My Granddaddy would call early Saturday morning, asking one question, "You ready to go, Sugarfoot?"
We were on our way to the lake. Leaving Oklahoma City, we head south on I-35. Drive through Moore and past the exit to Draper Lake, pass the exit to Lake Thunderbird in Norman and take the Maysville exit. We were headed to Healdton Lake.
It wasn't just a day at the lake. It was an entire day in Healdton. To me it was the greatest place world in world spend the day. The drive was more than worth getting up early on a Saturday morning.
My Granddaddy would pull his old blue pick up into the little store in Antioch. My Granny would hand me a five dollar bill and inside I'd run. We needed two Cokes and one Dr. Pepper as well as six bags of peanuts and two beef jerkies. Once back in the truck, we'd pass out the snacks. My grandparents drank the Cokes and I had the Dr. Pepper. My Granddaddy would tear three of the bags of peanuts. We'd quickly drink some of our soda and then pour the peanuts in the glass bottles. Then back on the road. We still had to get to Healdton.
My Granddaddy and Granny would tell me stories about when they were my age. I loved sitting between them, drinking my Dr. Pepper with peanuts and eating my beef jerky. I heard all about picking cotton, gathering eggs and surviving this thing they called The Great Depression.
Time flew by and soon we were at the intersection in Ratliff City. We'd wave at folks we didn't know and my anticipation would increase by the second. Only about 10 more miles to Healdton.
We'd stop in the Wooldridge grocery store. Granny and I would get out to do our shopping as my Grandaddy talked to whoever pulled up next to his truck. Granny and I would head straight to the back of the storey store. We were going to get some bologna. Not just any bologna, in a package. Mr. Wooldridge would cut it from a huge block behind his meat counter. He would cut it really thick and wrap it in white paper.
As he cut the bologna, we'd shop. Over to the north side of the store,cut it fro out the watermelon, usually straight from Rush Springs, or some cantaloupe. We'd buy all sorts of vegetables, too - tomatoes, carrots, celery and radishes. Back to the meat counter and we'd grab a loaf of bread, several more sodas, a bag of ice and some mustard. Checking out, we had all we needed for a great lunch.
By the time we reached the Comanche Y, I could barely sit still. We'd take that long curve a few miles further south and we were in Healdton. Past the Otasco and Ben Franklin, we head for Healdton Lake.
We'd spend the rest of the morning looking for interesting rocks and pretty flowers. By noon all three of us were starving. Granddaddy would get the plastic forks and knives from the glove compartment and we'd eat lunch.
Not once did we ever go swimming. I didn't know how and it seemed a little a strange to get in the water when there were so many interesting things to do along the shore. We'd look robins, scissor-tail flycatchers and mockingbirds. Occasionally, we'd get a glimpse of a cardinal or bluebird. My favorite bird, sparrows, were always around.
We'd leave Healdton and head to the Healdton Oil Museum. Granddaddy would show me all the pictures of the old equipment he used working in the oil fields. Granny would cry and tell me about a childhood friend or distant relative that lost a finger or his life working in an oil field somewhere in Oklahoma. My grandparents would talk to the folks coming and going into the museum; they swap stories of "back then" and how things had changed so much.
Much too early, it was time to head back home. We'd take pass the Comanche Y, Wooldridge's store and the intersection at Ratliff City. Soon we'd be waving good-bye to Antioch. Back on I-35, this time heading north, we'd be home in no time.
Many of you may wonder what is so significant about those little road trips. That is easy to explain. My family and I make that some trip as often as we can now, but it is so much different. The store in Antioch was closed years ago. We now pull into the convenient store at the intersection in Ratliff to buy our sodas and peanuts. They certainly taste different in plastic bottles. The Wooldridge store is also closed so we buy our lunch at the grocery store in Healdton, packaged sandwich meat. Thankfully, the watermelon is still from Rush Springs.
I tell my grandparents stories to my daughter and husband. My husband never worked in the oil field so he finds their stories almost as captivating as I did. My daughter points at the Comanche Y the way I did. She knows we are almost there. We stop at the Healdton Oil Museum first. We all know how to swim so we spend the afternoon at the lake instead of the morning.
I have yet to tell my husband it would be faster to take the Springer exit off of I-35. If I did that, I'd miss out on all the memories. He probably knows it anyway. He understands the importance of me going the same way. It wouldn't be a trip to Healdton if we did it another way.
Ya'll need to wander down that way, the same way, we do. It is a little off the beaten the path, but the road is good and the scenery is beautiful. Keep in mind I am biased, though. Share your family's stories as you go. Make some new memories to share on your next trip. Double check to make sure your watermelon is from Rush Springs. They grow them better there.
Happy Oklahoma traveling,
Emma Riley Sutton