We've moved out west just in time to celebrate Oklahoma's 100th anniversary of statehood. Apparently most people think of the stage play "Oklahoma!" when they hear the state's name mentioned. Personally, I think of a dead, flat, lonely landscape and poor water drainage -- and oil rigs sucking up our natural resources. But that's just me.
The challenge in this, our centennial year, is to make the rest of America aware of what Ugylhoma has to offer, besides "beautiful mornings," "fringe-laden surreys" and "a girl who cain't say no." Given this challenge, here are some other borderline-interesting state facts about Uglyhoma:
* Oklahoma is not only the home of Ado Annie and Aunt Eller from "Oklahoma!" but of the parking meter (invented in OKC) and the shopping cart (invented in Ardmore). Now you know who to cuss the next time your meter runs out and you get a ticket. I wonder who invented the shopping buggy?
* The electric guitar also was invented in Oklahoma, by a Beggs musician named Bob Dunn. Jimmy Page, who rocked "Stairway to Heaven" for Led Zepplin, was from England, not Uglyhoma.
* The first "Yield" sign was installed in Tulsa. Again, now you know who to cuss if you're ticketed for not yielding.
* Environmental Protection Agency recognizes Oklahoma as having the most diverse terrain of any state in the nation. The state, according to EPA, boasts 11 distinct eco-regions, most of which are dead at least 8.5 months out of the year. We will not mention how the EPA feels about oil rigs.
* The state has more man-made lakes than any other state, which give us more than a million surface-acres of water and 2,000 more miles of shoreline than the Atlantic and Gulf coasts combined. Come see our fake lakes; we've got a lot of them and nothing else to offer!
* The Sooner State has produced more astronauts than any other state in the union. Owen Garriott is an Enid boy, while Tom Stafford is from Weatherford, Shannon Lucid from Oklahoma City, William Pogue from Okemah and the late Gordon Cooper from Shawnee.
* Oklahoma is home to the Amateur Softball Association and Hall of Fame, a world class zoo in OKC and more F4 and F5 tornadoes than any other state. When Gary England tells you to take shelter in this state, it's serious.
* Uglyhoma is the third-largest gas-producing state in the nation and ranks fourth in the production of wheat, cattle and calves, and Big Foot stories, fifth in the production of pecans, sixth in peanuts and eighth in peaches. People who live in Uglyhoma are also ranked second in the nation for extreme taxing of its residents with shoddy roads to show for it.
* The state's colors are neither OU's crimson and cream nor the orange and black of OSU but green and white. That and a dollar will buy you anything on a 99 cent menu.
* Oklahomans practice 73 major religions. The largest is the Southern Baptist Convention, with nearly 1,600 church and more than 960,000 members. Uglyhoma is also known for its extreme right-wing views; try not to think outside of the box in this state.
* Uglyhoma gave birth to Dick Tracy (cartoonist Chester Gould is a native of Pawnee) and Donald Duck (Clarence "Ducky" Nash, the original voice of Walt Disney's Donald, grew up in Watonga).
* Oklahomans have survived the Dust Bowl, any number of killer tornadoes, the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and various oil booms and busts.
* People who live in Uglyhoma are nicer than yankees and west-coasters, but not as nice as those who live in the real south.
The official statehood celebration will be in November. In the meantime, individual cities are restaging various events associated with statehood and the settling of Indian Territory which eventually became our state. We will be celebrating by requesting the use of wind energy on our electric bill.
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