"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Friday, July 29, 2011

Marland Mansion

On Monday, I spent the day with my best friend touring the Marland Mansion, in Ponca City.  She lives closer and has been there a few times but this was my first visit.

I was very impressed.

E.W. Marland, born in 1874, was a lawyer and an oilman who made and lost a number of fortunes throughout his life.  At one point, he owned ten percent of all the known oil in the world and his personal wealth was estimated at $85,000,000.

Marland and his first wife didn't have children and, so the story goes, they convinced his wife's poverty stricken sister from back east to allow two of her children, a boy and a girl, to live with them.  After a few years, when the girl, Lydie, was sixteen, they adopted them, legally.  Lydie spent a few years in boarding schools, back east, before returning to Oklahoma. 
Here is a painting of her that isn't very good due to the low light:
Hmm.  Just based on the painting, she appears to be a little tart. :)

She was a superb rider and enjoyed fox hunts and the social life that came with being a Prairie Princess.  Her aunt was in ill health and Lydie played the roll of hostess for a number of years before her aunt passed away when Lydie was twenty-six years old.  Marland and Lydie promptly had the adoption annulled and married when she was twenty-eight.  Marland was fifty-four. 
It was quite the scandal.
The Marland Mansion cost $5.5 million dollars to build and furnish and has 55 rooms, including ten bedrooms, twelve bathrooms and three kitchens.  It had a boathouse and still has an underground tunnel connecting the artist studio (the mansion is filled with carvings and paintings and the artisans lived in the studio during construction).  Hidden inside a large fireplace was a door to where they played high stakes poker and stored the booze that had been outlawed by prohibition.  An Olympic sized swimming pool was adjacent to the house in a T shape so laps could be done in both directions.  
Here are some photos:
 The ceilings were amazing, throughout:
 Loved this red couch:
The gargoyles were adorable and the outside of the mansion was covered with little carvings here and there. 
 Originally, there were five ponds on the property.  The pond is gone but this is the remains of the boathouse:
 Another painted ceiling:
 Tiled ceiling:
 The main kitchen (the stove is a Vulcan):
 The grounds are lovely and used for weddings:
Love the chicken.  I am a chicken fiend: 

 This ceiling contained gold gild.  It cost $80,000.00 in a single room:
 Marland's office was built to look like the Oval Office.  Can't fault the man for being ambitious:
Marland allowed his employees to use the pool and, by all accounts, treated his workers quite well, providing health and dental insurance, recreational opportunities, "saving" salaries, etc.  Workers were allowed into certain parts of the house adjacent to the pool. During the time the mansion was being constructed, the nation was in the midst of the Roaring Twenties and, apparently, money flowed like water.
Construction on the mansion began in 1925.  Marland's first wife died in 1926 and it was completed in 1928 (the year Lydie and Marland wed).  Although the first wife was still alive (although quite ill) when the original plans were drawn, they already had Lydie's bedroom directly adjoining Marland's with a doorway between them. 

Lydie's room (note the door on the far right leading to her "dad's" room:
 Marland's room:
Marland's bathroom was a trip:
 Loved the shelf on the medicine chest:
His shower was quite modern - it had fourteen sprays.  He also had an early style sauna.  Wish I'd thought to get a photo.

I absolutely loved the windows:

Marland lost most of his fortune within months of the wedding.  First, he was voted out of his company (similar to a hostile takeover).  Although he lost much of his fortune when he lost his company, he held on to his stock.  Then came the crash of 1929.  At that point, he couldn't catch a break. 

The Marlands actually only lived there about 18 months before having to move due to the high maintenance and utility costs. For many years, they kept ownership of the mansion and opened it for special events but lived in one of the cottages on the property. 
Following the loss of his last fortune, Marland entered politics and lived in Washington, DC for a time.  He was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1934 and served one term.  It was during the Great Depression and Oklahoma, at the time, was drowning in debt.  Marland wanted to pass grand New Deal type laws to assist poor people through public funding and ran into a great deal of opposition because there wasn't money in the public till. 

He wasn't re-elected. 

The Marlands returned to Ponca City in 1939 and continued to live in the small cottage on the grounds.
In 1941, although they kept the small cottage, they sold the mansion, proper, to the Carmelite Fathers for $66,000.   No, this is not a typo. 

Mr. Marland died of a heart ailment six months later, at age 67.   Lydie was 41.

Lydie lived in the cottage until 1953.  During that time, she engaged in some unfortunate romantic entanglements (one with a meter reader who managed to cheat her out of about $5,000.00) and then, without warning, took off to parts unknown.  Historians have since tracked her whereabouts during her exile to DC, New York and Chicago.   Before leaving, she paid a local farmer to destroy a statute of herself made when she was in her twenties.  The farmer couldn't bring himself to completely destroy it and, instead, took the pieces and buried them on his farm.  For years, the fate of the missing statute was a mystery.   Lydie was fifty-three when she slipped out of Ponca City, taking her Studebaker and various art  works that she later sold to support herself.
In 1975, at age 75, Lydie returned, broke and disheveled.  She has been described as being a "bag lady" who had fallen on hard times, was besotted with cheap wine and had only one black tooth remaining in her head (bottom front).  She moved back into the cottage and lived in the living room.  Reportedly, she refused to enter the bedroom except to use the adjacent restroom.   Notwithstanding her bag lady lifestyle and appearance, letters written at the time show that she was fully capable of coherent thought and quite literate.  She died in 1987 when she was 87 years old.  Elderly locals still recall that she was often seen wandering around Ponca City in rags. 
She was not right.

The family of the farmer who had been paid to destroy her statute returned the hidden pieces to the museum after Lydie's death and it was reconstructed.  If you look closely at her statute, you can see the repairs but the museum has it displayed in an area with soft light so the flaws aren't noticeable.
The statute has Lydie wearing the same dress that she wore in the painting posted, earlier.

It was a fascinating place and these photos don't do it justice.  There were so many carvings and paintings, inside and out, that didn't show up well in photos so I only posted a few.  Taking the tour (included in the cost of admission) was a great idea. 
On the quilting front, the backing I intended to use on my younger daughter's wedding quilt was an inch too small so I ordered more from Back Sides Fabrics.  I think it will look nice and plan to start working on that in the next few days. 

I didn't expect it to arrive so soon so started on my other daughter's picket fence quilt.  Some years ago I'd ordered some Moda scrap bags from Hancocks of Paducah I'd been looking around to try to find suitable fabric for daughter's quilt and ran across where I'd had these stashed and was delighted to find a good use for them. 
 Hope she doesn't mind that it is "girly."
The scrap bags from Hancocks have the remnants of bolts where the fabrics have had strips cut from them.  Most of them are easily 2.5 inches wide - not all but most.  Some are wider.   If you don't mind trimming, they are pretty inexpensive way to get a wide variety of a particular fabric line:

 My nest fillers:

 I know it is kind of ridiculous, but I could look at wads of fabric for hours:
 This too:
I've thought about trying to sell of a line of greeting cards with the girls and quilts on them aimed at pet owners.  Just not sure how to get started.

Evelyn is a sweetie:
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer As It Should Be

The East Coast has joined the heat wave rave we've been experiencing in Oklahoma for the last two months.  In June we had these kinds of highs (followed by number of days):

90 - 2
92 - 1
94 - 7
95 - 2
96 - 3
97 - 2
98 - 1
99 - 1
100 - 4
101 - 3
102 - 3
104 - 1

Seven of the last eight days in June had highs of 100 degrees or more.
In July (so far), here are our official highs:
98 - 1
99 - 3
100 - 7
101 - 2
102 - 2
103 - 2
104 - 2
105 - 1
107 - 1
These are the official temperatures at the airport but we're west of there and frequently have highs 2 - 4 degrees higher. We have highs in the 100's forecast for the next ten days. Unless we get lucky or a Hurricane hits Texas, we're not looking for measurable rain until mid September.
I'm not complaining. 

Compared to the humid east, we're in heaven.  Back in Virginia, it was so humid that I hated to leave the house when the temperature approached 90 degrees.  It was sticky, wet, nasty and hideous to breathe that swamp air.  Here?  We are deliciously cool inside our single level brick house, big overhangs, no south facing windows, few west facing windows, and low humidity. 

Even with this heat, our electric bill, here, is less than it was to cool our three story home back in Virginia.  Back east, most of our cooled air went to the basement but here, it pools throughout the living areas.  Mr. Wonderful nearly freezes under the ceiling fans in our bedroom and I sometimes find sleeveless blouses are too chilly.  

I regularly go outside during the heat of the day to read on the front porch, enjoying listening to the cicadas sing.
 Nasty looking things, cicadas are:
 Apparently tasty, too.
When I go outside to read, Evelyn stays inside but keeps her head resting on the window sill to make sure I stay in sight.  She is a mama's baby. 

The heat is strong and you can't stay out in it long without needing hydration.  Still, I find myself stepping outside just to lift my face to the sun for a kiss.  I never tan deeply but am as tan as I've been in twenty years.  I don't have bikini lines (heaven forbid) but the tops of my feet have white sandal stripes and my arms are light brown as opposed to looking like a toad's belly. 

The girls don't want to go outside in the heat of the day because they just aren't dressed for this heat, humidity or no.  We've altered our morning ritual of sitting on the west facing patio for our morning coffee because at that time of day, the house bricks have absorbed so much heat from the previous evening that the radiant heat feels like an oven.  Instead, we take lawn chairs to the back yard by the honeysuckle where the energy from the rising sun is blocked by the thicket next door. 
We catch the cool morning breezes before the day begins to catch fire. The girls chase toads, sniff all manner of growing things and enjoy being young dogs with no responsibilities other than to chase dragon flies, surreptitiously dig holes in the soft dirt under the leaky water faucet, and escape the attacks of dive bombing hummingbirds.
Normally, this is the time of year where things slow down.  We run errands and do yard work in the early morning or early evening.  Mowing the lawn has slowed to a trickle because, with the heat and drought, the grass isn't growing.  Where we water the trees, I clip the grass with scissors so that the weed eater doesn't strip the bark.
Nights on the back patio run late because outdoor chores are put off until the temperature dips back down into the high 90's.  By the time the sun sets and it starts to get comfortable enough to sit outside with a glass of wine or Mr. Wonderful's home brewed beer (which is excellent), it is frequently close to 8:30 or 9:00.  The girls dart around toad hunting like a dark side Easter egg hunt.  Unlike earlier in the season where we are rescuing toads right and left because they won't leave a particular one alone, there are now so many that they race from one to the other, barely giving one a nudge before spotting another and racing across the lawn in pursuit of bigger and better things.

Sane people give up gardening this time of year but I planted a number of wildflowers in the front bed as well as some zinnias in the planter alongside our independent minded moss roses. 
I'm having a heck of a time  making sure they get the right amount of water.  I drowned a couple of Cone Flowers but the others seem to be holding their own.

We've been battling bagworms and three of our six baby Caddo Maples are suffering in a bad way.  We sprayed them and manually removed the worms but in this heat and drought, aren't sure they'll make it.
The one we were so worried about early in the season is now one of the healthiest and we hope these three sick ones will also survive and eventually thrive. 

As hot as it has been, I've still managed to finally finish the wedding quilt top for my younger daughter and her husband.  Here are a few photos.
The completed top:
It is a true scrap quilt made of lots of small pieces of assorted blues.  I am completely intimidated by the size and am not sure how in the world I am going to manage to get this big thing bound.  It takes me forever to bind even a baby quilt.

On Thursday, my friend Kim (the one who lost her young son to brain cancer in 2009) celebrated his life on the second anniversary of his death.  As she did on the first anniversary, she invited friends and family out to the ball park Caleb loved so well (it has been named in his honor).  I headed that way Thursday afternoon to celebrate with her. 

On my way to the celebration, I drove to Fort Cobb lake, a reservoir which is about an hour or so west of my house.  I'd never been there and wanted to see what I've been missing.  I drove the backroads, all of which were in good repair.  The drive took me through rolling farmland and about thirty minutes west of here, you can see a large wind farm with its big wind mills churning.  Near Binger (the home of Johnny Bench), the land turned steeply hilly with terrific views towards the northeast.  The little town was a typical old style burg and I wondered, as I always do in such places, what it was about that little place that would inspire someone to go on to become famous.  I wondered if Johnny walked down that little downtown street, and mused that it might not have looked much different in his day than it does in mine.

Annual rainfall drops off sharply in western Oklahoma as compared to the rest of the state.  The farm lands in that area have large irrigation systems set up, unlike further east, including the Oklahoma City area.  Accordingly, the crops were looking fairly robust as compared to further east where they rely on Mother Nature to send water - and she hasn't, recently.  When I finally left the state highways for the smaller farm roads working my way to the Reservoir, the houses went from well tended farms to smaller lots with what amounted to shacks on them.  That far out, a lot of people with a high tolerance for trash in their yard and few neighbors to complain, are apt to "let things go." 

Fort Cobb turned out to be a typical west Oklahoma reservoir with reddish water, a dam, twisty scrub Oaks, dragonflies, loud buzzing insects, water fowl, boats and multigenerational families cooling off in the wading areas. 

Although my car outdoor temperature read 109 degrees, it was comfortable near the lake with the breeze flowing off. The park looked to be well maintained for the most part, although I was surprised the trees weren't being more closely pruned. It could be that they were saving money, or it could be that they were deliberately being left in their wild state. The campgrounds were dusty, the camp pits often filled with broken beer bottles and remnants of campers that had been there, before. Overall, it was quite clean with lots of bathrooms and nice cabins for people don't want to camp out. They also had a fee area that looked very nice but I didn't drive in to take a closer look since I only had a few minutes. I stopped at several places along the shore to take pictures.

I saw an enormous Blue Heron wading in the shallows but by the time I'd stopped the car and had my camera out, it flew away.  The water was very low, although not as low as I would have expected, given the severe drought.  I saw a native American couple who looked to be in their thirties on the shoreline.  The woman wore white shorts and had long, beautiful hair past her hip.  I admit I was taken aback to see her wade out into the red water up to her shoulders in those white shorts with her hair floating out behind her, but I could certainly understand wanting to get cooled off.    I saw a large family out romping in the waves with grandma, a bunch of kids and a medium sized dog who was having as much fun as any of them.  I stopped to chat with Grandpa, who had taken a break to grab a cold one and he said they were all having a great time.  Made me smile to watch them for a few minutes.

Just before I left, I happened upon a doe with three spotted fawns.
One of the fawns, in particular showed little fear and was as interested in me as I was in him.

Oklahoma has many lakes but most of them aren't beautiful in the same way you expect in the east or the mountains.  You don't go to look at them, you go to get in them.   Young people and families need a place to go to beat the summer heat and lakes are traditional weekend and vacation spots.  Between fishing, jet skiing, skiing, swimming and just plain hanging out, a lot of families spend nearly every summer weekend at the lake.  It has never been my cup of tea but for many, it is a tradition that has been handed down from their parents and grandparents who grew up before air conditioners were commonplace.  Of course most of Oklahoma's western lakes are man-made so you can only go back so many generations before a luscious lake used to be just a reedy stream. 
I arrived at the celebration of Caleb's life just as it was getting started.   The family provided home made ice cream, hotdogs, cookies, chips, a water slide and ballgames for anyone who wanted to participate. It is such a lovely, upbeat tradition, adding happy memories to the horrible ones associated with his death. Some of Caleb's school chums, now long, lanky and entering their teens, attended. There were many hugs, grins and laughter. I saw no tears, just some sad eyes behind sweet smiles when I expressed my condolences. Caleb's brothers were there, as well as many cousins, including tots who have arrived since Caleb passed. I am blessed to know people that emotionally healthy and well grounded.

Summer time.  All these things are what summer means to me.
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl