- ABOUT US
The Power of 3
This is the story of two men, one road, and a more than 600-mile drive from one of Oklahoma’s farthest reaches to another. Fasten your seat belts as we follow their lively ride down Oklahoma’s longest state highway.
Roads matter. I learn this from a man named Duck Daffern, whose wife Lola has just served me one of the best pieces of cheesecake I’ve ever eaten. It’s the fluffy kind, whipped, with a feather-light crust and pineapple mixed into the filling. Duck and Lola run the Centrahoma Cafe, the only business in the seventy-five-person town of Centrahoma.
“There used to be two banks, a hardware store, and a lumber yard across the street there,” Duck says, gesturing out the café’s south-facing windows. “There was a cotton gin. It was a little boomtown—at one time, eight hundred people lived here.”
So what happened? They moved the road three-quarters of a mile south.
“It killed the town,” Duck says.
Duck and Lola lived awhile in Boise City—Duck worked in the oil fields—and Duck’s two sisters live in Haworth in southeast McCurtain County. I ask: Do those two spots, at opposite ends of the state, have anything in common?
Duck laughs. “Only thing you can say is, they’re still in Oklahoma.”
But Boise City, Centrahoma, and Haworth are linked by one thing: Oklahoma State Highway 3. Photographer James Pratt and I are sitting in the Centrahoma Cafe on a sunny spring day because we’ve decided to drive the entire thing from one end to the other.
Highway 3 is the longest of Oklahoma’s state highways, an asphalt thread tied at two ends of the state. On one are the dusty mesas of the Panhandle, home to the state’s highest elevation; on the other, the state’s lowest, the bottomlands of the Little River a few hundred feet above sea level.
To drive Highway 3 is to watch the landscape shift. The road surfs Oklahoma’s rises and dips in elevation, forms Main Streets and highway bypasses, and is a more than six hundred-mile prism that breaks the state into its constituent parts, all while displaying the quirks and hospitality of its people and their history. We want to see what changes—and what doesn’t—from one end of Oklahoma to the other.
We begin the six-day journey by pointing my Jeep southeast from Oklahoma City. We have a cabin reserved near Beavers Bend State Park and need to get there by evening, when the party starts.
McCurtain County resident Trey Tucker plays what he calls his “Oklahoma kind of music” at a party on the shores of Lake Broken Bow near Hochatown.
Janine Carter owns Beavers Bend Adventures, one of several luxury cabin operations that have sprung up near Broken Bow in the past decade and a half. She’s letting us stay the night at Pine Creek Lodge and has arranged a party on the shores of the lake. Trey Tucker, a twenty-one-year-old car salesman who moonlights as a country musician, strums his guitar next to a campfire. Pickup trucks packed with coolers and revelers pull in and unload. One is filled with pies from Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room in nearby Hochatown.
One of the owners of Grateful Head, Billy Bob Carper, tells a story about a band of hippies who used to park their Day-Glo bus along Highway 3 at Corinne. He’d see them from the back of his parents’ station wagon as they drove to his grandmother’s in Antlers.
“I think they lived at a commune in Snow up north of Antlers,” he says. “Eventually they opened a pizza place, and they weren’t hippies anymore.”
The party winds down long after sunset, and by midnight, we’re asleep at Pine Creek Lodge. We’ve got an appointment in the morning with Sophia Pitchlynn, who died in 1871.