Oklahoma has a very unique culture among the states of the United States. When my grandfather grew up there, it was Indian Territory, and it wasn’t even considered part of the United States. It is where they sent many, many Indian tribes in the U. S. If you look at the names of the towns and the names of the counties on the maps, they are Indian names. Even the word, Oklahoma, is an Indian word. They sent the Indians there for a reason. No one wanted it. It has erratic weather. It has lots of different kinds of snakes. It has scorpions, ticks, chiggers, and tarantulas. White men didn’t stop, though, they gave Oklahoma to the Indians, and then they took it back. There was what they call “the run” when they sent the white men in to lay claim to the land for free, called “homesteading,” and many, many went. However, because of the harshness of the land, only the toughest could go and survive. It was truly the wild west. Many cowboys went, and today, there are still many cowboys in Oklahoma. They have tamed Oklahoma in many ways, but Oklahoma is still pretty wild in many ways too. It has given rise to some interesting customs.
Everyone knows about the cowboy boots and the cowboy hats. The hats are to keep the sun off. The boots are to protect the cowboys from the scorpions and snakes. Some of the people who wear these are actual cowboys and work with horses, but not all of them. Many wear them just for fashion or because they live in the woods and want to protect themselves from the animals and the sun. They have specialty shops to buy the cowboy clothes and other paraphernalia like saddles they need to take care of their horses. One of the big chain stores for cowboy paraphernalia is Sheplar’s, but there are others too.
If you get into a cowboy’s car, you may see rattles from a rattle snakes hanging from their rear view mirror in the front of their car. You may also see rattle snake skins wrapped around their cowboy hats. Cowboys hunt rattle snakes. Rattle snakes are extremely dangerous, and cowboys feel they must control their population. They have huge rattle snake hunts where all the cowboys come. They line up in a long line and walk across the wild land together looking for snakes. You wonder why people from Oklahoma want to keep their guns, and this is one good reason to let them keep their guns. If cowboys didn’t hunt rattle snakes, the state could be over run with rattle snakes and become an extremely dangerous place. They also eat the rattle snake meat.
Another thing I have seen them do to try to control the population of the snakes is starting huge fires. These fires also control the population of ticks and other critters like that. If you are driving in the country in Oklahoma, you could look up and see a whole line of fire on a hill, and it is a controlled fire. The cowboys are trying to control the dangerous critter population.
Oklahoma also has bobcats, and the cowboys take care of these too. If they hear that there has been a bobcat in the area killing animals, they all get together. They bring their guns, and they go together to find that bobcat before he causes any more trouble. Oklahoma would be a much wilder place if it weren’t for the cowboys.
Something else unusual they do that is not for controlling critter population but has to do with critters is what they call “frog gigging.” Oklahoma is full of cow ponds. There are lots of cows and horses in Oklahoma, and they build artificial ponds where these animals can get something to drink. These ponds are great places to swim, and I have swam in several of them. However, I haven’t been frog gigging. It is something the guys do. They get together and go down to the pond after dark. They have a special contraption they make to spear the frogs. When they spear the frogs, they bring them home, clean them up, and cut the legs off. They fry the legs. They tell me it tastes like chicken, but I have never tried.
Hunting is just part of what many men from Oklahoma do. I have a cousin who grew up in Oklahoma, but lives in Colorado, and he is always writing about the hunting he is doing over in the mountains in Colorado. Men in many places in the United States like to hunt deer, elk, and animals like that. I have eaten deer meat, and it is good. It is like eating steak from a cow. One of my uncles in Oklahoma also used to go squirrel hunting every year. I ate squirrel at his house, and it was good too. I also knew a guy when I was in school who hunted quail. He invited a group of us over to eat the quail he had hunted, and it was good tool. Many men in Oklahoma have hunting dogs. It is just part of the culture. My brother always has a dog, but not for hunting, just because he likes dogs. These dogs ride around in the back of the pick up trucks.
Besides things like these, cowboys still ride and break horses, rope bulls, and ride in rodeos. Every little town in Oklahoma has its own rodeo arena. If you have never heard of a rodeo, it is a type of horse show with several very exciting events. Cowboys get on wild horse and see how long they can stay on. They rope bulls and wrestle them to the ground. Young women do what they call “running the barrels.” They set up big wooden barrels across the area, and a girl gets on a horse and runs in a figure eight around the barrels. I have a cousin who used to do it. They always have a rodeo queen. One of my sister in laws was a rodeo queen. The National Finals Rodeo is every year at the Fair grounds in Oklahoma City.
Some cowboys still work as cowboys in Oklahoma. They ride horses. They take care of the cows on a big ranch. I had a friend in college who grew up on one of these big ranches, and he was cowboy through and through. He wore his hat with rattle snake skin around it, had rattles from the snakes on his mirror in his car, wore cowboy boots, a cowboy belt with a fancy cowboy buckle, a cowboy shirt, and bowed legs from spending so much time on horses. I had an uncle who worked on a big ranch as a cowboy. Cowboys actually still exist in Oklahoma, and they do some things that are interesting and different from what the rest of the world does. Oklahoma has a very unique culture that sets them apart from the rest of the U. S.