With a name like the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo and a mooing yellow truck with Conestoga wagon cover pulling a saddled flamingo out front, there is only one way to satisfy your curiosity about this unique store. You simply must step inside.
Meghan and friends Kelsea and Kennedy stand with the well-known truck and trailer the Garnetts use to advertise their business.
A large display of metal art and bird feeders fills the center of the Buckin’ Flamingo in Pawhuska.
Our first visit to the Buckin’ Flamingo
The first time we visited the Buckin’ Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, shop owners Cody and Lauren Garnett greeted us with a warm welcome and invited us to take a look around. It took a minute to process the abundance of brightly colored metal yard art, but once we did, we knew we’d stumbled across someplace special. And quite unique.
Buckin’ Flamingo owners Cody and Lauren and their daughters.
You see, the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo is one-of-a-kind, just like the couple who owns the place. He was a professional steer roper and she was a high school math teacher before the couple wed nine years ago and their entrepreneurial spirits took off.
It couldn’t be called the Buckin’ Flamingo if there weren’t at least SOME flamingoes! (And a giant grizzly for good measure.)
Cody’s family had been in the horse trading business (among others). He knew lots about bartering when he opened his first business, Big County Pawn, in Pawhuska. Cody also knew a lot about marketing, having worked in the field for top brands like Carhart, Copenhagen, and Jack Daniels.
This orange Cadillac, and everything on it, was pawned at the Garnett’s Big County Pawn shop. It is well-known around town.
It’s all in the marketing
So, he put all of that knowledge together and in no time he found himself driving around town promoting his pawn shop in a bright orange Cadillac (pawned). The car is accentuated with horns above the grill (also pawned) and shotguns on the hood (yes, you guessed it, pawned). A little out there, maybe, but it got people’s attention.
One of the many fun pieces of metal art available to spruce up any man cave.
Locals began frequenting his store, and Lauren set up a bail bonds business there, as well. Then, when The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond announced plans for her Mercantile, the Garnetts knew they had a great business opportunity.
Pick up a metal sign to decorate your shop, man cave or whatever. Chances are your favorite brands are here!
They began tossing around ideas for retail businesses that would also attract visitors of The Merc and finally came up with one that stuck while vacationing in Mexico. “We found this place that built metal yard art and we brought a truck load of it back with us and put it in the pawn shop,” Cody said. “It became our main retail and was outperforming our guns and ammo.”
Unique metal art for sale at the World Famous Buckin’ Flamingo
Today, their store on Main Street includes metal yard art, signs, bird feeders, and holiday decor. And much, much more. They also sell beautiful turquoise jewelry, zippered pouches and coin purses with funny sayings. You can even get a jar of spicy Hatch chili sauce there. Be careful, though, it’s addictive.
Turquoise jewelry at the Buckin’ Flamingo makes a perfect gift.
These fun zippered bags are perfect for make-up, charging cords, pencils, or anything else you want to keep safe.
So why Buckin’ Flamingo?
Cody said when the metal art store took off, they needed a name that would draw attention. They knew pink flamingos were popular but the Garnetts also wanted to draw on their rodeo/ranch/prairie lifestyle. Flamingo Prairie was too boring. Flamingo Ranch sounded naughty. And then they came up with Buckin’ Flamingo, and it stuck.
Pick up a metal sign to decorate your shop, man cave or whatever. Chances are your favorite brands are here!
Even more Pawhuska businesses
In addition to the Buckin’ Flamingo, pawn shop and bail bonds services, they own several other small businesses, as well. The Garnetts also have Osage County Auction Co., the Flamingo’s Nest short-term rental, and get this, a goat ropin’ business. Yes, Cody and crew will bring their homemade goat ropin’ arena right to your home for a fun-filled activity for your special event.
Another business offered by the Garnetts is goat roping. A popular activity at the Cavalcade Rodeo, roping sessions last well into the night.
The Flamingo’s Nest, the B&B property owned by the Garnetts is great for large groups and even has a pool table.
Together, and with the help of their family, friends, and community, the Garnetts and their businesses are flourishing and we couldn’t be happier for them. If you’re in Pawhuska to visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, be sure to step around the corner and take a peek inside the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo. You never know what kind of cool stuff you’re going to find.
Have you visited the Buckin’ Flamingo? What did you think?
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A look inside Cody and Lauren Garnett’s world famous Buckin’ Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
The first time we visited Pawhuska, Oklahoma, we went directly to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile to taste Ree Drummond’s frontier cooking for ourselves. We spent a day and a half in Pawhuska sipping coffee and eating cinnamon rolls upstairs in the bakery, shopping for kitchen supplies in the general store, and savoring every last bite of the most delicious chicken fried steak we’ve ever had.Since then, we’ve returned to Pawhuska several times and quickly learned for ourselves there is so much more to see and do there. Pawhuska has rich history, incredible art, unique shopping, and some of the most genuine hospitality we’ve come across in all our travels. Bottom line — if you come to Pawhuska and leave without dust on your car, you’ve missed out! Admittedly, this does not include everything, but here is our growing list of 70+ things to do in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, after you’ve eaten at The Mercantile. (Along with pictures of Steve doing many of them.)
1. Pour a pop at Handy’s
Handy’s is a convenience store that doesn’t sell gas or have a public restroom. Stop there anyway! What they do have is the best fountain pop in Pawhuska (that’s what the sign out front says) thanks to three choices of ice — cubed, pellet, or shaved and another little secret you can read about HERE. While you’re there, be sure to pick up an “I got a pop at Handy’s in Pawhuska, OK” postcard.
This dark and bubbly pop with that good pellet ice is just waiting to provide cool refreshment to any customer who comes through the door.
2. Take a tour with Roaming the Osage
Every first visit to Pawhuska should begin with a guided tour byRoaming the Osage Historic/Scenic Tours. Casey and his crew deliver a fantastic 90-minute overview of the community and its history while you sit back and relax in a comfortable Mercedes sprinter van with a retractable roof.
The Roaming the Osage tour is a great way to see the area.
You’ll tour the town, learn the history of the Osage, visit the Tallgrass Prairie preserve and drive by the now-familiar entrance to the Drummond Ranch. They also offer a tour to the Lodge on the days it’s open to the public. Call Casey at (918) 440-5312 to book a tour before you come or just stop by 429 E. Main to see if they have open seats.
3. Follow the mooing yellow truck to the Buckin’ Flamingo
Trust us on this one, if you see a yellow truck with a conestoga wagon cover pulling a trailer with a saddled pink flamingo in the back, follow it to the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo — it is a must-see! What started out as a pawn shop/bail bonds business has grown into a retail store just down Main Street from the Merc that specializes in metal yard art, decor, unique items, as well as vintage and retro pieces. The store has lots of cool stuff to take home or give as gifts.
Meghan and friends Kelsea and Kennedy stand with the well-known truck and trailer the Garnetts use to advertise their business.
We loved walking around the store, looking at all of the different pieces and seeing how they were displayed (yard ornaments stuck in sand in a canoe, for instance). Everyone who works there is super nice and interesting. If nothing else, just making their acquaintances is worth the stop.
4. Get your bling on at Salt Creek
Located in the heart of downtown on Kihekah Avenue, Salt Creek (look for the “SC” in the window) offers the latest in high fashion including Kendra Scott jewelry like what Ree wore on her People magazine cover.
Salt Creek offers Kendra Scott jewelry, women’s clothing, and gift items.
You can also shop their selection of women’s clothing as well as cute gift items like locally hand-embroidered tea towels and bath bombs.
5. Buy the best plastic wrap dispenser on earth
Have you ever tried to tear off plastic wrap only to have it stick to itself and not behave making you want to cuss a blue streak? At thePioneer Woman Mercantile, you can get the best plastic wrap dispenser ever made.
Love this plastic wrap dispenser from The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
We’ve bought the plastic wrap dispenser as well as the parchment paper dispenser and love them both. They also make a great gift idea for that difficult-to-shop-for person and are reasonably priced at $12.
6. Swing on the bridge
Be adventurous and try the swinging bridge! A favorite attraction of locals for years, the swinging bridge crosses Bird Creek just four blocks south of the Mercantile. Once the only way to get from one side of town to the other, the swinging bridge has been a favorite of visitors, and crossing it is a rite of passage, so to speak.
Steve walks across the swinging bridge. Don’t worry, it’s only a little more terrifying than it looks.
The signs at the ends of the bridge tell you not to jump up and down, though locals will later ask you if you did.
7. Stand in awe of stained glass at Immaculate Conception Church
We have been to Europe and have toured some of the most famous and impressive cathedrals in the world. None have stained glass windows quite like those at theImmaculate Conception Church in Pawhuska. The most famous window shows Father Shoenmaker bringing Catholicism to the Osage people.
The Osage Window at the Immaculate Conception church is not to be missed.
To even be created, the window required special dispensation from the Pope because it depicts people who were alive at the time it was made. More impressive than that, though, is the 3D effect you see when you look at the windows up close. You can make your visit Tuesday-Friday from 10am to 3pm. The door on the north side at the top of the ramp is typically open and a volunteer guide can show you around and answer questions.
8. Indulge in Indian Tacos
Every year on the first Saturday in October, dozens of home and professional cooks compete for fry bread bragging rights at theNational Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska.
One of the many homemade Indian Tacos we sampled at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Throughout the day, downtown is chock-full of Indian Taco stands, craft and retail vendors, as well as games for kids, and entertainment. They also have Powwow dance competitions for all ages. If you go, be sure to pace yourself and wear stretchy pants. You can read about our experience judging the competition in 2017 HERE.
9. Learn about the Osage Nation
Start your study of the Osage Nation with a visit to theOsage Nation Museum. The oldest tribally owned museum in the country, it offers free admission (but free will donations are accepted). Wah-zha-zhi Spirit: A Celebration of Osage History and Culture is a permanent exhibit there. It showcases themes including but not limited to pre-history, government, warfare and traditional arts. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays.
The Osage Nation Museum shares a great deal of history of the Osage Nation.
10. Try something on at Osage Outfitters
If you are looking for a unique pair of custom made cowboy boots or a cowboy hat that fits just right (yes, they steam and shape the hats right in the store at the hat bar), look no further than Osage Outfitters. Owners Joey and Callie have created an amazing store just a stone’s throw away from the Mercantile on Kihekah. Osage Outfitters carries dozens of quality boots for men, women and children, all made from the finest ethically sourced animal skins, including ostrich, hippo, and alligator. They also have some of the highest end western fashion in the area. If you see saddles on the sidewalk, you’re at the right place. Joey told us this was his first “inside” job, so he has a good understanding of what type of clothing real cowboys and ranch hands need and want. He said his wife Callie has great style and by browsing through the racks of modern and fashionable women’s apparel, we think he’s right. We loved this store, the owners’ hospitality, and the boots … oh, those boots.
The boots at Osage Outfitters are some of the best you can find.
11. Salute the start of Boy Scouts
Outside theOsage County Historical Society Museum sits a bronze statue of a few boy scouts with their scout master. Pawhuska claims it was the place where the first Boy Scout troop in the United States was organized in 1909. The museum also has displays and information on the history of Osage County.
The Osage County Historical Society museum is a great place to learn some of the history of the area.
12. Savor a skillet at El Vallarta’s
If you like Mexican food, you’ll loveEl Vallarta’s. Their lunch specials are delicious and are delivered to the table quickly. We especially enjoyed the grilled chicken and rice skillet (splurge and get it topped with queso) and the fried beef burrito. You can’t beat the prices. Our lunch for two, which included chips and drinks, was under $20.
Ann loved the chicken skillet from El Vallarta’s.
13. Search for bronze sculptures
Pawhuska is a city where the arts are important, and a quick look around town proves it. Throughout the town you’ll find number of bronze statues and sculptures, including several by famed sculptor John D. Free and his son John. See if you can find at least five of them.
One of the public bronzes by John D. Free in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
14. See a show at Constantine Theater
The historic (and allegedly haunted)Constantine Theater in downtown Pawhuska is the second oldest performing arts center in Oklahoma. Originally a hotel, the building was converted into an opera house in 1911 and remained a theater until it closed in 1970. In 1987, a group of concerned citizens got together and restored the building, reopening it as a performing arts venue. Check the schedule and catch a show!
15. Furnish your home at Lorec Ranch
LOREC Ranch Home Furnishings is a home decorating store just down the sidewalk from the PW Mercantile on Kihekah Avenue. Inside, you’ll find creative decor with a western bent, much like what you’ll see inside the Merc. This makes sense, because the LOREC Ranch provided many of the furnishings found there, including the couch and tables upstairs near the bakery. We loved the dyed cowhide placemats and huge dining room table and chairs. There are also lots of other small treasures hidden around the store like branding irons for your steak. Friendly staff, like manager Gay Kincaid, also make every visit a special one.
A great selection of western furniture and accessories is available at the LOREC Ranch.
16. Hunt for rocks
Pawhuska is home to an ongoing game among locals that includes the hiding and finding of painted rocks. When you’re in town, keep your eyes peeled for brightly painted rocks.
This is the rock we left in Pawhuska. Can you find it?
According to the rules listed in the Pawhuska Rocks Facebook Group, if you find a rock you like, you may keep it, but you have to replace it with another rock of your creation. Alternatively, you may just re-hide the rock. Either way, though, you’re asked to take a picture and post it to the group so the rock’s creator gets to see where it is. When we were in town, we hid a Postcard Jar rock … so keep your eyes open!
17. Throw a disc at Taylor Ranch
With two of the top ten disc golf courses in the United States and three overall, Pawhuska is quite the destination for disc golf enthusiasts as well as those new to the game. The city maintains a public disc golf course in Williams park, but the real action takes place a few miles south of town atThe Lodge at Taylor Ranch.
This hole at the Taylor Ranch requires players to clear a water hazard.
There they have two championship courses (a round costs $5) including one hole on which players must clear a water hazard. Taylor Ranch also offers everything from Zumba classes to homemade apple butter and they even have a cabin for rental on Airbnb that is down by the water.
In addition to a disc golf course, Williams Park in Pawhuska has playground equipment for the kids to enjoy.
18. Take a picture by a mural
As we’ve said before, Pawhuska is home to lots of public art including several murals. Take a moment to search them out and snap a photo like this one by the Osage Language building near Matthews and Main.
This mural is on the side of the Osage Language Building.
19. View the vista from Lookout Mountain
Head out of Pawhuska a few miles on Okesa Road and when you come to a fork in the road, keep to the right. You’ll immediately see a gravel road heading up a loooong hill. Drive up that road and you’ll be on the top of Lookout Mountain. There, you’ll find the memorial and gravesite for Chief Fred Lookout and his wife, Julia. Take a moment and pay your respects. You’ll also find an incredible, 360-degree panoramic view of Pawhuska, Bird Creek Valley, and Osage County. This view is definitely worth the trip.
The view from Lookout Mountain is incredible. In this photo, you can see Pawhuska in the distance.
20. Caffeinate with a Cowboy Coffee
There’s no better way to start to the day than with a Cowboy Coffee at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. While The Merc may be best known for its food, don’t overlook the coffee. The Mercantile offers two world-class coffee bars with beans sourced and roasted exclusively for the store through a partnership with Topeca Roastery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ann loves the Cowboy Coffee at the Merc.
Ann loves starting the day with the Cowboy Coffee, served “shot in the dark” style, infused with Sarsaparilla and topped with frothed milk. The Spicy Cowgirl has a hint of cayenne and is also a treat. The best part is that both the coffee beans and the flavorings are for sale at The Mercantile so you can also try your barista skills at home.
21. Launch a rocket
Every September, Pawhuska plays host to the theHigh Frontier Amateur Rocket Launch. Hundreds of hobby rocket enthusiasts gather at the Pawhuska airport to launch more than 300 rockets over two days’ time. Some are small rockets built by kids. Others are large rockets made of fiberglass that can reach altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet! Sounds to us like a high-flying event that shouldn’t be missed.
22. Scale the stairs to the Osage County Courthouse
Need to burn off a few extra calories from that indulgence in queso dip at The Mercantile? Run some steps. There are two long sets of steps in downtown Pawhuska. If you start near the China Cafe, 129 steps will take you to the top of the hill where the courthouse sits. While you’re up there, take in the commanding view of downtown Pawhuska and surrounding area, catch your breath, and remember the 129 steps are much easier heading down. You’ll burn about a calorie and a half for every 10 steps you climb.
Steps to the courthouse in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
23. Compliment your cottage
The Prairie Cottage is a fun decor boutique located on Main St. just a block or so from the Merc. The folks there have traveled far and wide to bring unique items back to town, but they also have a selection of Pawhuska items in case you’re hunting for a souvenir to take home with you.
Home decor items at the Prairie Cottage.
24. Appreciate the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
At 39,650 acres, theTallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest protected remnant of native tallgrass prairie on earth. With about 2,500 free-ranging bison, any visitor to the preserve has a good chance of spotting one or more of these majestic creatures. If you do, please remember the three rules for bison viewing the prairie’s conservancy has: 1. Stay in your car. 2. Stay in your car. 3. Stay in your car. In addition to being incredibly beautiful animals, bison are speedy, large, powerful and a little unpredictable. No human on earth can outrun them. Follow the rules.
Steve enjoys the fresh air and scenery at the Tallgrass Prairie.
25. Relax at The Pioneer Woman Boarding House
There’s no doubt in our minds The Pioneer Woman Boarding House is going to be a destination in and of itself for people visiting Pawhuska to escape, relax, and unwind. Not only are the rooms and amenities some of the best we’ve seen in all our travels, the people who work there are committed to one thing – making people happy. Read about our tour of the Boarding House HERE.
Each room at The Pioneer Woman Boarding House has luxurious bedding, an accent blanket, and a stuffed animal from The Mercantile.
26. Pamper yourself at a local salon
Take time out to get pampered at a local salon/spa. Pawhuska has a number of places to go includingAmbition Salon & Country Road Boutique, Hair Razors, and Thairapy. Whether you just need your hair styled or want to go home with a brand new cut and color, these salons offer it all. Some even offer mani/pedi services that can make your day of pampering complete.
Everyone needs a spa day. Thanks, Ambition Salon, for making Steve look so good!
27. Notice the architecture
Pawhuska’s unique history and its ties to oil and the money it brings mean that there are many beautiful, stately homes in town. Take a drive and admire the historic mansions that line the streets. Then, head downtown to see the triangle building and other historic structures, noting the decorative brickwork near the tops of the buildings. Built in 1914, the courthouse at the top of the hill is also worth a visit.
The newly-renovated Triangle building with its lights on for the first time in decades. This picture was taken in July 2018, right before the grand opening of the Frontier Hotel.
28. Sidle up to the Pig Stand
T-Bone’s Pig Stand is really just a food trailer on the west side of town with an awning over it. Apparently, the original building burned down years ago and they brought the trailer in as a temporary fix. After working in it, the owner liked it so decided to make it permanent and put the awning up.
The chopped pork sandwich made for a great lunch one day.
Don’t let the facade fool you, the food is great. Steve had the chopped pork sandwich with fresh cut fries and Ann loved her burger that was greasy in all the right ways. Locals also tell us you need to get there early if you want to enjoy the fish fry on Fridays.
29. Get your dawgs up
Pawhuska has quite a lively sports scene for a town its size and there is a great deal of local pride in their teams. While in town you should check out theschool’s activities calendar and head to an event. With football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track and more, there has to be something to pique your interest. While there cheering for the Huskies, don’t forget to get your dawgs up! A local will be glad to explain how.
Check out a high school game while you’re in Pawhuska. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself witness to the pageantry and tradition of a small town’s homecoming.
30. Book a room at The Grandview Bed & Breakfast
Back in 1923, TheGrandview Inn Bed & Breakfast was a private residence owned by Drummond family. We learned that Ladd and Ree Drummond also lived here when their girls were young and in 2004, the home was purchased by historical home preserver, Charlotte Rhineheart. She replaced windows, updated central heating and air, refinished the beautiful wood floors and gave the interior a new design.
The stately Grandview Inn was home to the Drummond family for years.
In 2012, the property was purchased by Steven and Tiffany Poe, who have made their home in Pawhuska and become innkeepers of this gorgeous and stately bed and breakfast. Simple and wholesome breakfasts are served daily in the dining room and are complimentary with each night’s stay.
31. Play the piano
We noticed several upright pianos near business fronts in Pawhuska and asked about their significance. One local business owner told us it was just a way to bring something arts and craftsy to downtown and business owners were encouraged to create their own unique piano display for passersby. See how many you can spot (and play) in Pawhuska.
32. Visit the Drummond Lodge
As you may or may not be aware, the Drummonds have opened up for tours the Lodge where The Pioneer Woman shows are often filmed. Check the Pioneer Woman Mercantile website for open dates and details. Visitors can explore the Lodge on self-guided tours where you’ll get an inside look at the pantry, cozy guest rooms, and the two-sided fireplace with a boot-lined mantle.
It’s so fun to pretend that you’re helping Ree cook!
Be sure to take your camera or camera phone, as pictures are not only allowed, but encouraged. You’ll want to be sure to snap a shot of the women and girls (and a few brave men) playing kitchen in Ree’s beautifully designed space. You can read all about our first visit to the LodgeHERE.
33. Check out a book at the Pawhuska City Library
Pawhuska has a wonderful public library that is open every day but Sunday. Check outtheir website for their exact hours. Anyone is welcome to come in out of the heat (or cold), use the restroom, and settle down in a comfy chair with a book, magazine, or newspaper. Several copies of the New York Times Bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann are available there if you’re interested in this newly released true crime novel about the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI.
Steve pauses with a book in the Pawhuska Library.
34. Visit the Blessed Kateri Shrine of the West
Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Native American to be canonized as a saint, and there is a shrine in her honor outside the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 1314 Lynn Ave. She was canonized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI and is the patroness of ecology and environment, people in exile, and Native Americans.
St. Kateri was the first Native American canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.
35. See where movies were made
Believe it or not, Pawhuska has played host to Hollywood more than once. August: Osage County was filmed there as was To the Wonder. Because of this, you should know that George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams were all in and around the town during filming. Even more special, if you visit the original Mudpies as you head west from downtown, you can sit on the wicker couch used as a prop in the filming of August: Osage County.
On the porch of Mudipies, Steve relaxes on the same couch used during the filming of “August: Osage County.”
CLICK HERE for even more things to do in Pawhuska. (Part 2)
Have you been to Pawhuska? If so, what did you enjoy most and what have we missed? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you. Also, we’d like to thank Reba Bueno, Joni Nash, and all of Pawhuska’s residents and business owners we’ve met for your incredible hospitality and assistance. Until next time …
As always, thanks for sharing (and Pinning).
70+ things to do in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, after you’ve eaten at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile
When we agreed to come to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, for the National Indian Taco Championship, we asked locals what we should do when we got to town. The first thing anyone told us was to go to Handy’s to get a fountain pop because it’s really good, and because they, “have the best ice.” If you’re wondering why anyone would want to go out of their way to get a fountain pop with, “the best ice,” rest assured, so did we.
Being intrepid travel bloggers, we are always willing to give something a whirl, especially when it likely won’t cost us more than $1.79. So as soon as we got to Pawhuska, we drove to the corner of Main St. and Lynn, and at first mistook the place for a closed gas station. In front of the store was a canopy covering an island where gas pumps should be but aren’t. The sign on the awning over the door read, “Handy’s – The best little handy stop on the corner!,” which, despite the lack of gas pumps, told us we were in the right place.
You’d never guess that the best pop you’ve ever had is inside this store. We had to work to get this photo without a car in front.
As we pulled into the parking lot, we were surprised that almost all the parking places were full. We got out of our car and walked to the door noting a sign that said, “No public restrooms.” We scratched our heads wondering how a store that didn’t sell gas and didn’t have a public restroom could stay in business.
Well, we were about to find out.
We made our way inside and noted immediately that all the action was taking place back by the fountain pop dispensers, so we headed that way. People were quickly and efficiently filling cups, then tossing $1.00 on the counter while heading back to their cars. Occasionally, someone would say, “it’s a refill,” and hand the clerk three quarters without breaking stride. Then, we saw someone fill four or five cups, likely buying pop for everyone back at the office.
Handy’s offers both Coke and Pepsi products. It’s the best of both worlds.
Ann and I stood back for a moment and just watched the action, waiting for a lull so we could orient ourselves. After a couple of minutes that lull came, and we approached the counter to ask the nice ladies who were eating their chili lunch how the whole system worked.
Martha and Margie, who are twins, responded virtually simultaneously and without putting their spoons down. They told us, each in her own words, to get a cup, and then we could choose between cubed ice, pellet ice, or, if we wanted, they’d be happy to fill our cup with shaved ice from the back. The shaved ice, they explained, doesn’t dispense well so they have to serve it by hand but they have it because some people think it crunches better than the other two kinds.
We turned, a bit overwhelmed at the possibilities, and went to the cups, of which there were about 700 stacked up and I’m not even exaggerating.
There are plenty of cups at the ready in Handy’s.
Ann chose the pellet ice, but at Martha’s insistence that it wasn’t too much trouble, I tried the shaved ice because I was intrigued by its crunchy description.
As I waited for my shaved ice, Margie struck up a conversation and asked if we were staying in town. She said they had a house on Airbnb (Redbud Cottage) and they had an opening. We already had arrangements for that night, and their open dates didn’t match our need, but we told them we’d keep them in mind for the future.
I collected my cup and headed to the fountain machines. I made a beeline for the Coke dispenser, but Ann was excited they also had Pepsi products.
Steve finishes pouring a cool, refreshing Diet Coke with pellet ice at Handy’s.
As we filled our cups, Martha and Margie came around the counter, their lunch long forgotten. We chatted some more, heard about how the Pepsi man gave them a banner that declares Handy’s has the best soda in Pawhuska, which is a definite point of pride. They shared that locals returning from trips tell them they can’t wait to get home to Pawhuska so they can get a good Handy’s pop.
This sign declares the truth: it’s the best pop in town. During the happy hours, all fountain pop is half price!
They also told us that Handy’s sells more pop than the store out on the highway – an accomplishment because that store is open 24 hours a day. Throughout this whole conversation a constant stream of people swirled in and out of the store, each spending less than a minute to fill their cups, pay, and then head back out.
I have to admit, I was impressed by this little operation and the very friendly people inside. We thanked them and returned to our car, commenting how much we’d enjoyed the stop and the friendly conversation we’d had. Then, we took a sip of our drinks.
I don’t know what the nectar the gods drank on Mount Olympus tasted like, but I suspect they got it at Handy’s. It was seriously the best fountain pop I’ve ever had. And the ice crunched perfectly.
This dark and bubbly pop with that good pellet ice is just waiting to provide cool refreshment to a lucky customer.
The next day we drove right to Handy’s. We had a long day of exploring ahead of us, and we thought it best to stay hydrated. We walked back into the store, and were greeted like old friends. We chatted some more, and then learned the secret to the good pop: the Pepsi man (bless his soul) turned the mix up just a little bit so it’s a touch richer than normal. We also learned that two hours each day, typically one in the late morning and one in the late afternoon, are designated as “happy hour” and during that time, the fountain soda is half price. Finally, we learned that they installed a generator so if the power goes out, Pawhuska still has access to its sweet, icy, addictive lifeblood from the soda fountain.
Ann and Steve pause for a picture with Martha and Margie at Handy’s.
I won’t go into a lot more detail, but I will say this, we were back for refills that day (remember, they’re discounted). And the next. And the one after that. When it came time for us to leave Pawhuska we knew we had to go back to Handy’s, and not just for one of their good pops. We had to go back to say goodbye to Martha, Margie and the crew there. They are some of the nicest people we know and we’re glad to think of them as friends. We look forward to our next visit to Pawhuska so we can get another one of their sweet pops and catch up with the even sweeter folks who help make Handy’s, and Pawhuska, such a special place.
As you may have heard, earlier this month we were invited to be celebrity judges for the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. We’d been invited by the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce to join six others (who had much greater celebrity status than we do) in sampling the eight Indian Tacos selected as finalists by a group of anonymous judges.
One of the many homemade Indian Tacos we sampled at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
We had no idea what to expect, as this was the first time we’d been invited to judge a national food competition and only the second time we’d ever had Indian Tacos. So, we drove to Pawhuska a few days early, explored the town and talked with locals about what we should expect. Then on Saturday, we saw for ourselves just what a special weekend this was, not only to local residents, but to the more than 5,000 people who came. Here are five things we learned as judges for the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
1. It’s all about the fry bread
In the days leading up to the National Indian Taco Championships, we spent some time exploring Pawhuska and visiting with lots of locals. Often, we’d share that we were going to be celebrity judges and asked their advice about what to look for in an award-winning Indian Taco. The answer was always the same. “It’s all about the fry bread.”
Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Amanda Bickford at Wild Fusion Leather told us making fry bread is an art. She said we should look for a hot golden crust on the outside of the fry bread and a middle that is warm and moist (I know, I hate that word, too), but not gooey. Several others told us the same. As we strolled Kihekah Avenue the morning of the championships, we were impressed by the artistry of the fry bread makers who lined the streets, cooking fry bread in enormous cast iron skillets on portable stoves fueled by propane tanks.
Making fry bread at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
From what we saw, most of the contestants made their fry bread dough at home and carried it to the street festival in plastic containers, some as large as the Rubbermaid tubs I use to store Christmas decorations. They typically grabbed a small ball of the dough, rolled it in flour, and shaped it in their hands or on a table with a tiny rolling pin. Just before dropping it in the hot oil, most of them made a small hole in the middle that helped create a sort of bowl shape to more easily contain the taco’s meat filling.
Rolling fry bread out at the National Indian Taco Championship in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Monie Horsechief was last year’s National Indian Taco Champion and with a total of five national championships to her name, we thought we should learn more about making Indian Tacos from one of the best. Check out the video and see how quickly Monie can shape and fry the bread.
As you can see, her fry bread comes out golden brown, with a warm, moist (I know, I did it again but it really is the best word to describe it) center that was absolutely to die for! We estimated she and her team made and sold about 500 Indian Tacos that day.
Monie’s sugar covered fry bread at the National Indian Taco Championship.
2. Powwows are amazing
In addition to the Indian Taco contest, there was also a dance competition at the event. Despite living most of our lives on the plains of North America, this was the very first time that either of us had the opportunity see a Powwow or American Indian dance. It was nothing short of amazing!
One of the beautiful outfits worn by a dancer at the competition.
We were impressed by the variety of styles of outfits worn by dancers, many hand made by the people wearing them. Prizes were awarded in eight categories such as cloth/buckskin, jingle/fancy, and straight.
Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships
We spent much of the afternoon listening to the drummers and singers and watching the dancers perform on the streets of downtown. Many tribes were represented including Osage, Quapaw, Ponca, Seneca, Pawnee, Kiowa, and Tonkawa. Our first experience with Powwows will not be our last, we are now even more interested in learning more about North American Indian culture and can’t wait to attend another Powwow someday.
One of the junior division winners
Winners in the men’s competition.
3. I’m just a small town girl
We live in a small town in Nebraska — pop. 6,700 to be exact. Pawhuska is even smaller with about 3,500 residents, and we just loved it. We loved the way business owners greeted us at their store fronts and waved across the street at their friends and neighbors. We loved joining the locals who lined Kihekah Avenue to watch the homecoming parade come down the street the day before the festival.
We met the nicest people at the high school football game the night before the NITC, including the Perriers and it was great to run into them the next day at the event.
To be honest, we loved meeting new people everywhere we went — at the high school football game, The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, the art gallery, and even in the local convenience store. Residents of Pawhuska are some of the sweetest people we’ve met in all our travels. They treat everyone with respect, make it a point to remember names and faces, and go out of their ways to make newcomers feel right at home.
We had a great week in Pawhuska, thanks in large part to Pawhuska Chamber staff Reba Bueno and Joni Nash.
The Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce staff welcomed us with open arms (literally) and we were so impressed with the business owners and festival volunteers who pulled off another successful event, their 14th in as many years. Everyone seemed to rally together and demonstrate the type of small-town hospitality we’ve grown to know and love. It’s the type of place we will never forget and we can’t wait to go back.
4. Pace yourself and wear stretchy pants
Some of the best advice we got coming into our first (and we hope not our last) National Indian Taco Championship, was from Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joni Nash, who said, “Pace. Pace. Pace. And wear stretchy pants.” Her advice was appreciated and after tasting the top eight Indian Tacos, we were glad we listened to her.
Ann and Steve in the judging room at the 2017 National Indian Taco Championships.
The day of the event, we spent the morning walking around the stores and booths, constantly tempted by the smell of frying bread and taco-flavored meats.
A booth at the National Indian Taco Championship in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Other than a small piece of sugar-covered fry bread we shared in the morning, we resisted the Indian Tacos until it was time to judge. We also got some good advice from Kurtess Mortensen, a professional chef and general manager of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. He had judged food competitions before and advised us to take the same amount from each entry and not to eat too much. He said if we eat too much, we’d be doing a disservice to the contestants whose tacos we tasted last, because we’re too full. We trusted Kurtess and heeded his advice.
National Taco Championship celebrity judges included several authors, a local politician, a state highway patrolman, an NITC champion, the general manager of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, and us.
After receiving instructions about the judging process, I took one good-sized bite of each of the eight Indian Tacos (tearing the fry bread with my hands) while Steve decided to take two bites of each one. Those were just the right amounts for judging, and at the end we took a few extra bites of the ones we liked most. Trust me, they were all good, and I still have no idea who made my favorite. Each entry was passed to us under a curtain at the judging table where we blindly tasted each one, giving them one score for appearance and another score for overall taste.
As celebrity judges, we sampled eight individual Indian Tacos and scored them on appearance and taste.
I gave the highest marks to Indian Tacos in which I could see the fry bread, easily tear it with my hands and to those that had a more complex flavor with a little kick.
5. The secret to good Indian Tacos
We tasted so many delicious Indian Tacos the day of the championships but more importantly, we met amazing people who each had a little secret to their success.
This year’s National Indian Taco Championship was chaired by community volunteer Patricia Counts.
The 24 home and professional cooks who entered the National Indian Taco Championship were some of the nicest (and funniest) people we’ve ever met. They each had a story behind their Indian Tacos, who taught them their recipe, why they shape the dough a certain way, or what the “correct” toppings should be.
One of the 24 contestants in the National Indian Taco Championship.
One of our favorites was Pawhuska resident and Osage Margie Williams, who let us watch her roll out her dough as she told us what makes her Indian fry bread so special.
We believe her. Margie’s Strike Axe team was the third place finisher in the National Indian Taco Championship this year and even more noteworthy, they also took home the People’s Choice Award. Perhaps it was the prayers of her grateful heart.
Below is a complete list of winners from the 2017 National Indian Taco Championship as provided to us by the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce.
This post is about our visit to the Drummond family lodge where The Pioneer Woman shows are filmed. If you’d like to read about our tour of the Pioneer Woman Boarding House, click HERE.
The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond and her husband, Ladd, have been opening up the lodge on their Oklahoma ranch to visitors. We were surprised that we were visiting The Mercantile in Pawhuska on a day the lodge happened to be open. And we were even more surprised with some of the things we found when we got there.
#1 – Free admission
With the popularity of everything Pioneer Woman, the Drummonds could charge an arm and a leg for people to tour their lodge. But they don’t. In fact, so far they haven’t been charging anything. That’s right, they are allowing visitors to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile the opportunity to visit their family’s lodge at no cost. All you have to do is stop by the Mercantile on select days and pick up a sheet of paper with the directions and you’re good to go.
The kitchen at the lodge is just like it looks on the show, complete with the watercolor paintings of the Drummond kids and colorful mixers.
You just show your sheet of paper to the nice folks at the front door and walk on in. Once inside, you’re allowed to roam through the kitchen where Ree’s popular Food Network show is filmed, stopping at the stove for an obligitory photo with a wooden spoon or a colorful pot.
It was so much fun to see this amazing kitchen in person.
#2 – You don’t need a GPS to find the ranch
One of things we loved most about our visit to the Drummond lodge were the directions to get there. There’s no physical address to key into your car’s GPS. No, Ree and Ladd found an even better (not to mention more entertaining) way to lead visitors to their lodge.
The Pioneer Woman’s lodge is their lovely guest house that also serves as the set for her show.
They wrote out detailed instructions on how to get to the lodge from the edge of Pawhuska starting with “the former ALCO store on the right is a good marker.” They also mention in the details “that bathrooms are available at the lodge if you need them (we have indoor plumbing! HaHa!).”
One of the guest bathrooms in the lodge.
We found the directions easy to follow despite their warning that, “one road sign was knocked over by a cow not long ago, so we’re not sure the sign will be there.” It wasn’t. We appreciated their advice to go slowly on the winding hills and look for markers such as curves in the road and cattle guards. We found the lodge with no trouble at all and at the family’s request, kept the exact directions to ourselves.
PIN FOR LATER
Seven things that surprised us about The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s ranch and lodge in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
#3 – The pantry includes generic spices, Ramen noodles, and canned frosting
On our self-guided tour, we had a chance to peek into the pantry full of all kinds of foods and beautiful cookware.
Ree has a bunch of dishes and cookware on hand at the lodge.
Colorful pots and pans are stacked high on the shelves in the pantry of the lodge. There are also plenty of mason jars for iced tea.
Plates and serving dishes fill the shelves in the pantry of the lodge.
My eyes were immediately drawn to all of the colorful serving dishes and pots and pans, but I also noticed something so surprising. Generic labeled spices (and some other ingredients) just like we use.
See? She does use store label spices!
We also spotted Ramen noodles and canned frosting! Ree Drummond has cookbooks full of delectable recipes she prepares for her family. Pork carnitas, shrimp stir-fry, and the best tomato soup ever. Her seemingly endless list of dinner ideas has amazed me for years and I guess I just imagined her family always having a home-cooked meal at the ready. Turns out, they may resort to Ramen every once in awhile just like us. And, they may even use canned frosting.
The shelves at the pantry are filled with the same items that everyone else has, including an opened box of something.
I was thrilled to see these items in the Drummond pantry and came to the realization that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have something like a perfect pot roast on the table every night. Here’s a video tour of the pantry in its entirety.
#4 -You get to see Ree’s dressing room
We’ve been on a lot of “back-stage” and “behind-the-scenes” tours in all our travels, but I must say, this is the one that was the most real.
In the room with her makeup, Ree had two or three blouses she’d worn for shows hanging up. This one was used for the “Crazy Sweet Treats” episode.
On our self-guided tour of the ranch, we were not only invited, but encouraged, to step into all of the rooms at the lodge and check out where guests stay, including the suite Ree uses as a dressing room for her Food Network show. It was fun to see the rack of her signature tunics, complete with pictures from the shows in which they were worn. The coats she is seen pulling on to deliver a meal to the guys on the ranch were hanging in the closet, and there was even an extra pair of cowboy boots under the dressing table.
Ree uses one of the suites at the lodge as a dressing room to prep for her show.
Her Fit Bit, turquoise bracelet, and her Urban Decay makeup were all left on the dressing table showing us how down-to-earth she really is.
#5 – The lodge was lived in
One of things I loved most about the lodge was that it was lived in.
The family’s boots adorn the mantle of the lodge.
One of the bedrooms at the lodge that the family uses to host guests.
It wasn’t a huge show house with high-end decor and pristine floors. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely gorgeous. But the beds were made, not made up with dozens of perfectly placed linens and European shams. In addition, minor scuffs on the walls served as evidence that children had really played there and we loved that they stuffed things in the closets when people were coming to visit just like we do back home.
The top shelves in the bedroom closets at the lodge are used as a place to stash things while folks visit–proving the Drummonds ARE real people.
#6 – They let you play kitchen
Not only was the dream kitchen at the lodge not off limits, they actually invited visitors to be in it! That’s right. There were pots and pans on the stove and mixing bowls and spatulas to play with. And never in my life could I have imagined watching grown women (and a few men) stand in line to stir imaginary cake batter in a kitchen that wasn’t theirs. It was so much fun!
Just like on the show!
Meghan stands at the stove at the Pioneer Woman’s lodge.
I volunteered more than once to take people’s pictures in the kitchen and encouraged them to ham it up (which they all secretly wanted to do). Steve, Meghan, and I posed for our pics as well, and it is so much fun to remember ourselves in the kitchen when we watch The Pioneer Woman on TV now.
I loved taking people’s pictures in Ree’s kitchen.
# 7 – The view is even better than on TV
Sometimes things look so much better on television than in real life. Not the ranch. The view from the deck at the lodge was even better than it appears on TV. The rolling green pastures on this Oklahoma ranch were just breathtaking and we took the time to enjoy the view and take it all in.
The view from the lodge across the ranch is absolutely incredible.
We can’t thank the Drummonds enough for opening their lodge to visitors like us and sharing so much of their lives with complete strangers. Not every best-selling author and TV celebrity would do that. But then again, Ree Drummond is not your every day celebrity. She really is a wife, mom, food writer, and photographer. And she really does welcome real people to her frontier.
Have you been to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile or the Drummonds’ lodge? What did you think? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.
I had my doubts when Ann told me she wanted to visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Okla. For me, I couldn’t see how this would be time well spent. I envisioned a crowded store with mostly middle-aged women roaming around, oohing and aaahing at spatulas and cast iron skillets with the same starry eyes that middle school girls have at a Justin Bieber concert. As it turns out, I was not wrong.
A view of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile from the staircase leading up to the second floor.
But men, listen up, here are six good reasons why you should go:
1. Real butter.
Cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, blondie bars, and cookies, all made with real butter. Just go to the bakery and settle in. You can thank me when you wake up from your carb-induced food coma.
The Pioneer Woman knows how to bake, and this pecan sticky bun proves it.
2. Happy wife, happy life.
Let’s be honest for a minute, guys. Our wives do some great things for us and visiting The Merc (as Ree calls it) gives us a chance to do something nice for them. When we visited, we hoped to enjoy an early supper there. We pulled up and found a line stretching about 3/4 of the way up the block. I told Ann that she could go inside and have fun looking around the store and I’d stand outside in the line for a table in the deli. She took me up on it, and so I stood there for nearly two hours, gaining quiet hero status among my wife and the dozens of other women who comprised 88% of the people in line.
And the best part? At the end of my wait, I sat down to a tall glass of blackberry tea and a plate of Ree’s chicken fried steak. It was a fork-tender, thinly sliced ribeye, breaded and fried to perfection, served with a side of delicious mashed potatoes, all smothered in creamy country gravy. I ask you, who came out the winner on this one?
The chicken fried steak at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile tastes even better than it looks!
3. You’ll feel truly welcome.
We pulled up in Pawhuska about 3:10 p.m. on a sunny, Oklahoma day in June. About two minutes after pulling my hero routine and telling Ann to go inside while I waited, I began to regret that decision as the sun relentlessly beat down on me and my bald spot. But then a nice young lady named Meg came along and offered me an umbrella and a bottle of water.
Steve visiting with Meg Kane while waiting in line at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
And I stood, out of the worst of the sun, thirst quenched, chatting with others who were waiting, and had a really pleasant afternoon. All of this made me wonder, ‘What business does this sort of thing?’ This was not normal. It was far better than that — it was humanizing. The Drummonds actually care about the people who come to their store, and that’s pretty special.
We asked this greeter if she were there to open the door if it got windy. She said, “No. I’m here because Ree and Ladd want people to feel welcome.”
PIN FOR LATER
On the show, the Drummonds appear to be fairly normal and down-to-earth people that you think you’d probably like to get to know. While we didn’t have the chance to meet them, after visiting Pawhuska I’m convinced it is not just an act you see on TV. People in line told us they’d seen Ladd come out of his office which is upstairs near the bakery (lucky man). They said he doesn’t use a secret door. Instead, he walks up and down the stairs like everyone else, chatting with people and stopping to pose for pictures along the way.
Corinne Nuss and her twin sister, Connie Scism met Ladd Drummond at The Mercantile on their visit to Pawhuska this summer.
4. The prices won’t break the bank.
In creating The Merc, the Drummonds created a business to which hundreds of people flock daily. They could charge whatever ridiculous amount they wanted for the food and merchandise. And visitors would pay. In fact, this is what I expected — after all it happens nearly everywhere we go these days. But that was before I realized they believe their customers are people.
The merchandise at the PW Mercantile is reasonably priced.
The prices are completely reasonable. Ann, Meghan, and I each had dinner, some extra sides, and a bottomless glass of the best iced tea any of us had ever had for $64. Likewise, we picked up a few new things from The Merc that were also in line with pricing we see in other kitchen stores. It was obvious to us they are in this to share with their fans, not take advantage.
5. Charmin in the bathrooms.
They have Charmin toilet paper in the bathroom. Real Charmin. I could go into details on why that’s a good thing, but I think we all know.
When was the last time you saw Charmin in a public restroom?
6. You’ll love the food.
Chances are, if your wife wants to visit The Merc you are already an unknowing fan of Ree Drummond’s. More than once I’ve complimented Ann on a delicious dish, only to find out that it came from one of our Pioneer Woman cookbooks. Spicy queso dip, warm tomato soup with parmesan crisps, chicken enchilasagna, and pan fried pork chops are some of Ree’s dishes. Yum.
The Pioneer Woman queso dip was amazing, especially with the charred cheese on top.
And, because of Ree Drummond, we always use real butter, and we always grate fresh cheese. Men, this is something you want to cultivate. Ree can flat out cook, and everyone, (women and men) can learn something from her.
I’m sure I’ll likely return to Pawhuska someday. In fact, just writing this blog post reminds me of those cinnamon rolls and makes me want to get in the car right now. I guess what I want to say is, men, if your wife says she wants to go to Pawhuska, don’t be afraid. Trust me — pack some loose-fitting pants and go!
As always, thanks for sharing (especially with the men you know and love)!
We’re Steve and Ann Teget. We spent more than two decades in corporate America and public education before Ann’s health and Steve’s aversion to middle school girl drama convinced us to try something new. Now we are making the most of midlife and telling authentic stories about extraordinary travel. And yes, we send ourselves postcards.