The decade the author spent living in Oklahoma took her back in time at least fifteen years.
It was a unique little town. There was no law enforcement in Freedom, Oklahoma; no police, no judge, and no jail. It appeared that citizens live there made their own laws. The residents policed themselves resenting any law getting too close to their town. The word spread fast among the residents when one of them would spot a state trooper or a sheriff's vehicle staked out on a nearby highway.
Most of the people living in and around Freedom were farmers or ranchers who'd become frustrated and angry when their hard work and efforts at farming and ranching continually failed to pay off. Even when they'd have a good wheat crop it did not mean that they'd receive a fair price for their time and efforts. Much of the farmer's financial success in Freedom, Oklahoma depended on how high the government valued the price of wheat that season.
Mother Nature continuously took a heavy toll on the local farmers who were forever challenged by drought, wind, rain, and insects that sometimes, vengefully destroyed their crops. The obstacles that the people seemed to face in their day-to-day lives sometimes destroyed the souls of those with little hope or faith. Most of the farmers in Northwest Oklahoma lived on a prayer and a shoe string. New farming equipment was extremely expensive, and available only to a chosen few. Many of the farmers could barely afford to pay for the seed needed to plant their crops, let alone replace their aging equipment. They depended on operating loans from the local banks and government assistance to help them eke out a living.
There was an extreme difference in the lifestyles of the people. The local politicians and crooks owned acres and acres of land and the best farming equipment money could buy; However, the poorer sharecropping farmers had little chance to make a living at farming.
There was a shortage of water to irrigate the crops, and most farmers did not have an irrigation system in place. They relied upon Mother Nature for an occasional thunderstorm and a soaking rain. Things hadn't improved much around Freedom since the 1920′s and 30′s.
The farmers seemed limited in the crops they planted. The land was normally planted in wheat or grass and used for grazing cattle. Year after year the farmer's planted wheat, sometimes they had a decent crop, and many times, depending on the elements, they had no crop at all. Regardless, as the years went by and the seasons rolled around, the farmers repeated their efforts over and over; as if it was the only way they knew.
The author's favorite time of year in Freedom was the early spring, when the rolling green wheat fields resembled expansive golf courses. From the highway, the green wheat fields went on forever. She imagined that the farm families prayed that their crops stay safe from the elements so they'd have a successful wheat crop each year, and she prayed too.
A few worried farmers sometimes drank too many beers in the Freedom Saloon, as if seeking a release from the tension and anxiety of their everyday farming lives. It was rumored that they'd sometimes bar the door and beat the crap out of each other just to relieve their frustrations with the world around them. "What did kill you in Freedom only made you stronger!"
Gossip spread fast throughout the small town; there were no secrets. In the good old days gossip was spread by nosy, bored citizens who listened to their neighbor's telephone conversations over the old party lines. One family might have one ring and the other might have two, they always knew when their neighbors were on the line. Many hours were spent quietly listening in on each other's conversations over crank telephones from the confines of farmhouse living rooms.
Most of the people living in and around Freedom, Oklahoma appeared to be hardworking honest, generous survivors who cherished their old-fashioned way of life. They honored their neighbors and valued their family traditions.
Drifters who sometimes came through Freedom with hopes of settling down there eventually moved on. It didn't take an outsider long to figure out who made the rules. To survive in Freedom a person needed to be rough, tough, and ornery and open to the possibility of being taken advantage of.
There was a definite competition between the families who lived north of the Cimarron and those who lived south of the slow-moving river. The attitude of the people from the north had the potential and the power to destroy men, damage families and reputations.
God forbid if you needed to borrow money from the local bank to keep your farm and family alive. If you did not come from one of the better off families in Freedom you might be looked down upon, and town bullies proceeded to treat you accordingly.
Freedom had a co-op where the farmers bought their feed and seed at highly escalated prices. The owner of the local hardware could get you anything you needed and have it delivered in two days, if you were willing to pay his price. The corner grocery store sold gas and groceries; at prices so steep a person would have been better off to drive 30 miles to Woodward to do their grocery shopping.
There were no stop lights in the one-horse town. There was a school with grades from one to twelve, a town hall, a post office, a legion hall, a small Western museum, a sewing shop, two country cafes', a rodeo arena, a bank and a saloon.
Tumbleweeds blew down the dusty main street of Freedom. The town could easily have been mistaken for a ghost town on a movie set, but it was, it was all very real.
Webster's dictionary defined the word "freedom," in part, as: "The quality or state of being free; and, the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; and, liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another; and, the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous; and, the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken. "
The author understood the definition in Webster's dictionary, but she imagined that those who visited Freedom, Oklahoma, would come up with their own definition.
Freedom is a small, quaint, secluded town in northwest Oklahoma; a place some flee to seek their own personal freedom.
The town is situated in a beautiful green valley nestled along the Cimarron River in Northwest Oklahoma. It's somehow protected by an unknown Godly source. Freedom is located in the middle of Tornado Alley; However, it's rumored that very few tornadoes have touched down there. The population consists mainly of old-timers whose families settled in and around Freedom after the 1893 land rush.
Few young people stick around when they finish high school. Most of them move on to larger cities or towns to explore grander opportunities than are offered in Freedom. The majority of the high school seniors leave for college and few ever return, except for an occasional holiday visit or to attend a family or class reunion.
The residents of Freedom welcome tourists into their town the third weekend in August each year, when thousands of rodeo fans arrive to attend their annual rodeo. The Freedom Rodeo's tradition has lived on in the small town for over seventy-five years.
The town of Freedom was established eight years after the 1893 Cherokee Outlet Land Run. The US government originally purchased the land in 1891 from the Cherokee Indians, and Freedom was established as a town in 1901. The Santa Fe Railroad Company built a railway line running between Waynoka and Buffalo, Oklahoma. Its lines run close to the town of Freedom.
By 1928 the town prospered. Freight trains made daily stops there. Several new businesses developed as a result of the railroad, and they soon had a grocery store, auto repair garage, drug store, barber shop, lumber yard, meat market, hardware store, produce shop, feed yard, cafe, a hotel and a bank.
In 1928 the population of Freedom was two hundred fifty-one. When the author arrived in 1996 the population was two hundred and eighty-one.
The main street of the old Western town features wooden store fronts and sidewalks and the town has great potential to be a popular Oklahoma tourist destination. However, many of the older citizens appear content with the status quo. They're not interested in putting up with tourists or strangers in general, for that matter.
Freedom has many meanings, the author's definition is, "It's a great place to visit if you don't intend to stay too long!"