Is Oklahoma your home state, too?
I grew up in Oklahoma. For me, it’s my home even when I’m not able to live there and always wins first place on my map.
Perhaps you rank your home state as Number 1 on your map. Where do you rank Oklahoma, and why?
Out in the wide-open spaces?
After I left Oklahoma to join the Army and see the world, I met many people with few, if any, accurate conceptions about my favorite state. The closest they could get is “it's somewhere out in the wide-open spaces.”
The Dustbowl, tornados, and flat terrain might feature in their mental image along with oil and Indians. About all they really knew was the wonderful song “Oklahoma!” from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical of the same name.
I like Oklahoma’s wide-open spaces so much that I set my novel, Cloud County Persuasion, in that great state. My research on the 1940s and 50s reminded me of a few of the reasons why the location and geography of the “Sooner” state is sometimes misconstrued or just dead wrong.
Miss Ferber and Mr. Steinbeck.
Don’t believe that John Steinbeck got the Oklahoma setting right in his Pulitzer prizewinning novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Edna Ferber didn’t hit the target either in her popular novel, Cimarron (1929). The physical and historical pictures they drew made Oklahomans of the day cringe.
Telling what happened in their state, good and bad, works for Oklahomans. But getting things wrong can wreak havoc, particularly when a popular source creates them out of thin air.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968) is still read and admired today for the compassionate story he told of migrant workers in California during the Great Depression of the 1930s. However…
Edna Ferber (1885-1968), who had won a Pulitzer prize in 1925 for her novel So Big, countered complaints about errors in her novel Cimarron (1929) by explaining her goal was not to render the exact setting.
What's the Hollywood Version?
Not every American has the opportunity to visit each of the fifty states in the USA. And Hollywood production companies don’t always have the chance to film on location.
Two classic action Westerns and one film version of an ever-popular musical provide examples of how non-Oklahomans might have gathered misconceptions about the Oklahoma terrain.
What does the terrain of Oklahoma really look like?
Oklahoma has twelve ecoregions.
The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department notes that Oklahoma has twelve ecoregions. Only four states have more than ten ecoregions. www.travelok.com/article_page/oklahomasdiverseecoregions.
Since Oklahoma covers approximately 69,919 square miles, there's plenty of room for plains, prairies, mountains (yes, mountains), forests, and even cypress swamps.
The twelve ecoregions are:
Approximately 28% of the land of Oklahoma is forested. That's more than 12 million acres.
What's the climate like?
The climate of Oklahoma is equally diverse, ranging from humid subtropical in the east to semi-arid. climate.ok.gov/index.php/site/page/climate_of_oklahoma.
Drought is a normal part of the climate cycle in Oklahoma and can occur for periods of a few months up to several years.
The land is grand.
The variety in Oklahoma’s terrain is a pleasure to discover and enjoy. I hope that if you have not already become acquainted with the state, you will be able to do so in the future.
By the way, not one of the seventy-seven counties in Oklahoma is named Cloud County. I chose a fictitious name for my novel, Cloud County Persuasion.
Until next time, best wishes and good reading!
Lynne Schall is the author of three novels: Women's Company - The Minerva Girls (2016), Cloud County Persuasion (2018), and Cloud County Harvest (fall 2022). She and her family live in Kansas, USA.