March 2013

It is getting dark and we don’t know where we will stay the night.  We’re in the area of Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma.  I look at the map and suggest we drive into Kenton, the small community on the highway before the turnoff to trailhead, and find a motel there.

When we get to Kenton, we drive right through town without even realizing it.  Dang.  We may even have driven into New Mexico without realizing it too, as Kenton, the westernmost settlement in Oklahoma, is less than two minutes from the state border.  We retrace our steps, driving-wise, and find…  not a doggone thing.  Hardly even a building, much less a hotel or anything resembling the type of structure that might house a bed and shower.

Things we don’t know, while it is getting dark…

.  The population of Kenton is 17, or so.

.  There are two lodgings in Kenton, the Hitching Post Bed & Breakfast and Ranch and the Hoot Owl Ranch Bed & Breakfast.  Unfortunately we don’t even stumble upon them.  Kenton covers only 3/4 of a square mile of earth so you’d think we’d stumble upon something.  Heck, there are airports larger than Kenton.  Some shopping malls as big.  Lisa says, “The malls are certainly more populated.”

.  Kenton is the only town in Oklahoma that is on Mountain Standard Time.  We know it is getting dark but without knowing what the time really is, we don’t know just how dark it is.  Where’s the dividing line from Mountain Standard?  If you ask, which we did later, no one around here is exactly sure.

Kenton, this little nothing blip on the map, the town that almost isn’t.  A closer look reveals more to this wee burg than we discover during our twilight ride.

The Anasazi Indians used cave walls in this area as their canvas.  Their drawings can still be seen.

Not sure why, but George Collins, owner and proprietor with his wife of the Hoot Owl Ranch Bed & Breakfast gained minor fame for saying, “Kenton is the tail end of the dog.”

I said the population of Kenton is about 17.  There are 20 more residents on ranches nearby, outside Kenton.  Just about all of them have already bought their tombstones.  In fact, it’s a reality in these Panhandle towns that more people reside in the cemeteries than live in the towns.

During the first months of one particular year, very few funerals were performed.  Consequently undertaker Mark Axtell was having a hard time making a living.  In his defense, he’s not totally comfortable with the idea that someone has to die for him to pay the bills.  So a few years ago, he decided to open a cafe to supplement his income, and that’s how the Rockin’ A Cafe in nearby Boise City came into being.

Kenton has no school, one store, no gas station, and best I can tell, three churches.  It does have a post office — zip code 73946 — which is the only business still operating.

Bonnie Heppard, who is in her late 80s, ran the post office from 1979 to 2009.  That’s worth an interview…


You were the postmaster for 30 years?  Or do you call yourself the postmistress?

Ms Heppard…

A postmistress is the woman who sleeps with the postmaster.

With the realization that it’s just not gonna happen here in Kenton, we drive the 39 miles back to Boise City to find what we can find, which is a bed.  It is dark by this time.  But not so dark that we can’t find a place to park our weary selves for the night.

In the morning, we have breakfast at the Rockin’ A Cafe.

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