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May 7, 1999

The story of the fabulous 101 Ranch is familiar to most of us in Noble county, but a newly published book about the place should be required reading for everyone. I'm talking about The Real Wild West, an historical non-fiction work from the pen of Michael Wallis. Lots of folks hereabouts had close connections to the 101 spread in the old days when the working ranch and its traveling Wild West Show were internationally known.

Perry lies in the heart of one of the state's most historic and interesting settings. Just slightly more than 100 years ago -- a short span as such things are measured -- this area was alive with people and events that defy an equal in the chronicles of the United States. This was one of the last Western frontiers. Its settlers were largely ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances and they reacted in memorable ways. Some seem to have been predestined for colorful, prominent roles in what came to be known as the Cherokee Strip. For example, I give you the Miller Brothers of the 101 Ranch with portions in Noble, Kay and two other counties, but with ranch headquarters in the Marland (Bliss) area.

The Miller family created a unique American enterprise that became known internationally through a traveling Wild West Show. Who were the Millers? Where did they come from and why were they in the Cherokee Strip? Answers to all those questions, and many others, are contained in this interesting new book by author Michael Wallis. His previous works have included Oil Man, a popular biography of Frank Phillips and the birth of Phillips Petroleum; and a national best-seller about the old route 66. Mr. Wallis, who now lives in Tulsa, spent considerable time in this part of Oklahoma the past ten years researching material for his latest book. With it, he gives a fascinating glimpse of that earlier period and the years that followed.

Many who live here today are barely aware of the story of that early era in Oklahoma. It is of special interest to us because so many individuals and families in Perry and elsewhere in Noble county were part of the 101 Ranch story. To underscore that statement, here are some of the people acknowledged in Mr. Wallis' book for their help: Karen Bigbee of the Perry Carnegie Library; former Noble county Sheriff Steve Bunch; the late Kenneth Coldiron; Sharon Courtright, formerly with The Perry Daily Journal; Clyde Speer, site attendant at the Cherokee Strip Museum here; former Perryan Eddie Trumbla; several folks with Marland connections, including Rex and Marie Spangler, Jean Webb Evans, Linda Rennie Evans, Jack and Loy Keathly and David Keathly; and the Frontier school media department at Red Rock. Roger Glenn Taylor, a former Perry artist, is pictured in the book, and Richard V. (Cap) Swift of Perry is identified as leader of the Wild West Show's Zouave drill team. I had the pleasure of contributing a few pieces of information about the 101 Ranch and Mr. Wallis kindly mentions me, too.

I haven't finished reading my copy of this new book but let me tell you that it is easy reading, divided into short chapters that will be enjoyed by anyone who has an interest in this historic part of Oklahoma. All of us need to be reminded of our heritage.

Mr. Wallis discovered in his research around Ponca City that some people who deal daily with the public have virtually no knowledge of the 101 Ranch. A young woman who serves many tourists asked him: "Is that place (the 101) still in operation?" She had no real knowledge of the historic landmark once located virtually in her backyard. Hopefully, she will read this book and find an answer to that question.