By Mike Lander on
Oklahomans or Okies? I use the term Okie in this essay without any pejorative meaning whatsoever. It is used by me to honor the people of Oklahoma who have suffered so much yet retain a strong commitment to religion, political conservatism and moral values.
After all, my very first hero was an Okie, Mickey Mantle. It was difficult in my day not to root for the Sooners. The University of Oklahoma football team under head coach Bud Wilkinson set some impressive records. If you liked country music, as I did, how could you not enjoy listening to Merle Haggard?
I suppose that every region of the United States can lay claim to being the soul of America in some way. Maybe it’s because of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl which focused on the Oklahoma panhandle and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath that I am moved to hold a special reverence for Okies.
Professionally, my Master’s thesis focused on the period of the Indian Wars from the outbreak of hostilities in New Ulm, Minnesota in the summer of 1862 to the massacre at Wounded Knee in December of 1890. Oklahoma was previously Indian Country, home of the Choctaw and the Cherokee people who were driven out of the South (the Trail of Tears).
I think that a study of Oklahoma has just about something for everybody to connect with. Oil, American Indians, pride, country music, sports, religion and conservative values are issues which run deep in the United States. We present this essay on the Okies to increase awareness of their contributions to America.
“We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee;
We don’t take no trips on LSD
We don’t burn no draft cards down on Main Street;
We like livin’ right, and bein’ free.” – “Okie From Muskogee” by Merle Haggard