By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
The weather is holding a few of us at bay, we could only be patient, enjoy our caffeinated beverages and continue idle conversation. We eventually got around to things I had written (which is always appreciated) about my hopes for the future of Heavener. Some of my thoughts and suggestions were analyzed, observations and comments made:
“The Runestone Park is the biggest draw,” one person said, and everybody agreed. “But Heavener—the city itself—needs a few more gimmicks.”
This required explanation. The lady said, “Gimmicks. Things that come to mind when people pass through. They may not stop, but they might think to themselves, ‘Hey, isn’t this the town with the giant rocking-chair,’ or ‘the town with the cow-chip throwing contest,’ or the ‘rattlesnake round-up?’
I’ve driven through towns like these. In Alabama my family went out of our way to see the monument in Dothan honoring the boll weevil. Boll weevils destroyed their cotton industry, so they switched to planting peanuts. It worked miracles. In Muleshoe, in Texas, they have a stature honoring the mule. It’s not like the arch in Saint Louis, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or the oil well in the Oklahoma Capitol; but these are the sorts of things that may make small towns stand out. It might even be something that contributes a little to the local economy, at some of these places. I know the Runestone Park helps Heavener. Maybe put up a statue of a Viking downtown? They have a statue of a Tula Indian at Caddo Gap in Arkansas that commemorates a battle Hernando De Soto had there.
It’s something you have to hunt up, but we did. It was special to be standing someplace where Spanish Conquistadors had been. We bought gas and picnic stuff at one of stores, too, before we left town.”
The point was made, tourist stopped by these attractions while passing through these little towns. Do they really help the local economies much? Pragmatically, the woman said, “Well, nickels and dimes add up. And three people were working at the store. That’s jobs.”
The fellow obsessed with trivia observed, “You know, every state has several ‘official something-or-others’ to promote their assets. The Oklahoma Official State Wildflower is the Indian blanket. The buffalo is the State Mammal, the scissor-tailed flycatcher is the State Bird, the honey bee the State Insect. The white bass is our State Fish. But do any of you know what the humuhumunuknukuapuaa is?”
We could not even hazard a guess. It turns out, it is the Hawaiian Official State Fish. The man continued, “That is the aboriginal name of the triggerfish. Now, see, the Hawaiians have a gimmick here that might work in Heavener, too, to draw attention. And as far as state symbols go—why can’t cities do that? Why can’t Heavener make official symbols out of her merits, natural attractions, flora, wildlife—it might help us stand out some in the Oklahoma travel brochures.”
This is where things began to get out of hand. However, we did end up with a list of City Symbols we hope will get serious consideration from our beloved citizens:
Choices for our Heavener City Motto: “Better ‘Sooner’ than Later, but Later’s Better than Not at All”; or, “If It’s a Tie at the Railroad Crossing, You Lose.” The latter, of course, proudly recognizes the Kansas City Southern Railway, one of Heavener’s largest employers and traffic-jammers.
The Heavener City Bird: The ‘Crispy-Fried’ Chicken Tender. This species is found all over town, and is popular with almost every resident.
Likewise, the popular “Friday Fried Catfish” is hereby nominated as the Official City Fish, but faces stiff competition from the “Mustard Sardine.”
The City Insect: The tick. Not because of its popularity, but for its abundance. The brown scorpion was nominated, but technically, is not an insect. The argument, “Bugs is bugs!” did not sway the entomological purists.
The deer park naturally assured the white-tail the vote for City Mammal.
“We need something with a long name,” somebody suggested. “What about that little pond at the ball park just south of town? It’ll never amount to much as a pond, but if we gave it long Indian name, and make it the Official City Pond? You know, like the Hawaiians did with their fish?”
This seemed practical and wise. We came up with a winner, too; but, unfortunately, Lake Chargoggmaunchaubungungamaugg is already taken by some inferior puddle up in Massachusetts.
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