According to Google Search (sounds like gospel to me), the Fountain of Youth is located in Osage County, Oklahoma at latitude 36.6461942° north, longitude -96.097216° west, at an elevation 938 feet above sea level. To be more precise, Ponce de Leon Spring is at that location on the grounds of the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve. Therefore, Gentle Reader, you can actually visit Osage County’s version of what people have vigilantly searched for since at least the days of Greek historian Herodotus (484 BC – 425 BC), that is, the hope for eternal youth.
Woolaroc is a marvelous creation by oil man Frank Phillips whose namesake Route 66 is America’s “Mother Road”. Phillips’ gift to the rest of us is an amazing eclectic collection of animals, art and artifacts. It is also only seven miles from our home, JPeg Osage Ranch, so we get to enjoy it every time we drive along Oklahoma State Highway 123 between Bartlesville and Barnsdall, Oklahoma. You can do the same thing almost every day; but during the summer the museum is closed on Mondays and then in the winter it is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Woolaroc (woods, lakes and rocks) is one of Osage County’s greatest treasures. It is inexpensive, easy to access and a rare concentration of great western art, such as original paintings by Charles Russell and Frederic Remington and original bronzes by Osage County’s own Jim Hamilton and John Free. However, for now let’s you and I return to the Fountain of Youth.
Ponce de Leon (1474 – 1521) was born in Spain and spent his adult life pillaging the Caribbean for gold while using the indigenous Taino Indians for forced labor. There was some small measure of justice administered when in 1521 Ponce de Leon was shot in the thigh with an Indian arrow in Florida and languished in pain until his eventual death in Cuba. Ponce de Leon claimed to be searching for what most people think was a mythical fountain of youth reportedly because he was nearly 50 years old when he married a teenage girl. In reality, it was not youth he was seeking but the location and plunder of Indian gold. I cannot advise on the efficacy of the Ponce de Leon Spring waters as Peg and I have as yet not come across the proper procedure for gaining permission to access the spring. We hope to hear from the museum’s curator or maybe order some bottles online. Surely someone at Amazon is looking for a way to market such a valuable commodity. My guess is there may be a fairly substantial fee involved for what Mark Twain suggested would be the proper way aging should occur, that is, starting at 80 years of age (we are getting there) and working backwards to 18 (there’s no harm in dreaming as even Merlin youthened instead of aging).
Apparently, the Spanish conquistadors were more interested in gold than youth as such marauders as Leon and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado (1541) spent what was left of their youth searching for Cibola, the fabled seven cities of gold, that were rumored to exist in southwestern America.
Unlike the French explorers, such as René La Salle (1682), Jean Baptiste de La Harpe (1718) and Claude Charles du Tiene (1719) who sought trade with the native Americans in what became Oklahoma, the Spanish had less concern with Indian sensibilities. Fortunately, Spain sold its claims to raid the area to France’s Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800. Then in 1803 Napoleon sold the entire Louisiana Purchase to the newly established United States of America for fifteen million dollars. This purchase included what is now named Ponce de Leon Spring almost next to our home. So, if you will excuse me, I am going to see about getting permission for a quick soak to wash away a few years.
I have a friend who quite frequently volunteers to help others. He refers to himself and other such generous souls as unpaid staff. Fortunately for those of us who are blessed to live in or visit Osage County, Oklahoma there is a hard-working unpaid staff that helps preserve and promote the historic Constantine Theater. My family benefitted greatly from those efforts a couple of weekends ago when we held our two-day family reunion, jam session, art show and new book launching at the Constantine. We had a great time.
In addition to the volunteers who serve on the Board, there are a few competent and gracious paid staff such as Jennifer Adair and Shannon Martin who do the scheduling and make sure the lights come on. Jennifer’s mother, Linda Hubbard, as well as Jennifer’s daughters, Katie and Grace, also pitched in and helped make the weekend special. One of the unpaid staff, Board Member Cameron Chesbro, not only saw to the myriad technical needs of our diverse musical group he also displayed his own fine musical talents by sitting in as our unpaid drummer. Neither Gene Krupa nor Buddy Rich could have been a better fit.
It was wonderful to see friends, old and new, who took the time to drop in and cheer on our family jam session that included the world premiere of an original song The Redwine Waltz written and performed by C.E. Redwine and Roger Coble. We have a family that includes a few truly exceptional professional musicians, not including Peg and me, and several enthusiastic non-professionals, that is Peg and me. However, everyone dove right in and even some audience members got up and danced in the aisles of the grand ’ole Osage County Opry. Thanks for joining in the fun.
As one who grew up in Pawhuska and attended the Kihekah (Constantine) Theater on a regular basis for numerous community events it felt good to see the old girl sparkle once more. Osage County has many talented and creative people who need a stage to display their gifts to our community. The Constantine has a fine lighting and sound system thanks to the generous support of the contributors and volunteers. The Constantine has even served as a regular venue for feeding the extremely courteous and friendly crew and extras of the Killers of the Flower Moon movie.
Plays, movies, ballets, musical performances, lectures, dancing and numerous other public uses are being made of this one-hundred-year-old, ornate edifice. On mine and the whole Redwine Family’s behalf, several of whom have called Pawhuska their home, thank you to all the staff, paid and unpaid, who helped make our reunion so memorable and so much fun.
By the way, the Constantine is available for use by calling 918-900-6161 or just stop by and speak to the friendly people who are proud to be able to show off the grand old dame.
James Buchanan was the American president from 1857-1861 and is credited with that description of the United States Senate as a place for respectful, intelligent and impassioned debate. Such luminaries as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun forged a senate known for its ability to get hard jobs done well. Those three served when the annual pay was $5,000. Today, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky earns $174,000 per year as one of our one hundred senators.
Henry Clay represented Kentucky also. Clay was called the Great Compromiser due to his ability to get senate consensus on such volatile issues as war, then peace, with Great Britain in 1812-1814 and preservation of the union during ante-bellum days. Anthony Fauci is not a senator but he is our highest paid federal employee, $434,312 per year, as the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as the chief medical advisor to the President of the United States. On July 20, 2021 Senator Paul and Dr. Fauci sat in the hallowed chamber where Henry Clay used to orate. Their exchange about the Wuhan China laboratory funds received from America was notably different from issues concerning war and slavery. It went something like this, “You are a liar!” and “You are another!” If the famous Ohio River brawler Mike Fink (c. 1770-c. 1823) had been involved, either Paul or Fauci might have been challenged to knock a red feather off the other’s shoulder. Or if two twelve-year-old boys during a school recess had been at odds one might have shoved the other and kicked dirt on him.
For several hundred thousand dollars in salaries and such seeming trivialities as a world pandemic involved, one might expect the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body to be, well, more deliberative. As reported over the cable news networks, Paul and Fauci were each claiming the other was not just incorrect on the arcane science known as gain-of-function research; the direct accusations were that both public servants were deliberately misleading their employers, i.e., you and me, Gentle Readers.
Further, Paul accused Fauci of perjury before Congress and Fauci pointed a bony finger at Paul and yelled that Paul was intentionally confusing the facts. I do not know about you but I have found this Wuhan gain-of-function thing confusing enough on its own. Our leaders need not obfuscate things further. Research into how science can manipulate the genetic code of the coronavirus in order to create new more deadly ones sounds ominous enough. And according to some reports, the mysterious Wuhan Laboratory “Bat Lady”, Shi Zhengle, has already combined the genes of two bat viruses with genes from a SARS related strain to make a new and even more deadly virus. I am thinking we all might want to step back a way. Supposedly the good reason for such research is to prepare us for some future deadly disease. Unfortunately, history teaches us the altruistic motivations do not always win out.
Paul got his medical degree from Duke University and Fauci got his from Cornell University. They should know better than to bandy about with such concepts as world plagues, present or future. I respectfully suggest we may want to use the resources of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body for good and not expend our precious and limited resources on schoolboy shouting matches while Washington, D.C. burns.
The national media push a highly addictive drug called paranoia. If one wants to get a reliable weather forecast or find out if a local kitten is not lost, local T.V. and regional newspapers are the best source. But if we are in need of a rush brought on by fear of catastrophe or schadenfreude, we flip the remote incessantly between CNN and FOX. CBS, NBC and ABC are available but boring. PBS can be interesting but is about as exciting as a library. No, if we want cataclysm or the satisfaction of seeing the rich and powerful fail, we must have cable. You might wonder about MSNBC but we can only take so much self-indulgent cynicism.
Gentle Reader, if you were awake, as I was at 4:00 a.m. staring at the peach-colored ceiling and wondering if I should use the restroom again or make a cup of coffee, you may have defaulted to cable T.V. That is where I saw the bobbleheads of CNN and FOX fervently seeking our advertising eyeballs by continually ratcheting up the partisan rhetoric. In between the machine gun fire of five minutes of adds were crammed five-minute exhortations camouflaged as news. Today, as usual, CNN was frothing about Donald Trump and FOX was exorcised about Cuba and communism, which FOX posited was one and the same.
CNN was giddy with the no-so-breaking story that former President Trump was unhappy about the last election, so much so that General Mark Milley, Trump’s choice for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military, was concerned about a peaceful transfer of power. FOX apparently either did not know who Milley was or did not care. FOX made no mention of this “bombshell” possibility. FOX was excitedly showing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ campaign coozies which attacked Anthony Fauci as FOX repeatedly rolled film of protests in Cuba. CNN did not take note of Cuba nor communism as its commentators were busy extolling the virtues of giving away trillions of dollars of borrowed taxpayer money.
What came through quite clearly, even as I dozed in and out while desperately seeking facts hidden among the rushes of opinion, was that CNN and FOX both believed that Chicken Little was correct. Each of their favorite evil acorns that fall upon us is a harbinger of the sky’s collapse upon America. We must eliminate all vestiges of Trumpism, and now DeSantisism too, along with President Biden and any federal help for poor people. Of course, we can do this by buying the products hawked among the invective spewed by the incredulous news anchors. Just as grade school teachers emphasizing that we children should obey the crossing guards, cable news claims it is our best source for gospel; critical analysis is just too much trouble and no fun besides. Most importantly, run out and buy more stuff before prices rise again.
Charles Constantine was a Greek immigrant who relocated to Pawhuska, Osage County, Oklahoma in 1905. Charles bought the Pawhuska House Hotel that had been opened in the 1880’s and he converted the business to the Constantine Theater in 1914. After Constantine sold the theater in 1926 it was renamed the Kihekah Theater. It operated as a movie house from 1926 until it closed in 1981. It has been beautifully restored by the community and once again serves the public as The Constantine Theater. Numerous volunteers have donated money and countless hours of their time to preserving this iconic community asset. The Constantine will be open to the public free of charge for several hours during the Cavalcade Rodeo weekend of July 16th to 17th, 2021. The Redwine family will be having a family reunion jam session, art exhibit and new book launching event during parts of each day and The Constantine will open its concession stand also.
Mr. Constantine was furthering the Greek theater tradition that began with the western world’s first theater about 500 B.C. It was located in Athens, Greece on the side of the high hill upon which the Acropolis was built and it was named in honor of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. Playwrites such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes began the ancient tradition of entertainment and enlightenment that carries on to today. Along the way such giants of literature as William Shakespeare in England drew upon the wisdom of those marvelous Greeks. Shakespeare’s theater, The Globe, in London is where Hamlet, Act II, scene 2, said “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” Hamlet used a play within a play to expose his uncle’s murder of Hamlet’s father. Human nature has often been examined through art but sometimes art is just for fun; not every play is a tragedy. The weekend of July 16th & 17th is to be one of the lighter variety.
The Constantine has been the scene of countless performances over the years and Peg and I were honored to have been invited to exhibit our homemade movie and preview our historical novel JUDGE LYNCH! at the first Ben Johnson, Jr. Film Festival that was held at The Constantine Theater June 11, 2011. Our new novel Unanimous for Murder is a sequel to JUDGE LYNCH!. We are looking forward to once again enjoying the historic atmosphere of the Constantine and maybe re-showing our 19-minute movie. We do not need any extras.
Pawhuska’s favorite son, Ben (Son) Johnson, won an academy award for his portrayal of the owner of the sole movie theater in a small Texas village. The movie, The Last Picture Show, was a metaphor for lost innocence and a declining town. When the theater in that small community closed the town died as did the hopes of its residents. But thanks to the efforts of numerous volunteers, Pawhuska’s theater remains vibrant and forward looking. As someone who grew up attending the Kihekah Theater countless times, it feels good to have it still be an integral part of our lives.
Maybe we will see you at The Constantine Theater July 16th or July 17th between 12 noon and 6 p.m.; an informal musical performance will take place between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on July 17th. Admittance is free to all events.
Aesop (620–564 BC.) was a slave in ancient Greece who told morality tales. Aesop’s fables generally used irony and experiences from everyday life to illustrate their lessons. Negro spirituals provided the same type of psychological relief for slaves in America. Each Fourth of July as we celebrate our country’s freedom from Great Britain in 1776 we honor the principles of democracy handed down to us by those brilliant and courageous ancient Greeks. But the Greeks from c. 2500 years ago and our Founders from 245 years ago were seeking a perfect society, not establishing one.
Athena was claimed to have sprung full-grown from the mind of Zeus and the United States is often claimed to have been born free and equal when we adopted our constitution. However, the goddess of justice and justice in America were ideals not reality. We know there is more work to do and we are doing it. Independence Day celebrations are a good time to reflect on the hard work remaining.
Each Fourth of July our family, probably much as your family Gentle Reader, get together to renew and reminisce. This year we are gathering at the Constantine Theater in Pawhuska, Oklahoma on July 16 and 17 during the wonderful Cavalcade Rodeo event. Shirley (Smith) Redwine has graced our family for well over half a century after she competed as a queen contestant and barrel racer in the Cavalcade. You can see her in the painting she created. You go Cowgirl!
Shirley’s husband and our eldest sibling, C.E. Redwine, is a wonderful professional musician and is coordinating a family jam session at the Constantine. We will have saxophone, ukulele and guitar players of various persuasions as well as singers and talkers. We will not pay you to attend nor will you have to pay to come visit with Pawhuska High School graduates from 1954, 1955, 1960 and 1961 on July 17th from 2-4 p.m.
This same group got together at the Constantine in 2011 when we showed the movie we made of my historical novel JUDGE LYNCH!. That horrific tale of injustice and its brand-new sequel Unanimous for Murder involve the legacy of slavery, segregation and integration in Posey County, Indiana and Osage County, Oklahoma. Those sad stories also involve an Aesop-type irony from 2011. It reminds me of the bittersweet years when we had Colored Folks and White People.
When Peg and I wrote JUDGE LYNCH! I borrowed, with his prior permission, the name of one of my childhood friends. Travis Finley is a sports legend, minister and former Pawhuska City Councilman. I used his name for a character in JUDGE LYNCH! When we returned to Pawhuska from New Harmony, Indiana in 2011 to show the movie we made we invited Travis and his wife Edna to attend the premier. As I was up on the stage of the Constantine explaining the book and movie, I looked out in the audience to find Travis and Edna; they were not visible. After my introduction I searched the downstairs of the theater then went to the balcony. There, just the two of them, sat Edna and Travis. I went up to them and said, “What are you doing up here?” They reminded me of what America has been and what it was meant to be when they answered, “When we were kids we weren’t allowed to sit downstairs so now we don’t want to. Besides, you can see better from up here.”
Happy birthday, America. Let’s keep perfecting!