PRYOR, OK —
“Americana. Pictures of a people proud and free.” If you’re not old enough to remember Moe Bandy, that lyric may not be familiar.
The song is about a man leaving the highway for the backroads and finding a special little town.
There are lots of special little towns, but I visited one Friday night that is a great example.
Smack between White Oak and New Alluwe in Craig County is Bowlin Spring.
A small community, but Bowlin Springs Grocery is there and it’s a happening place.
The cowboys from Spur Ranch raved about the noon meal at Bowlin Springs, but claimed it’s nothing compared to supper on Friday.
So when we finished riding at the South Coffeyville sale Friday, the timing was right to eat supper at the grocery since it’s practically on our way home to Vinita.
Bowlin Springs Grocery is wood and concrete block, painted white, with the regular neon beer signs in the windows.
The door opens into the grocery store. It has wooden shelves and a long counter. Wood stove in the back. It’s been updated a bit. There’s a flat screen TV and it was tuned to a college football game.
A door behind the stove opens on the kitchen. It has a counter and a few tables. Down two steps is a large room. Long bar on the right, pool table and lots more places to take a load off and get serious about supper.
There is no menu. The lady with the pad tells you what’s available. Brisket, ribs or fried chicken this particular night. Sandwiches or dinners. Sides include potato salad, baked beans and cole slaw. There’s any kind of beer available along with sweet tea - which we discovered when we got the check costs more than beer.
No one lied. The food is unbelievably good. But the company is better. Cowboys and Indians. The owners are black. Bowlin Spring was a black settlement originally, but on this night there are no barriers and no one is excluded. Patrons are all ages from babes in arms to grandparents on strollers.
People are grouped loosely around the building and everyone circulates from one conversation to another.
“How’d you break that arm anyway? Was it a cow?”
“No I already caught her. My horse jumped a ditch on the way back to get my hat. I fell off and that’s how I broke my arm.”
“Lucus, did ya’ll bring that new baby?”
“Are ya’ll entering the ranch rodeo at Highsmith’s tomorrow night?”
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know everyone - or anyone - when you go inside because you will know everyone by the time you go out. It’s an easy place to be.
Stuffed with fried chicken, I made my way back through the store. The ballgame watchers asked if I got enough to eat, then made sure to invite me to come again.
And I sure will. Don’t know if the menu is the same every Friday night. I’m hoping to find out this week.
“Americana. I’ll keep holdin’ to the dream. You’re still what livin’ means to me.”