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.

  • Just over two years ago, we stopped in Pawhuska to have lunch at Ree Drummond's @PWMercantile. From the person opening the door for us to the folks tending the line giving us water, we felt welcome from the moment we set foot in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.⁣
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But it turns out it wasn't just @thepioneerwoman and her husband, Ladd, who went above and beyond to welcome visitors. No, it turns out what they did was just par for the course in this town that's home to some of the friendliest and most welcoming people we've met in all our travels. ⁣
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So we bought a house there. We got it in part, so we could be a part of the community we've come to love. But we also got it so we could help welcome folks to town and let them know how glad we are they came to visit. Come and see Pawhuska. And when you do, stay awhile.
  • Fried dill pickles are a little different in North Dakota than they are in most other places we've been. Instead of just dipping some dill chips in batter, dropping them in the fryer, and then serving them in a basket with ranch, the folks there take their time and make a dish to remember.⁣
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They start with a dill pickle spear, wrap that in Havarti cheese, then put a wonton wrapper around it all. Then, they fry it, and slice it open just so before serving them alongside a spicy aioli dipping sauce. We had these at a complimentary meal at Outlaws Bar and Grill in @visitwilliston, North Dakota.⁣
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Let's be honest, these pickles are just one of many reasons we look forward to our return to @northdakotalegendary next year.
  • Have you ever had the chance to watch a cruise ship come into or leave port? These massive ships, often 1,000 feet or more long, can maneuver themselves by the dock so gently that you don't even realize you've stopped (or started) moving.⁣
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In Bermuda, we had the chance to watch the Norwegian Escape depart. We watched as she pushed away from the dock, then spun 180 degrees on a point before heading out to sea.⁣
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We've seen ships do this dozens of times. In fact, we've been on ships and have been part of this type of maneuvering dozens of times. And yet, given the sheer size of the vessels, it never ceases to impress.
  • You know you want to. Do it. Just book the ticket and go. At the end of your life, you likely won't remember most of the stuff you bought in 2019, but you will always remember the journey you took and the experiences you had. So enrich your life and go. We've never regretted spending money for a trip.
  • This just might be the sweetest, best pecan roll we've ever had. At the @PWMercantile, they bake these delicious treats daily. Covered in a luscious caramel and finely chopped pecans, these rolls are the stuff dreams are made of. Have you had one?
  • Smack in the middle of Portland, Oregon, we found the International Rose Test Garden. Set on 4.5 acres of land, the garden offers visitors a chance to see 10,000 rose bushes from about 650 different varieties. ⁣
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We spent more than an hour walking the carefully tended paths, snapping photos, and just enjoying the beautiful flowers. Our visit here made us glad that we literally scheduled time on this trip to stop and smell the roses.
  • Set in a renovated middle school in Grinnell, Iowa, Hotel Grinnell is one of our favorite boutique hotels. The owner thoughtfully designed the space and included touches from school including “Hall Pass” key card sleeves, and a bar cleverly named, “The Periodic Table.” We wrote a story on this hotel, you can read all about it on our blog. Link in bio. @hotelgrinnell #hosted @traveliowa
  • Everyone has a happy place, a spot where the world melts away and a sense of relaxation and calm settles in. For Steve, this place is on board a cruise ship, out on open water. He can spend hours sitting and watching the water, the ship's wake, and looking out for other ships. He loves soaking up the sun and fresh ocean air while cruising along on the sea. ⁣
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What's your happy place? ⁣
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