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Oklahoma a great place to visit

June 30, 2009|By JEFF SEMLER

As I write this article, I am sitting in what you might call the "Buckle of the Bible Belt" - Oklahoma City.

I am here on a family vacation, but felt I would share my observations, since I was encouraged by readers after last week's column on others' perspectives.

As you can imagine, in Oklahoma, in the southern Great Plains, agriculture is a big deal, as they would say. They grow wheat here, and I mean a lot of wheat. This is the end of their harvest time, but all you see is either wheat being harvested, straw being baled or stubble ground being chisel plowed.

They grow a little corn and even fewer soybeans from what I could see. Wheat is the cash crop and cattle would be next. Unlike us, however, they double dip a little by grazing their wheat with their cattle in the winter. This cuts some feed costs and deposits some natural fertilizer, as long as the cattle are well managed, and by all accounts, they are.

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Just to give you some idea of just how important wheat is to Oklahoma, on the front page of the Sunday edition of The Oklahoman is this headline above the fold: "Wheat breeders try to beat fungus before it hits state." This is amazing as just two days earlier, Michael Jackson commanded the front page of USA Today. Wheat must be a big deal to push a celebrity from the front page.

Being in cowboy country, we took in a local rodeo. Rodeo, after all, is just regular ranch work turned into a competition, with the possible exception of bull riding. But then again, cowboys will be cowboys.

The rodeo opening is as American as apple pie. The contestants ride out and the colors are presented on horseback. In rides a youngster in red, white and blue, and she sings the national anthem. And just before the first round of bull riding, the announcer opens in prayer without fear of ACLU reprisal. It was a wonderful community event, and the community comes out and supports it with the addition of 15 out-of-towners.

I couldn't close this article without at least mentioning the most moving and well-done memorial I have ever visited - the OKC Memorial at the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, where at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a terrible act of domestic terrorism took the lives of 168 people. The visit is a testament to the resilience and character of the people of Oklahoma and the United States.

If you ever get the chance to visit America's heartland, make sure Oklahoma is on your list. You won't be disappointed.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at jsemler@umd.edu

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