, happenings, food establishments and accommodations in the Lawton/Fort Sill area. Once we had arrived I quickly noticed a couple of commonalities regardless of where I was. There were buffalo sculptures and paintings seemingly everywhere. There were pictures of the cavalry and the Apache Indians. I had to get a quick picture of what we were to be in for over the next several days.
Lawton/Fort Sill has a deep history dating into the late 1800s when the US Cavalry and the various Indian tribes battled over land, peace and possessions. That much is what I think I learned while there. We were even treated to a quick glimpse of the Apache Indian’s involvement with the US Cavalry and just who Geronimo was. We even visited Geronimo’s grave that is located on the Fort Sill Army base. Yes Oklahoma is rich in history and tradition. Some of that tradition became evident while watching the Army’s Drill Instructors (DIs) hammer away at the soldiers during their last days as new recruits in basic training (boot camp). I find comfort in knowing that this new generation of soldier will be better than the last, and the lessons learned from past bravery will better shape our nation’s future warfighter.
A visit to the Lawton/Fort Sill area will give the traveler a lot to look at and ponder. This isn’t a prestigious city. Nor is this area adorned by beautiful picturesque skylines of tall city buildings and landscapes. Mostly this area is flat, spread out and somewhat desolate. I must have seen about seven water towers. I didn’t recognize any of the names though. Not that there are only buzzards and dead sheep (only kidding here) like other parts of the desert areas of Southern California that I am used to; but wide open plains and farmlands that have been around for centuries. Oklahoma is a part of this country that has shaped our nation’s history. This is the text book stuff we were supposed to be learning while in grade school.
While most of the establishments I had visited while in the Lawton/Fort Sill area are very average, there is a friendliness and pride amongst the residents. No matter where I was or who I talked to, there was always a pride for the military like no other military town I have visited. The military is what has shaped Lawton/Fort Sill, and the residents here realize that and are happy to lend a hand to the confused traveler and a hearty “thank you” for those that have served. If I was happen to be glancing at a map of the area, someone would graciously offer directions. But while in Lawton or on the base at Fort Sill, those directions usually included statement like, “you know where the church used to be?” No, I don’t know where the church used to be . . . the directions the residents would give us were always extremely detailed and included terms like, “stay to the left” or “veer right” as there are many quicker ways to get somewhere that Google Maps fails to display on the cell phone. Even the gate guards on the base find themselves getting caught up in providing very detailed, and often times, quite confusing directions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s just that this is flat land and there are no hills and mountains to use as directional guidance. “Am I going north or south?” And since it was mostly cloudy every day, the sun overhead rarely provided the east/west reference to our internal navigation.
Lawton/Fort Sill Oklahoma was a fear of mine when planning this trip. I even asked friends, family and those that were visiting as well, if they have ever been to Oklahoma. While some said they have traveled through Oklahoma, no one had said they have actually been there. It seemed like this was a place that many folk are from, but not where they have come to. Most of the residents here are associated with the military in some fashion, whether descendants of military families, Native American warriors or farmers; Lawton/Fort Sill is where the buffalo roam.
Over the next several articles, I hope to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly things about this trip. I feared having to visit Oklahoma and not knowing what to expect. But we had met some very nice people from across the nation and had embraced this trip as a big question mark. We didn’t know what we were in for, but can now say we were happy to have been there and done that. Oklahoma was an unexpectedly good trip. It capped our fears that these Midwestern states are something to avoid. It gave us more of a reason to return to Lawton/Fort Sill. I now have more of an understanding af the town and would gladly return again in the future.