Although my AAA Tour Book didn’t list much to see in Muskogee, I had to go there. I was singing Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” for all I was worth when I passed the town limits.
I stopped for gas. My feet had touched ground in MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA, USA. The population was listed somewhere around 35,000. I drove on for some time on a two-way street that reminded me of suburban sprawl.
The AAA Tour Book did have some listings so I decided to start there. The Three Rivers Museum was in a reworked train depot and had a few local history exhibits on display. Hopefully, it has expanded since my visit.
I knew there must be a college in town because the the song said “manly footwear” was still to be seen on the college campus. (I believe that was one of the reasons that Mr. Haggard listed for local pride.) I found Bacone College. There were not many people walking about the campus that day so I didn’t collect more information on the footwear. With the help of the few people who were outside, I found the college museum.
The small but excellent Ataloa Lodge Museum is about the Native American history in the area. The exhibits were tastefully presented and the curator was amenable to answering questions on anything that wasn’t already covered in the signage. The place had an unassuming elegance to it. I wish I could remember more.
I do recall that the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and the Five Civilized Tribes Museum were closed that day for some reason. It was early afternoon. Now what? The museum curator recommended I visit the nearby Fort Gibson. It was outside the town limits but not too far away.
Established in 1824 and abandoned in 1857, this is a fort now maintained as a National Parks Service site. (Military forts such as Fort Gibson were posted about Oklahoma to try to keep peace after the Federal Government had forcibly relocated many different tribes there; the Muscogee Creeks were forcibly relocated to the area from the Southeastern USA.) It was a lucky fort, considering how all those wooden structures had survived, unscathed by fire. While like the renovated forts elsewhere, I still marveled at this mostly original.
After retracing my steps to Muskogee, I stopped for a coffee at a convenience store and drank it while surveying the suburban sprawl. A sculpture park portraying pictures from Merle Haggard’s lyrics might be a good addition. Perhaps a fountain show, choreographed to “Okie from Muskogee,” at 12 noon and 6pm would be nice.
While returning to Tulsa, I reflected that Muskogee had proven itself a worthwhile day trip. It was good to know Muskogee is a real place. Even after singing it so much, I still like that song.
Buy it. Read it. Let me know what you think. –TMLL