In my single, rambling days for twenty years in Tulsa, I was a frequent visitor to Pawhuska, my version of the cowboy capital of Oklahoma. It’s the gateway to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, where buffalo roam over thousands of acres of untouched grassland beneath an enormous sky. It was my home-on-the-range retreat.
Pawhuska has changed. The same old broken-down buildings still occupy Main Street, but now, there is traffic. Parking spots are sparse, and the sidewalks are lined with people. Last year, Ree Drummond, the “Pioneer Woman” who rose to national fame with her blog, TV shows and ranch-living books, opened the Mercantile, a cafe and gift store that’s part Anthropologie, part Cracker Barrel. There’s a two-hour wait for fried pork chops.
My favorite part of our visit to Pawhuska today was strolling through other shops that have sprung up in the Mercantile’s shade. Many carry Western art and artifacts, and have the same smell of leather — horse bridles, boots, saddles — as the shops in the Fort Worth stockyards. This song was playing in one of the stores.