Cherokee Strip Museum

Headed south from El Dorado, Kansas, after just coffee and a soggy cake donut at the motel continental breakfast. By Perry, Oklahoma, I was in need of a sausage breakfast burrito from Sonic. Sadly, I must confess to ordering the combo meal with tater tots and orange juice. There are four basic food groups for road trips--salt, styrofoam coffee, chocolate, and grease. Please don't tell my little students studying the food pyramid!

I was the only visitor in the Cherokee Strip Museum just after opening Saturday morning. It's a nice museum, and right off I-35. The staffer invited my questions, so I asked if she knew of a book about growing up in the Cherokee Outlet written by a man with a funny name, "maybe Xavier." She hadn't. Since I checked it out from the Edmond Public Library nearly twenty years ago, but still recalled its red-dusted, humorous, not quite tall tale quality, I would rate it a memorable read.

We lived in Edmond at the centennial of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, and I loved reading about that era of my second home state. The Cherokee Strip was opened in another land run in 1893. Every time I drive north or south through Oklahoma on I-35, the moment I cross into Noble County I start worrying about the names of the "Three Guardsmen"*. These famous U.S. marshals tracked down outlaws in the Oklahoma territories. Of course you know that 1893 was the year of the Ingalls shoot-out between U.S. marshals and members of the Doolin Wild Bunch gang near Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Back home now, I have written the names of those three marshals on a slip of paper and put it in the back of my bathroom drawer. It joins the slips with the three members of Cream, the Seven Dwarfs, the five Goss sisters, the Seven Deadly Sins, and the origin of the phrase, "the whole nine yards". My memory must have trouble with odd-numbered groupings. Alternately, even-numbered groups may not merit the same level of interest. Or even-numbered groups may generate more effective mnemonic devices. [And however long I live I'll never be able to spell or pronounce mnemonic correctly. I'll just keep thinking mem-non-ick instead of ni-mon-ick. I just can't nemember mnemonics!]

The old Rose Hill Schoolhouse stands on the museum grounds.

It turns out the author of the Cherokee Strip boyhood recollections was Marquis James, not Xavier. Young Marquis James lived in Enid, not in Perry, but his schoolhouse was probably similar. St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church of Enid may have figured in James' book, but I'm not sure. You can read a 1945 review of the book in Time Magazine. James won Pulitzer prizes for his biographies of Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson.

Cherokee Strip: a Tale of an Oklahoma Boyhood , University of Oklahoma Press, 2003.

*Bill Tilghman, Chris Madsen, and Heck Thomas

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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