When I retired, I was in West Virginia, and because I didn’t want to live there, I got in my car and headed west. I stopped off to visit with my parents here in Tahlequah, and six weeks later, they were both dead. Because I can’t go back to Florida, where I grew up, I decided Crescent Valley and Cherokee Country, Oklahoma, are as good of places to live as any, and better then some I have called home.
There are many pluses and minuses to retiring in Oklahoma, some of which are related to not being a native to this part of the world, and I will try to hit on some of those I think are the most important.
For one thing, the language spoken here is only loosely-related to English on a good day, and is so laced with non-English words at times as to be nearly unrecognizable. For another thing, some of the words you use for things can be startling. It took me two months to figure out that when someone offered me a "Coke," they weren’t offering to get me high.
Also, I can never get used to the idea of eating smoked bologna. Bologna is barely fit to eat when unsmoked, so why would I want to eat it smoked? And people seem to have no idea why they have turn signals installed on their vehicles, and seem insulted when you use yours. I know I’m a flat-lander, coastal idiot, but sometimes I wonder if this is the same country as Florida. I’m leaning toward maybe not.
Now, for the plus side. The people here are among the friendliest I have ever known. In fact, they remind me of no people I have ever spent time around as much as they do South Koreans. They have a joy and love for life that is something to enjoy, and it makes you feel better about yourself.
The people here are clannish and tightly-knit when you first meet them, but once they get to know you, are open to including you in their circles. They judge you for who you are and what you say as much as for who you come from, and in my case, that was a good thing. But sadly, and like my father before me, I am one of those people who you either really like or really don’t. There isn’t all that much room in between.
The services available locally are much those you would expect of a small town and rural county, and the cost of living is very low, when compared to the costs elsewhere in the country. The schools are good and the state is very generous to disabled veterans, but Cherokee County can be pretty difficult for a liberal to live in. That’s because, even though a majority of people in the County are registered to vote as Democrats, and even though Tahlequah is itself a fairly liberal town, Cherokee County is the reddest-voting county in the reddest-voting state in the country.
And no matter what is printed in the paper of broadcast on the television, all the propaganda in the world isn’t going to change that. I think it is the level-headed Cherokee influence on the area, but then, I’m an outsider. What do I know?
Dr. Jonathan C. Jobe, of Crescent Valley, is a retired educator and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.