Friday, June 15, 2012

~Welcome to Woolaroc: Part 1~

In my last post, I shared with you our weekend getaway to Osage Hills State Park, which is west of Bartlesville, Oklahoma in the northern part of the state.  We took an afternoon to visit Woolaroc; a vision and dream built by Frank Phillips, co-founder of Phillips Petroleum.

 Woolaroc.  Woods, Land and Rocks.  Woolaroc.  In the mid 1920s, Frank Phillips literally struck it rich when drilling for oil in the hills of Osage country.   He so loved this area that he bought the land, including the well sites, that paved the way for him becoming a multimillionaire.  His dream was to build a game preserve and a beautiful lodge to enjoy and share with friends, family and the public.  He was intrigued by the Wild West and desired to preserve as much of our western and Indian heritage as possible so he also built a museum that houses a world class collection of western art, artifacts and special exhibits.

The preserve covers about 3600 acres and, when first building the preserve, Mr. Phillips brought in many exotic breeds.  Unfortunately, a lot of them did not survive due to disease, severe weather and predators.  Buffalo were becoming quite extinct, but Mr. Phillips was able to purchase a herd from South Dakota that thrived well.  He was one of  a small group of investors who was responsible for bringing this breed back from extinction.  I think he would be pleased.  Most of the preserve is drive-thru only as there are still buffalo, deer, zebra, ostriches and other wild critters that live on the land in pens and pastures...for the most part.  Our first stop was a hands-on mountain man camp that was not here the last time we were here....25 or so years ago.  Who could resist?  We parked our truck and walked down into the little valley area, which was surprisingly comfortable and breezy.

 The 'mountain men' who work this exhibit also live here for the most part in these teepee type tents.  They do get to take advantage of the showers up at the employees' building (thank goodness!) and take turns going home at night on the weekends.  They aren't entirely remote as one had a cell phone go off while we were talking.  LOL

 This guy is quite a character.  He has been working for Woolaroc for 25 years and has been a mountain man since the start of the camp 12 years ago.  The young man in the photo above this one is this guy's great nephew.

 This guy, brother to the man above (talk about all in the family!), was in the midst of sharing with a family about how to use this 50-caliber muzzle loader when we arrived.  But he was gracious enough to start over when they moved on.

 This is his tent site.  They sleep on buffalo blankets with the hair turned to the outside.  Supposed to be somewhat comfortable, but I wasn't willing to try it out. :)

Most of the items you see are things that they have made during idle time to be used in their hunts, comforts of living and to share with us.  They also use these in mountain men competitions around the country!  This is a knife that he made using the forefoot of a deer and rock to create the blade.  In the photo above this one, do you see something that looks like it is carrying a bow and arrows?  This is called a quiver and it's made with a coyote hide...including the head and tail!  In some circles, this would be pretty impressive.

 In this area, you learn how to load a muzzle loader.  Mr. Bill took him up on the offer to shoot the thing but I missed taking a picture!

The powder and such is pretty mild so that even children can experience the joy of shooting a target.  It still gives off a pretty loud bang so one is encouraged to wear the protective coverings over your ears while mountain man just plugs his with his fingers.

 Not too far from the shooting area is a beautiful little lake.  And look what we see!

 Mama is a bit more leery than baby deer and kept ducking her head.  Obviously, they are not too terribly afraid and do not feel threatened by the presence of humans because of the mountain men being in the area all the time.  These deer are an exotic breed and are not to be hunted.

 This teepee is made with canvas not buffalo hide.  Come to find out that many Indians started trading for canvas back in the 1830s to use for their teepees when it was becoming more difficult to hunt the buffalo they needed for food and protection.  Plus, the canvas is very durable and so much easier than having to tan all those hides to make a comfortable home!

 This is a perfect example of an Indian teepee dwelling.  If you look closely, you can see two layers of canvas.  The inner layer looks like a wall with the outer layer over the backside.  This is to create venting allowing fresh air to blow through.  Even so, it was still pretty warm in there.

 On another side, you can see animal hides and items used for day to day living.  Remnants of a fire were smoldering on the hard dirt floor.  Have you ever wondered how the campfire keeps from getting smoldered during a hard rain?  There is another layer towards the top of the teepee that partially covers the opening at the top and slants away to catch most of the rain to run off to the outside.  Interesting, huh?

 Tomahawk throwing!  The technique?  Pretend you're angry at someone.  Yeah, that's what he said.  It is such an accurate weapon that the blade hits the target instead of the handle.  Here's Mr. Bill trying first.

 My turn.  The guys say that the women are pretty darn accurate.  Me? Not so accurate.  I could have probably taken out a squirrel in the tree but not the pile of logs.  Much easier to throw one of these babies than a frying pan!

 We decided to mosey across the way to see these teepees with the beautiful Indian style paintings on them.  Come to find out, they aren't really teepees but rather metal structures.  Just to give you the idea of Indians dwelling near the mountain men.  Look you see what I see?

 Let's move closer.  Do you see it?  There between the teepees.

 There they are!  A couple more exotic deer enjoying the tall grass and the shade.

A beautiful little camp.  Very interesting and enjoyable.  The camp closes after Labor Day and doesn't open again until April or May.  We learned that a mountain man rendezvous is held each October at this camp.  Guess where we're going to be come October??  We think it will be so much fun!

This is just one area of the Woolaroc preserve.  Next week, I'll share with you about our quick visit up to the lodge and museum.  You might enjoy this little video about Woolaroc that was taken during the late fall or winter months.  The surroundings weren't as pretty and luscious as they are now but you will at least get an idea of what this place is all about.

Enjoy and have a beautiful weekend!

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Carol said...

This is a fascinating post! Wow. I'm imagining having the career of being a mountain man.
Thanks so much for sharing. Very intriguing!

hron said...

Thank you so much for this, part 1 of your post, "Welcome to Woolaroc". This is MOST interesting and I will enjoy sharing it with others. How wonderful to have your photos and explanations to teach us about this unique ares of Oklahoma. Thank you!!!

Kerin said...

Good morning Velma!
What a cool place to visit, and so many great things to see and to experience!!
Will you go back there again this summer ?
Seems as if you could spend a couple day there easily.

Love that you tried out some of the activities too!!

Hope this weekend is a great one for you!!

Your friend,

smcfarland said...

Being from Pryor Creek we've always enjoyed the trips to Woolaroc and have been to the rendevouz in costume. (We used to reenact, but not there) It was a really nice camp and I think you will get a kick out of watching their interaction. It really got me to thinking about the isolation those mountain people lived in and how much they must have looked forward to the encampments - and how glad they probably were to get back to their peace and quiet. Do they still serve buffalo by the lodge/museum? My kids got a kick out of eating buffalo and 'adventure eating' kind of stayed with them...rattlesnake, elk, crawdad, etc. They're grown now but will still try anything!

vintage grey said...

Hi Velma! Sounds like such a fun place to visit! Such interesting history, and activities! Thanks for sharing! Wishing you a beautiful weekend! xo Heather

Sam I Am...... said...

Velma, that was fascinating and beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing it all. I don't travel so it is so nice to see these things when others share their adventures!
I watched the video too. What a gorgeous place and I learned things too! Just wonderful...thank you so much!

TinaTx said...

totally cool!

Indiana Limestone said...
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