A Bit of Background
Freedom, Oklahoma USA - a unique little cow town.
The town of Freedom is situated in a beautiful green valley nestled along the Cimarron River in northwest Oklahoma smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley, though it's rumored very few tornadoes have ever touch down there.
The old weathered western cow town’s population consists mainly of old-timers and families who settled in and around Freedom after the 1893 land rush. Few young people stay after they finish high school. They move on to larger cities or towns to explore grander opportunities than are offered in Freedom.
The local’s welcomed tourists into their town once a year when thousands of rodeo fans arrive to attend their annual rodeo. The Freedom Rodeo’s tradition has lived on for over seventy-five years.
The town of Freedom was established eight years after the 1893 Cherokee Outlet Land Run. The U.S. government originally purchased the land in 1891 from the Cherokee Indians and Freedom was established as a town in 1901.
The Santa Fe Railroad Company built a railway line running between Waynoka and Buffalo, Oklahoma. Its lines run close to the town of Freedom. By 1928 the town was prospering. Freight trains made daily stops there. Several new businesses developed, and they soon had a grocery store, auto repair garage, drug store, barber shop, lumber yard, meat market, hardware store, produce shop, feed yard, a coffee shop, hotel and bank.
In 1928 the population of Freedom was two hundred fifty-one. When Cheyenne arrived, the population was two-hundred-eighty-one.
The main street of the old western town featured wooden store fronts and wood sidewalks. The town had the potential to become a popular Oklahoma tourist destination. However, most of the older citizens were content with the status quo and not interested in putting up with tourists or outsiders of any kind.
The old country town had a co-op where farmers bought feed and seed at escalated prices. The owner of the local hardware could get you anything you needed, and have it delivered in two days if you were willing to pay his price. The corner grocery store sold gas and groceries at steep prices charging double what you would spend if you shopped at Walmart.
There were no stoplights in the one-horse town. There was a school with grades from one to twelve, town hall, post office, legion hall, tiny western museum, sewing shop, two country cafes, rodeo arena, bank and a saloon.
Tumbleweeds blew down the dusty main street. Cheyenne imagined Freedom could easily have been a ghost town in a movie set, but it wasn’t… it was very real.
Freedom became Cheyenne's ultimate getaway. She went there to escape the loneliness consuming her every waking minute. When she wasn’t there, she missed the country lifestyle and the comfort it provided. She longed to be a part of Rowdy's life.
The exciting new relationship with Rowdy was a welcome change from the mundane life she'd known. Rowdy became her best friend and she was given a second chance to live a more meaningful adventurous life. Rowdy was relaxed and caring. Life with a different man and new family in the unfamiliar and interesting rural part of the country was appealing. She enjoyed starting over.
There was no law enforcement in Freedom… no police no judge and no jail. The town folk made and enforced their own laws and policed each other. They resented any law getting anywhere close to their town. Word spread fast among them when someone would spot a state trooper or a sheriff’s vehicle staked out nearby.
Most living in and around Freedom were farmers or ranchers. Some became frustrated when their hard work failed to pay off. Even when a farmer had a good wheat crop it didn’t mean he'd receive a fair price for the effort. The farmer’s financial success depended on how much the government valued the wheat that year.
Mother Nature took a toll on the Freedom farmers who were forever challenged by drought wind, rain and insects. The obstacles they faced in their day-to-day lives could destroy the souls of those with little hope or faith. Many farmers in Northwest Oklahoma existed on a prayer and a shoestring.
New farming equipment was expensive and available only to a choice few. Some could barely afford to pay for the seed to plant the crops let alone replace aging equipment. The farmers depended heavily on operating loans from local banks to help them eke out a living.
There were extreme differences in the lifestyles of the people. Local political crooks owned acres and acres and seemed to have the best farming equipment money could buy. However, the poorer sharecropping farmers had little chance for success. There was a shortage of water to irrigate the crops and most farmers didn’t have irrigation systems in place. They relied on Mother Nature for an occasional thunderstorm and a soaking rain. Cheyenne thought. "Things haven’t changed much around Freedom since the dust bowl and Great Depression!"
The farmland was planted in wheat or grass and used for grazing cattle. Year after year the desperate farmers planted wheat. They would occasionally have a decent crop but depending on the elements they could have no crop at all. Regardless as the years went by and seasons changed Cheyenne saw farmers repeat the same efforts over again as if it were the only way they knew. Cheyenne's favorite time of year in Northwestern Oklahoma was the early spring time when the rolling green wheat fields resembled expansive golf courses appearing to go on forever.
There were no secrets in the small town. Old-timers relayed stories about the good old days when gossip spread throughout the community by nosey bored citizens who listened to their neighbor’s telephone conversations over old party lines. One family might have one ring and the other might have two, but they always knew when their neighbors were on the line. Hours were wasted with neighbors quietly listening in on each other’s conversations over crank telephones from the confines of farmhouse living rooms.
Most Freedom residents were hard-working, honest survivors who cherished their old-fashioned way of life. They honored their neighbors and valued family traditions. Cheyenne held some in high regard but had no love and little patience for the drug-crazed vagabonds who moved into town seeking a haven from the law. Meth usage was a huge problem in Woods and Woodward counties. The older citizens would have been shocked to know family members became drug dealers and heavy users.
Drifters who came through town with hopes of settling down were eventually asked to move on. It didn’t take outsiders long to see it was the locals themselves who made the rules. A person had to be rough and tough, strong, ornery and a little crazy to survive in Freedom. Those who didn’t develop a survivorship attitude were taken advantage of. Cheyenne thought. What doesn’t kill you in Freedom only makes you stronger!
Many folks living within fifty miles of Freedom were related in one way or another. Cousins married cousins… uncles married nieces… fathers married aunts… and other combinations thereof. Rowdy warned Cheyenne to be aware of who she complained to and what she said. Everyone living in Freedom were related in one way or another.
There was an obvious rivalry between the families who lived north of the Cimarron River and those who lived south of the river. The attitudes of the people from the north had the potential and power to destroy men damage families and ruin reputations.
Cheyenne learned not to disturb the status quo fearing she’d find herself labeled and blacklisted. She lived on her ranch south of the river where folk were deemed less fortunate and lower class than their northern neighbors. Cheyenne defended the hardworking people from the south of town and avoided those in the north with holier-than-thou attitudes. She saw that if you weren’t from one of the wealthier families in Freedom, you were looked down upon and the town bullies would have their way with you.
Cheyenne just wanted to be accepted as being the good and honest person she was. She held her head high and let the townspeople deal with her attitude. It drove some crazy not knowing who she was or where she'd came from. Cheyenne wanted to keep it that way. It took a special attitude and presence for a newcomer to be accepted by the locals in Freedom. Cheyenne doubted she ever was.
Living in the quaint, secluded town in Northwest Oklahoma helped Cheyenne heal and left her feeling liberated and free.