Day 21: No man’s land

Enid, OK to Liberal, KS

Finally a beautiful day. It is 75° with humidity 40%. I am out of the punishing heat of the South.

CVS has made this trip a lot easier by being everywhere and having everything.

Still in Enid, I went to the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center. The Cherokee Strip, officially the Cherokee Outlet, was a large area of land in present-day Oklahoma that the US Government obliged the Cherokee Indians to take in exchange for their lands in the Southeast. They were permitted to use the land but not to live there (they lived nearby).

As often happened during the settling of the United States, there arose pressure from whites to settle the land. The Cherokees were forced to sell, and in 1893 there was an enormous land run to allow whites to settle there. Enid itself sits in what was the Cherokee Strip.

First I looked at their awesome exhibition of political posters.

Poster for Wendell Willkie, 1940
Poster for William McKinley, 1900

The museum’s permanent exhibition is a lavish and extensive history of the Cherokee Strip and Enid.

Sometimes people ask me, like they did at the museum, where I’m from. When I tell them, they ask what I’m doing here. So I told them about my trip and they loved it. They introduced me several times as the person from New York. Their archivist, Aaron, gave me a special tour of the historic buildings on the site, including the original Enid land office from the 1890s.

Land office, 1890s

Goodbye, Enid, lovely city where people are so nice. Pushed further west.

Grain elevators, sometimes called “cathedrals of the plains.” They are by far the tallest structures in the Oklahoma Panhandle
Abandoned gas station

Passed through Gloss Mountains, red mesas that suddenly stick up from the prairie floor.

In the Gloss Mountains
The road

Finally, I entered the Oklahoma Panhandle, one of the main destinations on this trip, and a place I’ve wanted to visit for years. There’s a little monument on US 64 at the Panhandle’s boundary. (Before Oklahoma statehood, the Panhandle was known as No Man’s Land.)

No Man’s Land monument
Text: The 37th Parallel was chosen as the southern boundary of Colorado and Kansas. New Mexico’s eastern boundary was the 103rd Meridian by the Missouri Compromise. Texas came into the Union with 36° 30′ Parallel as their northern boundary. This northern boundary of Texas is the only state boundary in the Union set by the Missouri Compromise (Mason – Dixon). The Cherokee Outlet stopped at the 100th Meridian. This left a strip of land 34 miles wide and 167 miles long without any form of government. Congress called it the Public Land Strip, but it became known as No Man’s Land, being outside any jurisdiction or any form of government. It became the home of outlaws, cowboys, and settlers. Beaver City was the largest town in the area. By the Organic Act of 1890 Congress attached this unclaimed land to the newly-organized Oklahoma Territory with Beaver City as the county seat. It continued thus until Oklahoma was admitted to the Union Sat. Nov. 14, 1907. Three counties were formed out of the Panhandle – Beaver, Texas, and Cimarron.

For comparison, Long Island is 118 miles by 23 miles maximum.

I arrived in Gate, Oklahoma. Stopped there mainly because of its name.

The Panhandle is flat and beautiful and mostly empty.

In the Panhandle

I entered a surprise new state, Kansas. I went there because the Panhandle is a little short on hotels.

Internet in my room wasn’t working, so I called the front desk and was told the whole town’s internet was down. What, no redundant connection? It was still down when I left in the morning.

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