Eight trips to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and we finally met the star of Pawhuska

Eight trips to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and we finally met the star of Pawhuska

Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has been home to several famous people. An Academy Award-winning actor, world-renowned bronze sculptors, and The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, herself, have all called Pawhuska home.

Still, none of these people may be as big a star as local legend Mr. John Reber.

We met Mr. Reber for the first time earlier this year on what was our eighth trip to Pawhuska. When we’d done research for a blog post about 70+ Things to do in Pawhuska, we spent lots of time visiting with locals. They often asked us the same question. “Have you met Mr. Reber yet?”

After several inquiries, we decided we’d better meet the man everyone in Pawhuska was talking about and a mutual friend arranged for us to meet him for breakfast one morning at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

Downtown Pawhuska is being transformed with building renovations and new businesses.

Downtown Pawhuska is being transformed with building renovations and new businesses.

He ordered a cup of coffee and a pancake and started talking to us as if we were old friends. Within minutes, we knew exactly why everyone in Pawhuska loved him so much. He was full of history from the area, wise, and feisty. He spoke of his childhood visits to this oil and ranch town as if they were yesterday.

Mr. Reber and Steve

Mr. Reber shows Steve pictures of cakes that he has baked.

He recalled a bustling city filled with taxis and fine dining. He told us all about a time when Pawhuska had three movie theaters and he and his friends would go to the midnight showing at the Constantine Theater and then stay up half the night drinking coffee at the 24-hour cafe.

We listened and laughed as Mr. Reber bragged about being here for the very first World’s Largest Amateur Rodeo Cavalcade in 1947 and how he’s been to every one since. Although now, they don’t throw corn meal on the street the way they did back then to make it easier for the square dancers to slide around.

A view of Pawhuska at Cavalcade 2018.

After visiting family in Pawhuska for years, Reber eventually moved here and taught music in the public schools from 1964-1987. After retiring, he took on a second career as a tour bus driver for the next 20 years, transporting everyone from Neil Diamond to the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.

Now 90, you can find Mr. Reber chatting with locals and meeting tourists from all over the world who flock to Pawhuska to visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile for a taste of her chicken fried steak. He’s happy to tell you all about the town and is likely to throw in a thing or two about his incredible baking skills. That’s right, this man can bake! In fact, his Italian cream cake and carrot cake each sold for $1,000 at the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Gala last year.

Mr. Reber's Italian cream cake sold for $1,000 at the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Gala last year.

Mr. Reber’s Italian cream cake sold for $1,000 at the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Gala last year.

Mr. Reber's homemade shoo fly pie.

Mr. Reber’s homemade wet bottom shoo fly pies.

Recently, selfies with Mr. Reber have also become quite popular. I’m not sure how this began, but locals will tell you a “selfie with Reber” should be at the top of your list of things to do in Pawhuska. We gladly added it to ours.

Meghan and Mr. Reber

After breakfast, Meghan grabbed a selfie with Mr. Reber.

On his 90th birthday this year, local retailer Lorec Ranch – Pawhuska even offered an extra 10% off if you brought in a selfie of yourself and Reber.

Lorec Ranch - Pawhuska offers an extra 10% off to celebrate Mr. Reber's 90th birthday.

Lorec Ranch – Pawhuska offers an extra 10% off to celebrate Mr. Reber’s 90th birthday.

If you do come here, Mr. Reber is usually easy to spot in Pawhuska. A huge Oklahoma State University fan, he’s often seen wearing orange and black.

John Reber as Pistol Pete for Halloween festivities in 2017.

John Reber as Pistol Pete for Halloween festivities in 2017.

He enjoys his coffee and breakfast at The Mercantile and his popularity there is evident by the number of people to stop to greet him. After several locals had stopped by our table to say hello, I told him I thought he was pretty much a celebrity in these parts.

“I know,” he said with a grin.

And if you have the good fortune of meeting Mr. Reber, you’ll know, too.

Happy Birthday, Meghan!

Happy Birthday, Meghan!

Today is our daughter Meghan’s birthday. She is 24 which makes me feel so old. I know it’s cliché, but it really does seem like yesterday that I was in my twenties, living in South Carolina and working as sports writer covering the first high school football game of the season on my due date. There was no labor that night, or the next day, or three days later on Labor Day for that matter. No, in true Meghan fashion, she took her sweet time coming into the world and arrived five days past her due date at 7:11 a.m. Sept. 7, 1994.

The day Meghan was born, Sept. 7, 1994.

The day Meghan was born, Sept. 7, 1994.

I was in love the moment I set eyes on my first and only child. She was perfect and my life would never be the same.

Ann and Meghan have attended a Nebraska Cornhusker football game together every year since Meghan was born.

Ann and Meghan have attended a Nebraska Cornhusker football game together every year since Meghan was born.

As a single mother, we shared so many special mother/daughter memories over the years, many of them involving travel. We’ve been to a Nebraska football game every year since she was born (well, that is if you count last Saturday’s single play before the game was canceled due to thunderstorms).

This picture was taken on our very first Nebraska road trip somewhere in the Sandhills. It was the first time either one of us had been there.

This picture was taken on our very first Nebraska road trip somewhere in the Sandhills. It was the first time either one of us had been there.

We road tripped across our home state most summers beginning the year she was in fourth grade and explored Europe for the first time together on a school trip with other foreign language students and teachers.

Meghan with her classmates in Salzburg, Austria in 2012.

Meghan with her classmates in Salzburg, Austria in 2012.

We even traveled around the world (literally) in 2005 when we flew from the U.S. to London to Sri Lanka. We volunteered as Christian missionaries after the tsunami there and then returned to the states via Tokyo, Japan to complete our trip around the globe.

We spent a lot of time in Sri Lanka with kids and families who were hungry and homeless after the devastating tsunami.

We spent a lot of time in Sri Lanka with kids and families who were hungry and homeless after the devastating tsunami.

Steve and I got married when Meghan was 16 and the three of us have shared memorable travel experiences, as well. A cruise to Alaska, a Thanksgiving Day trip to Dallas to see the Cowboys play, and several memorable evenings sharing a bottle of wine and eating paella on the square in Salamanca, Spain.

Ann Steve and Meghan at the Cowboys Stadium.

Meghan was so happy that then Cowboys QB Tony Romo had just been cleared to play in the game that day after missing several games with an injury. Sadly, he was re-injured during the game.

We’re both a little sad that we won’t see Meghan today. We are in Nebraska this week, and she’s in Oklahoma where she is in an accelerated nursing school program. We’re so proud of where her journey has taken her and are confident she’ll be a great nurse. Fittingly, her hospital rotation this week is in labor and delivery and she’s been able to witness new parents bringing their own children into the world. It’s my hope that when she sees the joy and love in their faces when they see their babies for the first time, she’ll know exactly how I felt the day she was born – 24 years ago, today.

Happy Birthday, Meg.

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Celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary with a traditional gift

Celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary with a traditional gift

Earlier this week, we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Yes, seven years ago, we were up before the sun getting ready for our 10:30 a.m. wedding ceremony at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

We had a mid-morning wedding at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Aaron Babcock)

We had a mid-morning wedding at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Aaron Babcock)

We wanted a short engagement (about two months), and  there weren’t many venues available for late afternoon or evening events with such short notice. Fortunately, we’re both morning people and liked the idea of a mid-morning ceremony followed by a champagne brunch (with bacon) on the last Saturday before the Husker football season began.

Smiling all the way down the aisle! Photo by Aaron Babcock

Smiling all the way down the aisle! Photo by Aaron Babcock

It all worked out and we had a beautiful day, surrounded by family and friends.

What a joy to come out of the church and celebrate our marriage with so many family and friends.

What a joy to come out of the church and celebrate our marriage with so many family and friends.

Since then, instead of buying gifts for each other, we’ve found something each year for our anniversary that fits the traditional anniversary gift suggestions. You know the ones: paper, tin, china, silver, gold, pearls. We try to keep the cost under $100 and just to add a twist of our own, decided we’d look for something related to our love for travel.

Most years, we’ve been able to stay within our budget, the traditions, and the travel theme. You can read all about the gifts we purchased the first six years HERE. The traditional wedding anniversary gift for the seventh year is copper or wool. This was actually a pretty easy one for us. As you may know, we recently purchased a house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, in the heart of Osage County.

Outside our new house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Outside our new house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

One of our favorite stores in Pawhuska, Clifton’s, sells the most incredible Pendleton blankets. We knew right away that one of these wool blankets was the perfect anniversary gift and addition to our new home. Jaime at Clifton’s helped us select and order this San Miguel blanket. It cost a more than our usual $100, but we figured we’d been well below budget several of the previous years and this was worth the extra expense.

We ordered Pendleton's San Miguel blanket for our 7th anniversary.

We ordered Pendleton’s San Miguel blanket for our 7th anniversary.

We spent our anniversary together and enjoyed cooking a nice dinner at home and uncorking one of our favorite bottles of wine. The blanket will be here in a few weeks and will forever be a wonderful reminder of our seventh anniversary and our first year in Pawhuska.


How do you celebrate anniversaries? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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7th anniversary gift idea

7th anniversary gift idea

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A glimpse inside our new house (and life) in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

A glimpse inside our new house (and life) in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

It was two weeks ago yesterday that we moved into our new house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and we are so excited to be here! We spent much of the first week unpacking, getting utilities hooked up, and just finding our way around town.

Pawhuska house before bringing boxes in.

A view from the dining room into the living room on move-in day.

We brought a U-Haul full of stuff from Nebraska and are trying our best to fill in with purchases made locally in Pawhuska. We’ve been to four auctions, scavenged the local thrift and consignment stores, and found some things at local places like The Buckin’ Flamingo, Prairie Cottage, The Book Burrow, and The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

Pawhuska house Buckin' Flamingo window frame

We purchased this window frame at the Buckin’ Flamingo in downtown Pawhuska.

Admittedly, we’ve had to run to nearby Bartlesville for a few items and did some online shopping for things we couldn’t find in town, but the house is really coming together and feeling more like home every day.

Pawhuska house shelves

It has been fun filling book shelves with items found in local shops, like these books from the Book Burrow and the horse head bookend from Sister’s Attic.

The decorating is not complete and we still need to finalize a few details like end tables, lamps, and chairs (ha!), but we wanted to give y’all a little peek inside our place, anyway. So here we go!

First, you must know that the former owners did an amazing job remodeling this 1,500 square foot, 1930’s craftsman house. They stripped all the wood floors, updated the fireplace, took out a wall that separated the kitchen and dining area and gutted both the kitchen and full bath, among other things. Take a look at this entryway.

We love the bright entryway that the front door opens into. Not sure exactly what we're going to do with this space yet, but Ann is already picturing a Christmas tree in the window.

We love the bright entryway that the front door opens up into. Not sure exactly what we’re going to do with this space yet, but Ann is already picturing a Christmas tree in the window.

I love the bright sunlight that fills this space in the morning. Still trying to figure out what to put in this room, but I’m thinking about some kind of cozy chair(s) to curl up in with a cup of coffee or a good book. And aren’t the natural floors just beautiful?

Pawhuska house hardwood floors

The previous owners sanded and refinished the original hardwood floors. They are beautiful and we love that they left blemishes and original nails.

Pawhuska house living room

We love the way the sunlight comes in first thing in the morning.

The entryway opens up into a pretty good-sized living room, which we love. We’re hopeful that the temperatures here in Oklahoma will eventually cool down and we’ll want to use the fireplace.

Pawhuska house antique chair

This antique chair was given to us by Ann’s mom years ago. She had it in her first home when Ann was just a baby and it is so nice to have it with us in Pawhuska.

The bright yellow Tonka truck by the fireplace in the photo below was accidentally purchased at our first auction. I thought we were bidding on two round end tables and alerted Steve to bid. Without hesitation, he quickly raised his paper plate buyer’s number and the auctioneer said, “Sold!” Sadly, we were actually bidding on the truck (which we got for $10) and are still without end tables. Nonetheless, it makes a good conversation piece.

Pawhuska house fireplace

The beautiful fireplace in the living room with a working gas log is one of our favorite parts of the house. The Tonka truck was an accidental purchase at an auction. Long story, but great conversation piece.

Pawhuska house Harp Design candlesticks

We purchased these candlesticks from Harp Design Co., in Waco, Texas, last summer. We visited there two days after our first visit to Pawhuska.

Pawhuska living room

The living room of our Pawhuska home. The blue tape is where we’ll put a really cool map of Oklahoma that we’ve ordered.

We’ve tried to make the living room comfy, cozy and welcoming to friends and visitors. We’ve already had a few people stop by and can’t wait for Steve’s mom and dad to come for a visit in a few weeks.

As you know, we’ve picked up a few things for the house at area auctions, including this cute Crete Carrier collectible semi truck. While this large carrier company is now headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, it started in nearby Crete, Nebraska, where we have roots. Still need to find a real picture for that crackled frame.

Pawhuska house Crete truck.

We found this Crete Carrier Corp. toy truck at a local auction and thought it would be a great nod to our Nebraska roots. Crete Carrier is now based in Lincoln, but started in our hometown. Oh, and we still need a new photo for that frame.

Another little slice of memorabilia we’ve added to the bookcase in the living room is this selfie from a June 2017 road trip we had with our daughter, Meghan. This was the day after Steve’s last day as middle school principal and was taken just before we rolled into Pawhuska for the first time. We could never have imagined buying a house here just a little more than a year later and this photo is a great reminder that you never know how a new adventure will impact the rest of your life.

Picture entering Pawhuska

We took this picture in the summer of 2017 as we passed the sign coming in to Pawhuska for the first time. We never would have imagined that day that we’d own a house here a year later.

Of course, a postcard jar also made the move and this one is filled with postcards from all over the world sent to us by readers like you. We have been so blessed by your greetings and the opportunities to get to know so many wonderful people through our blog.

Pawhuska house postcard jar

Well, it just wouldn’t be home without a postcard jar.

We’re also getting to know our neighbors here and have visited two different churches. We’ve familiarized ourselves with new aisles at the grocery store and found new shortcuts across town (although you get about anywhere is less than three minutes).

The high school football team debuts on a new turf field this Friday night and we’re looking forward to that. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek inside our new home and life here in Oklahoma. We’ll share more later but right now, we need to take a break from blogging and get over to El Vallarta’s for the $4.99 lunch special.


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We recently bought 1,500 sq. ft. home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Here's a peek inside.

We recently bought 1,500 sq. ft. home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Here’s a peek inside.

A year after our first visit, we’re going home to Pawhuska, Oklahoma

A year after our first visit, we’re going home to Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Just more than a year after I quit my job as a middle school principal, we’ve made another big life choice. We bought a house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. (No, we’re not having a mid-life crisis, thanks for asking.)

Regular readers of this blog know that we have absolutely fallen in love with Pawhuska (pop. 3,477 3,479) over the past year. In June of 2017, we made our first stop in Osage County. It was a quick visit to pay homage to The Pioneer Woman and her Mercantile on our way to Texas. We enjoyed a chicken fried steak dinner and wrote a few blog posts about our time in town, including this one that listed six reasons husbands should take their wives to the Merc.

We rolled into Pawhuska for the first time in June of 2017 for a quick visit to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile on our way to Texas.

A couple of months after writing that post, the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce contacted us to see if we’d be willing to return as celebrity judges for the National Indian Taco Championships. We felt obliged to call and tell them that we really aren’t celebrities. They replied, “Well, you are to us! Everybody here loves your blog!” We then shared that we knew little about Indian tacos. They told us not to worry and that we should just be sure to pack stretchy pants and Tums.

How could we say no to that?

We loved learning about how authentic Indian tacos are made from our new friend, Margie Williams, of Pawhuska.

We rolled back into Pawhuska early in the first week of October. We wanted to spend a few days getting to know the town a little better before the Indian Taco Championships and like we did for our own hometown of Crete, we decided to write an article on 70+ things to do after you’ve eaten at the Merc

Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships

We saw our first ever Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships last fall and can’t wait to see it again this year!

We figured five days would give us all the time we needed in Pawhuska. We were so wrong.

You see, when you’re in this cowboy town that has just one flashing traffic light, you can’t just walk into a store or museum, take a quick photo and leave. Nope. The folks you’ll find there are just too friendly and welcoming for that. We learned quickly that people in Pawhuska were genuinely interested in getting to know us and many of our conversations pushed well through the noon hour or until after closing. Nobody seemed to care. Relationships mattered more than time. We loved that.

Handy's Martha and Margie, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The day we met Martha and Margie at Handy’s in Pawhuska, they put their spoons down, forgot about their chili, and took time to tell us all about the history of this unique convenience store and the secret to the best fountain pop in Osage County.

It didn’t take long before we began to feel like locals. Though we had a hotel 25 miles away in Bartlesville,  townspeople insisted we should be staying in Pawhuska. By Friday, one had helped us find a room, and so we spent our first overnight inside the city limits. With no 30-minute drive to a hotel, we decided to go to the high school football game to cheer on the hometown Pawhuska Huskies. We met some nice folks as we sat down on the bleachers to watch the game and, as was normal for this town, we felt like old friends by the fourth quarter. It was homecoming that night. We couldn’t help but feel like we’d come home, too.

Homecoming in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Homecoming game had all the pageantry you’d expect in a small town.

By the time the National Indian Taco Championships were over that weekend, we didn’t want to leave and vowed that we’d be back soon. A couple of weeks later we took our moms to Pawhuska. We went back in December for the Holiday Parade of Lights. Starting in January, we found one reason after another to return to the Osage and learn more about its unique history and residents. With each visit, we grew to love the town and the people more and more. We started to feel like maybe we belonged, like maybe we had a bigger calling there. 

A view of Pawhuska at the Cavalcade street dance in 2018.

So, after a lot of consideration, investment planning, and prayer, we contacted a realtor, put the word out, and began looking for a house to buy. We had looked at about a dozen homes before getting a text from a friend a few weeks ago that pointed us to one that seemed just right. It was in a great location, in our price range, and newly remodeled. We knew it wouldn’t last long on the market. So, despite the fact that we’d just gotten home from a trip about an hour earlier and our suitcase was not even unpacked yet, we put our dirty clothes in the laundry, re-packed clean ones, got in the car and headed south. 

It is less than a six-hour drive from Crete, Nebraska, to Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

We spent time looking at the house and talking with the owners and everything about it just felt right. We made an offer that evening around their kitchen table, shook hands, and were under contract the next day. If all goes as planned, we’ll close on the three-bedroom, craftsman style bungalow Monday morning. We can’t wait to show it to y’all (I think we’re allowed to use that word now that we’re south of Kansas) and be a part of the Pawhuska community.

Pendleton Blanket, Clifton's Gift Shop, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

We were honored to be given this blanket by longtime Pawhuska residents and business owners Mr. and Mrs. Trumbly.

What, exactly does the future hold for us? We honestly aren’t sure. For now, we are planning to go back and forth between Oklahoma and Nebraska, splitting time between the Huskies and Huskers. We hope you’ll stop by for a visit if you’re in the area. We may even look into becoming Airbnb hosts, someday. We can write about travel from anywhere with internet service, so we’ll do just that as we create a new home while maintaining another one, at least for now. 

What we know for sure is that Pawhuska is a special place, and very soon we’ll be proud to call it home. 


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Ann’s visit with The Weary Teacher

Ann’s visit with The Weary Teacher

A couple weeks ago, while helping our daughter, Meghan, get settled at her new place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I met another blogger who is just inspiring! Her name is Haley Curfman and she is a second grade teacher in Blackwell, Oklahoma. You might remember her (or at least her dress) from social media.

This post about the dress her second graders colored with things that make them happy went viral.

This post about the dress her second graders colored with things that make them happy went viral.

I had come across a Facebook post several months ago about Haley wearing a white dress which she had allowed her students to decorate with drawings of things that make them happy. It was such a sweet idea and even though I’m not a teacher, I loved her creativity and wanted to learn more.

Apparently, she had a few rules for her students when they colored her dress. #1 – They had to draw something that made them happy. #2 – They couldn’t cross anything out. #3 – They couldn’t cover up anyone else’s work.

After seeing that adorable post, I checked out her blog, The Weary Teacher, and just loved the creative photos she had staged and posted like the ones below.

The Weary Teacher Haley Curfman. (Photo from The Weary Teacher website)

Photo courtesy of The Weary Teacher.

Thanks in part to the prop gathering/placement and photography skills of her mom, The Weary Teacher has created some of the most hilarious scenes at her desk, including nods to Dr. Seuss, Valentine’s Day, and the Kay County Fair.

I’ve enjoyed following her teaching adventures through her blog and recently realized she lived in Oklahoma right off the highway I was going to use to go back to our home in Nebraska. I sent her a message and it worked out for us to meet and exchange ideas and tips about blogging.

The Weary Teacher blog

The Weary Teacher blog

She told me about her second graders and her love for all things Disney and I shared some of our experiences traveling throughout Oklahoma and our plans to travel to Italy and Greece this summer.

Turns out, we had a quite a bit in common and even brainstormed some ideas about how we might partner on a project or two in the future. One of things I love most about travel (and blogging) is that you get to meet new and interesting people like Haley along the way.

If you have a chance, check out her blog at www.thewearyteacher.com and follow The Weary Teacher on social media. She also has a fantastic new 2018-2019 school calendar for sale HERE with all proceeds going back to teachers.

Haley Curfman is a delightful young woman as well as a fantastic teacher and blogger. I’m so glad we had a chance to meet.

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The Weary Teacher