Sod House & Gloss Mountains – 31 May 2022

The mornings are cool in Fairview, Oklahoma, making it a good time to walk. Lunch at The Kitchen, a new buffet restaurant in town. Home style cooking for a reasonable price. Here, most people historically and culturally eat their heavy meal at lunch so Parmesan Chicken, green beans, boiled red potatoes, rolls, salad, stuffing – $15.00 – are the “choices,” the only choices. Help yourself buffet – yep, Fairview “Buffet Heaven.” And don’t forget, strawberry or banana cake – not bread – homemade cake! Steve is in Okie-Born-and-Bred Heaven.

After lunch a drive out to see where our friend we had lunch with went to school – Cheyenne Valley, just west of the Gloss Mountains. Here is the building that was her school until 1964; again, middle of nowhere! Steve was a high school Sophomore when the valley kids came to town, a cross-cultural integration experience.

One of my favorite places to stop, hike and ascend, is the Gloss Mountains. You wouldn’t be able to compare these to mountains in Appalachia or the Rockies but for the flat land of Oklahoma, these stick out. They are red shale/clay with selenite crystals. With the recent rain, there is actual greenery around which makes the red dirt look even redder, and there’s washed-free selenite glistening everywhere.

Another interesting place not too far from Fairview, OK is the Original Sod House. As you may have learned in your early school years studying USA history, Oklahoma was settled in certain areas by land runs. Many people, called homesteaders, initially built sod houses which they lived in for 3 – 8 years until they could afford to build a more standard permanent home. Standing trees in this era were protected from exploitation because of their rarity on the Great Plains, so sod was a ubiquitous and economic choice.

These sod houses were created by cutting the short stemmed buffalo grass into blocks with a steal beam red break plow. Each block was 4” thick x 10” wide x 18” long. It took 1/2 acre to build this preserved original sod house in 1894.

The last sod house built by a homesteader in Oklahoma.

The roof on this house was replaced in 1962 with a less thick roof. The inside is original, as are the windows. The man purchased these windows and brought them with him when he came to the sight by wagon. The windows cost $1.25, the lumber for the door $0.50, latch and hangings $0.50 and 3 pounds of nails $0.20 = $6.20 for the original sod house with two rooms. Later, wood flooring was installed, as was a tin roof over the sod roof.

Original sod and window

Sheets were hung as a makeshift ceiling so the critters and dirt didn’t come down on you and your stuff. It wasn’t uncommon for snakes to crawl around the sheets over your head at night, permitted because the snakes kept the field mice at bay.

Also, everyone built a root cellar to hold their canned preserves and meat. The original cellar is still in place but had been improved. Root cellars also served as tornado shelters – “fraidy holes” – think of the Wizard of Oz!

This man lived in his sod house for 15 years (until 1919) before he finished building a more permanent house, which he lived in until 1962 when it burned down! These people were truly pioneers and strong-willed – amazing survivors! Steve’s family history includes homesteaders, sod houses, root cellars…more on that another time.

As today winds down for us, the weather is changing outside. The straight winds are gone and now we are watching the weather on TV. Storm chasers are out, with one rotating cloud spotted south west of us and storms continuing to head our way. Oklahoma tornadoes to Florida hurricane season starting tomorrow – Yikes!

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