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My Oklahoma Home

I’m a roamin’ Oklahoman,
but I’m always close to home
And I’ll never get homesick ’til I die
No matter where I’m found,
my home is all around
My Oklahoma home is in the sky
–From Bill and Agnes Cunningham’s My Oklahoma Home

In 1965, Oklahoma Dust Bowl Refugee Bill Cunningham along with sister Agnes (Sis) wrote the lyrics to My Oklahoma Home. The siblings once lived on a farm in Watonga and were open members of the Communist Party. After moving to Oklahoma City, Sis and her husband were run out of town in a “red scare.” She later toured with Woody Guthrie. (Information source: Dave Marsh.)

After her brother died, Sis published their song. In 1967, Pete Seeger made the first recording. Springsteen made a recording 30 years later. It appears on his 2006 We Shall Overcome/The Seeger Sesssions album.

Woody Guthrie is my father’s first cousin once removed, making him my first cousin, twice removed. Every year, I try to attend the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Guthrie’s birthplace. Past performers have included Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, and Arlo Guthrie. It has long been hoped, as well as rumored, that Springsteen will eventually attend. This year’s festival is July 8-12.

I’ve previously published this photo on my blog. (Sorry for the repeat, but I think it’s such a fun photo.) This is me with Arlo and Abe Guthrie in 2001!

Hippie Van

The festival is quite a draw for people who drive vans like this. One year, I counted license plates from 13 different states.

Someday, I hope I am old enough and gray enough to write about all the wonderful memories I have of attending this festival over the years. Only an old woman can tell such stories without sounding sappy.

Bob Childers, Father of Red Dirt Music

I do have one memory to share. It was the summer of 2001, the Pastures of Plenty (a big field with a big stage – like a mini-mini Woodstock). Bob Childers, the great Red Dirt songwriter, was standing in the merchandise tent. The lines cut deep in his thin face and his hair was long and gray. I was wearing that “ROCK STAR,” T-shirt, but he was the one with rock-star status – an Oklahoma folk legend, most appreciated on the Oklahoma folk scene. So, standing five feet from him, flipping through CDs, I said, “I love that song you wrote, Times Have Changed.” He smiled big and said it was one of his favorites, too, and then made a comment about me being a rock star.

Times Have Changed was not one of his more popular songs, but will always be one of my all-time favorites. It was recorded in 2000 by Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Rangers. If you’re going to be road-tripping this summer, I highly recommend this folk festival. There are places in Okemah to pitch tents or hook RVs. There are several venues for folk music. The Brick Street Cafe is one of my favorites. A partial list of entertainers is available on the Web site. As the Webmaster so aptly described, “While Bob Childers may not appear in person, he will have an everlasting presence at the festival.”

My Oklahoma Home
When they opened up the strip I was young and full of zip
I wanted a place to call my own
And so I made the race, and staked me out a place
And settled down along the Cimarron

It blowed away, it blowed away
My Oklahoma home, it blowed away
It looked so green and fair when I built my shanty there
But my Oklahoma home, it blowed away

I planted wheat and oats, got some chickens and some shoats
Aimed to have some ham and eggs to feed my face
Got a mule to pull the plow, got an old red muley cow
And got a fancy mortgage on the place

It blowed away, it blowed away
All the crops I planted blowed away
You can’t grow any grain if there isn’t any rain
All except the mortgage blowed away

It blowed away my rooster and it blowed away my hens
The pigs and cattle went astray
All the crops that I sowed went a-foggin’ down the road
My Oklahoma farm, it blowed away

It blowed away, it blowed away
Everything I owned blowed away
I hollered and I cussed when my land went up in dust
When my Oklahoma farm, it blowed away

It looked so green and fair, when I built my shanty there
I figured I was all set for life
I put on my Sunday best with my fancy scalloped vest
And went to town and picked me out a wife

She blowed away, she blowed away
My Oklahoma woman blowed away
Just as I bent and kissed her, she was picked up by a twister
My Oklahoma woman blowed away

Then I was left alone a-listenin’ to the moan
Of the wind around the corners of my shack
So, I took off down the road when the south wind blowed
A-travelin’ with the wind at my back

I blowed away, I blowed away
Chasin’ a dust cloud up ahead
Once it looked so green and fair, now it’s up there in the air
My Oklahoma farm is overhead

Now I’m always close to home no matter where I roam
For Oklahoma dust is everywhere
Makes no difference where I’m walkin’
I can hear my chickens squawkin’
I can hear my wife a-talkin’ in the air

It blowed away, it blowed away
My Oklahoma home blowed away
But my home is always near; it’s in the atmosphere
My Oklahoma home that blowed away

I’m a roamin’ Oklahoman, but I’m always close to home
And I’ll never get homesick ’til I die
No matter where I’m found, my home is all around
My Oklahoma home is in the sky

It blowed away, it blowed away
My farm down upon the Cimarron
But all around the world, wherever dust is whirled
Some is from my Oklahoma home

It blowed away, it blowed away
My Oklahoma home blowed away
Oh, it’s up there in the sky in that dust cloud rolling by
My Oklahoma home is in the sky

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. jenX67

    @georgie –
    My father loved reading about Belle and Henry Starr. He even took me to Henry Starr’s grave in Dewey, OK. I was so bored then. I wish I could go back and appreciate what he was saying and doing.

  2. jenX67

    @kent – I don’t think it was me, but I was out and about yesterday, taking pictures! I was over in Edgemere and Crown Heights and on Classen.

    I’d love to attend that Woody G production. I saw the sign and forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me!!!

  3. jenX67

    @Kat – Thank you! I’ll definitely lug the camera!

    @Yogi – Sometimes, I get a little wanderlust, but between the low cost of living and the clean air, I don’t know if I’ll ever leave. I was born in L.A. – grew up across the south central plains – Tx, Ok, Ark, Ks. Move to OK in summer of 1983. WHERE R U FROM ORIGINALLY?

    @TM – LOL! He does look like everyone else in Okemah. He’s so lowkey.

    @John Hayes – I’m glad you liked it. I don’t usually hear Springsteen that folk. That recording was unreheased. It was part of those Seeger Sessions at his farm in NJ.

  4. Kent

    You will need to check out the new review “Woody Sez” being presented at Lyric Theatre at the Plaza for the next couple of weeks. It was first produced in England. The Guthrie family has given its approval for it to be presented in the US. So the Lyric production is the US premiere. Hope you can make it…. Kent

    Oh and did I see you out taking pictures today of the Chase sign?

  5. Nadine Hightower

    Way Cool!!!!!!!

    A friend of my father’s loves to go to Okemah every year to the festival. HE LOVES IT!! Takes his grandkids and spend the week!!

  6. ♥georgie♥

    Okay that is awesome that you are related to Woody Guthrie! Makes being related to Belle Star aka Belle Shirley aka my maiden name seem so small 😉
    Great pix!

  7. John Hayes

    What a great song– thanks for posting it. Good pix too.

  8. Oklahoma Farmgirl

    LOVE the song!! Yep, OK is always with us no matter how far we roam from, in my case, the Oklahoma hills (I was born very near the Arbuckles-oldest mountain range in the US & used to be taller than the Rockies-my trivia for today). And I am now older than dirt LOL. Related to Woody Guthrie, too cool. I am cousins with Red Stegall (my maternal grandmother was a Stegall).

    Hugs to everyone!!

    Blessed be…

  9. Territory Mom

    What a great photo. One time my husband and I were “in town” to get gas the first day of the festival. After my husband came back to the truck he said “that was Arlo”. He was right next to me and I didn’t realize it. He looked like everyone else in Okemah. It is a great festival. Love this post.

  10. Yogi♪♪♪

    Thanks for sharing. Great photo with you and the musicians.
    I am not a native Okie but I’ve been here 22 years and have no desire to live anywhere else.

  11. Poetikat

    When you go this year, make sure you take lots of pictures so I can experience it too. How cool to be related to Woody Guthrie. You are such a cool gal, Jen!



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