Saturday, April 25, 2009

A tribute to my Dad

My parents met when Mom's family moved in across the road from the farm where Dad grew up. As the story goes all the area kids would meet up at the corner by Dad's house and walk to school together. He had heard the Weed family had a teenage daughter and they met on the walk to school. On May 15 of this year they will celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary. They now live in an assisted living center in Purcell, Oklahoma.

MY DAD: George William Stone turned 90 years old on April 17. He was was born and reared on a farm in Byars, Oklahoma. He was the sixth of eight children, five girls and three boys. In those days all the children, as soon as they were old enough, worked the farm. Most farm people at that time could not afford to hire help and there were no labor saving machines that farmers use today. They lived in a four room house with no running water. They carried their water from a nearby well.

My parents married in 1937 and moved to Oklahoma City. Following that move Dad worked at many different jobs to support his family, which eventually included four sons. These jobs included selling ice cream and delivering large blocks of ice for Capitol Hill Ice Cream Company and slaughtering cattle at the Butcher Brothers slaughter house. He also spent one summer in California driving a truck for a construction company. He was never afraid of hard work, a trait that served him well as he built his career.

Although Dad grew up in the Methodist Church he started attending a Southern Baptist Church when he moved to the City. Mom had been a Baptist so that is what they decided would be their church. Later he felt the call to the ministry. He was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister and pastored several churches in Oklahoma. He was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Bethany, Oklahoma, when I was born. During this time he returned to school, driving from the Oklahoma City area to Shawnee, Oklahoma, daily to attend Oklahoma Baptist University where he earned his college degree. After a while he started to experience problems with his throat, a problem that caused him to eventually leave the full time ministry. His last church, in the late 1940's, was University Heights Baptist Church in northwest Oklahoma City. (The picture to the left is how he looked in 1946 when I was born.)

My grandfather, his dad, had been involved with the Oklahoma Farmers Union, while Dad was growing up. At the time this was a major organization to support the American family farmer and was a state chapter of the National Farmers Union. In addition to representing the farmer with both state legislatures and with the U. S. Congress, they made insurance available, through the national company, for these farmers. After Dad found he could no longer preach full time he went to work for Oklahoma Farmers Union, first on a part time basis and then full time. He worked his way up from Assistant to the State Secretary to manager of the automobile insurance department and in 1956 he was elected President of the state organization, a job he held until 1980. Under his leadership the Oklahoma organization began issuing their own insurance policies and became one of the largest domestic insurance carriers in the state. During this time Oklahoma rose to the highest membership of all the state organizations with over 100,000 family members. In 1980 he elected as President of National Farmers Union, where he served until his retirement in 1984 at age 65. His work with Farmers Union required a great deal of travel over the years, both throughout the country and on a worldwide basis. He has been to all corners of the world and has met with many world leaders. He also knew and worked with most of the U. S. Presidents during those years. (Today, he still stays involved in the business of Oklahoma Farmers Union, which is now known as American Farmers & Ranchers, as he serves as the senior member of the Board of Directors.)

Following his career with Farmers Union he bought a farm in Stratford, Oklahoma, just a few miles from where he had grown up. He worked this farm as a cow/calf operation for the next ten years. In addition to his cattle operation he also raised sheep, hay, Bermuda grass and he had two large peach orchards. One of his best crops was Bermuda grass roots. He could pull the roots and bale them with a hay baler and sell them to builders and other farmers. With a couple hundred acres in Bermuda grass this crop only cost him his time, diesel for the tractor and a little baler wire. He also had a very large vegetable garden.

After farming for ten years, and at age 75, he decided it was time to slow down. He sold the farm and built a house in Purcell, Oklahoma. Although he greatly scaled down he still maintained a large garden at the new house. When he purchased lots to build his house he bought four lots. Normally there would have been four houses built on these lots. He used two of the lots for his house and had the rest in lawn and garden, which he maintained himself. The folks lived there for eleven years. At that time my mother's health was diminishing and Dad had some heart problems. They sold their house and moved to an assisted living center within the same neighborhood, where they continue to live. Still with the farmer in his blood he maintains a garden in a space behind the center. The vegetables he grows are used in the center's kitchen for the benefit of the residents. Dad was recognized by the Governor of the State of Oklahoma when he was initiated into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2000.

Recently my Dad has written a book about his life. He did all the writing in long hand on a yellow legal pad. I was honored when he asked me to type, edit and do the layout of this book. It is a fantastic story of a very unique life. Through the years while Dad was traveling for work the job of taking care of the family fell to my mother. Now my mom's health is not as good and she suffers from dementia. Dad has now become the caregiver and does a fantastic job of caring for Mom. It is a joy to watch how gentle and patient he is with her.

From the time that I was a small child to this day my dad has always been my hero. He is living proof of what a person with the drive, ability and is who willing to work hard can do in this world. He was also my mentor. When I was self employed in the insurance business he is the person I turned to for advise and counsel. Later, when I was in a management position in state government, when I found myself dealing with personnel issues I often stopped and asked myself "what would Pop do in this situation". I think that I have one of the best father's that God ever made and I feel very fortunate to have been his son.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A tribute to my mom

My parents met when Mom's family moved in across the road from the farm where Dad grew up. As the story goes all the area kids would meet up at the corner by Dad's house and walk to school together. He had heard the Weed family had a teenage daughter and they met on the walk to school. On May 15 of this year they will celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary. They now live in an assisted living center in Purcell, Oklahoma.

MY MOM: Maskell Lee (Weed) Stone turned 90 years old in March. She has lived a long and full life. Most of her life was as a stay at home mom and devoted wife. Her devotion to the home and family allowed my dad to follow his career which required a large amount of travel.

Mom's family had moved around a lot during her younger years. Her dad, my Grandpa, worked in the oilfield and they followed him from place to place when he found work. She was about 16 when they moved in to the old house across from my dad's family farm in Byars, OK. Due to their moving around she was a grade behind most kids her age. She was still in school when my folks got married and she wound up dropping out while in the eleventh grade. She had an older sister and a younger brother. There had also been an older brother but he had died as a child. (Today, she is the only surviving member of her immediate family.)

In 1937 my folks left the farm and moved to Oklahoma City so my dad could start building a career. She seldom worked outside the home and supported Dad in his endeavors. During the following years she made a home for the family and reared four sons. She was always there to help heal the wounds, wipe the runny noses and do all the other things that a mom does. Mom did not drive a car until later in life. When Dad was not available to drive her she would rely on public transportation. I can remember many times that she and I would catch the bus in front of our house in South Oklahoma City to ride downtown for a day of shopping and maybe a movie. I was the youngest of the boys and by this time the older ones had other things to do. When Mom finally made up her mind to learn to drive I was a Junior in High School, which was about a mile from our house. She enrolled in the school's adult institute which met at night. She walked to the school and back two nights a week for a semester to take driver's ed. She got her driver's license just before Christmas that year and Dad bought her a new 1966 Rambler Classic.

Over the years my mom became my best friend and the person I could talk to about anything. When I got out of the Navy, the first time, in 1970 I lived back at home for a while. I would often come in after Dad had gone to bed but Mom would be up and we would sit and talk about things. She was about the most leveled headed person I have ever known. As the years have passed and we'd wondered down the roads that life has brought us she was always there to support and encourage us. When we made mistakes, needed to back up and take a different direction she was always our best supporter.

As the years have gone by Mom has seen her health fail and the last few years she has suffered with dementia that has gotten progressively worse. Today she has good days and bad days. She pretty much knows us boys when we visit but does not always get our names correct or at all. I miss the mom I remember growing up but she is still my mom and one of the most wonderful women I have ever known.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I once asked Jesus, "How much do you love me?" He stretched out his arms on a cross and said, "This much." A new day began, the Son has risen.

Happy Easter to all.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An outing with the Birds

Our local (Oklahoma) RV club is known as the Birds of a Feather. The name originally was chosen years ago when a group of owners of a certain brand of RV banded together to form an Oklahoma chapter of that manufacturer's national club. We joined the club in 1996 after we had purchased our first motor home, a used coach made by that manufacturer. Since then that company has fallen on hard times and has been sold more than once. There is no longer a dealer in Oklahoma who sells that brand. We have since dropped our affiliation with the national brand club and are now just a club for RV owners.

Our club meets one weekend per month during the months of March through June and September through November of each year. The members take turns serving as "host" for the meet and this past weekend was our turn as host. We had our gathering at the Arbuckle RV Resort in Sulphur in south-central Oklahoma. To get everything set up we decided to go down ahead of everyone else so we headed out last Wednesday. As has been part of our routine lately we had a strong wind to drive in. This time it was coming directly out of the south so we had to drive directly into it almost the whole way.

The bulk of the other coaches started arriving on Thursday afternoon. During that time we had gone to scout out a place for the group to go out to eat on Friday night. (We usually enjoy a local eatery on Friday night and then have a pot luck dinner on Saturday night each month.) One of the places we checked out was an out of this world bar-b-que place in Davis. This is a very small place and it was obvious they would not be able to handle having 16 people show up on a Friday evening. Since we were there we decided to have lunch. We knew from previous visits there that they served some of the best BBQ ever made. They also don't skimp on their servings. We did find a place for the group to eat on Friday. Just east of Davis, at Interstate 35, the Treasure Valley Casino, owned by the Chickasaw Nation, has a seafood buffet each Friday. We had the group there when they opened at 5:00pm for a good meal.

Sulphur, Oklahoma, was home to Platt National Park, the only national park Oklahoma was ever able to brag about. Unfortunately, some years ago the federal government downgraded it from national park status. Today it is the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. It still has the campgrounds and other amenities from it's national park days. Years ago the area had an abundance of sulphur springs. The people from the Chickasaw Indian nation felt these waters produced medicinal benefits. The springs also gave the entire area a distinct sulphur odor. Today there are very few springs remaining but there is still a faint odor of sulphur in the air.

On Saturday Joanne and I decided to go explore the recreation area. We did find a place at one of the highest points where you can overlook area and get a view of the town of Sulphur down below. The park also has a small herd of Buffalo. Just west of the park, across the road from the Arbuckle RV Resort, the Chickasaw Nation is building a very large cultural center and museum. This construction has been going on for over two years and it does not look like it will be completed anytime soon. They have put in a nice, wide paved road into their area which was a real boon to the RV park.

Saturday evening was our scheduled pot luck dinner in the Rally Room at the RV park. Joanne had planned an Easter celebration as the theme for the dinner. She baked a great ham and also provided the bread. The other seven couples brought dishes to compliment the ham. After a great dinner, with most of us eating more than we needed, several in the group entertained themselves with a game of cards. Sunday morning was time for everyone to load up and head for home. During the four days there we had experienced several different types of weather but Friday and Saturday had brought warm and sunny days, although a bit windy. Saturday night a front had moved in so Sunday morning met us as very cold with high winds. As is our luck the wind had moved around and was now coming from the north. We got to spend the two hour drive heading straight into it again. Regardless, everyone seemed to have a good time and we look forward to our next venture out with the Birds.