Gordon Lillie – Better Known as“Pawnee Bill”

By Michael Dean

Before we had radio, or movies or television, back to the late 1800s, Wild West shows were some of the most in-demand forms of mass entertainment. And among those shows, the Pawnee Bill Wild West show was one of the most popular.

2052 Pawnee Bill-2Pawnee Bill was born Gordon William Lillie in 1860 in Bloomington, Illinois; the family moved to Wellington, Kansas after his father’s flour mill burned down. In 1874, Lillie met a group of Pawnee Indians who were moving through Wichita after giving up their reservation in Nebraska for new land in the Indian Territory. He learned their language and began his life-long relationship with the Pawnee Tribe.

In an interview with Lillie on WKY Radio recorded in 1939, Lillie was asked when he first came to the territory.

“I first came here in 1878, then returned to Bloomingtonwhere I was reared for a year where I went back to school. Then I came back to Oklahoma in 1879, and landed at Pawnee, Oklahoma.  It was just a government post then, just employees of the government, no town back then; people weren’t allowed to live around there because it was Indian land to locate friendly Indian tribes.  And the Pawnees were the only Indians in that section at that time. I was employed there as a teacher in the Pawnee school.”

Lillie was also appointed as interpreter and secretary to Major Edward Bowman, U.S. Indian agent. It was during this time that Lillie became known as “Pawnee Bill.”

In 1883 Buffalo Bill employed Lillie to recruit and coordinate a group of Pawnee Indians who were appearing in the first-ever Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.

Cowgirls riding standing up-1“I met him (Bufflalo Bill) in 1883, and took the Pawnee Indians into the show. I toured with him for two years.”

When the show performed in Philadelphia, he met 15-year-old May Manning. They courted for two years, and then married in August 1886. Her family urged him to open his own show; that show opened in 1888 but was a financial failure.

Following the failure of the Pawnee Bill Wild West show, something else for Pawnee Bill came up.Four years earlier, Capt. David Payne, leader of the Boomer movement, died from a heart attack.

“I knew Capt. Payne quite well. Capt. Payne was just an ordinary looking man, that is, you’d never take a second look at him. He was about six foot tall, a fine looking fellow, but he just didn’t know how to get any press.

buffalo_bill-1“The Board of Trade of Wichita asked me to organize and lead the Boomers into Oklahoma. We had over 3,000 on theroll; I think it was 3,600 when the country was opened by proclamation. It was splendid land, no oil at the time of course.” On April 22, 1889 Lillie led those boomers into what is today Kingfisher County.

“Now, the first day I arrived in Wichita when I came up there, Mark Murdock, who was then the editor and owner of the Wichita Eagle newspaper, told me he got ‘52 telegrams after a 300 word story ran about you arriving to lead the Boomers into Oklahoma. They all said we’d like to get all the news about Pawnee Bill and the opening of Oklahoma.’Capt. Payne didn’t have the newspapers working with him.”

Lillie’s involvement in the Land Run of 1889 brought him much national attention. He used that to open his next show business venture – Pawnee Bill’s Historical Wild West, Indian Museum and Encampment. This show successfully traveled throughout the east and Europe. May Lillie starred in the show as the Champion Horseback Shot of the West. The show was a financial success and toured for years.

In 1908, Lillie said, “I finally bought the Buffalo Bill show from Mrs. James A. Bailey. Mr. Bailey had just died. They solicited me to buy it; they wanted to get rid of it, and I was the only prospect they had who knew how to run it.

Mrs. G. W. lillie-1“The Colonel (he always referred to Buffo Bill as the Colonel) and I traveled together for five years, seven months of shows every year. We shared the same car on the trains. He was a fine man.

“I got a postcard once from Calamity Jane wanting a job in the show. I didn’t know her; she didn’t live anywhere around where I did. So I took the postcard in to the Colonel and I said,‘Colonel, do you know Calamity Jane?’ And he said, ‘I’ll say I did.’ And I said,‘here’s a postcard from her;would she be an attraction in our show?’ And he said, ‘No, not a bit in the world, she’s as ugly as a mud fence.’ That was exactly his words.

“Then he told me later on, we were talking about her one day and he says, ‘you know, she was Wild Bill’s sweetheart for a long while. Says she’s buried next side of him now up there in Deadwood.”

The combinedBuffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East Show was the premier entertainment of its time, traveling the world with thousands of fans. In 1907 Lillie hired performers from a variety of backgrounds. The show included Mexican cowboys, Pawnee, Japanese performers, and Arab jugglers. The ensemble debuted as Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East Show. Pawnee Bill added Jose Barrera to the cast; he was widely popular, performing as “Mexican Joe”. After the show closed, Jose remained with Pawnee Bill, serving as foreman at the Pawnee Bill Ranch.

The success of the show led to Pawnee Bill starting a motion picture company. He had a well-developed skill at running the Wild West show as a business. That business acumen led him to successful endeavors in oil, real estate and banking.

Pawnee Bill was a promoter of Oklahoma, and it can be argued that no other Oklahoman perpetuated the mythical Wild West as did Gordon William Lillie. Pawnee Bill died in his sleep on February 3, 1942.

buffalo_bill_pb_poster_negative-1The Pawnee Bill Ranch became home to another of his interests. He became devoted to the preservation of the buffalo, an animal he felt most characteristic of Oklahoma and the American West. By this time, the buffalo had almost disappeared. He established a herd on his ranch and lobbied Congress to pass legislation to protect the animal.

Though he was a figure of the “old west,” he didn’t live in the past, and realized the progress that automobiles and modern highways could bring. He was president of the Highway 64 Association, and U.S. Highway 64 through Oklahoma was originally called “The Pawnee Bill Route.”

Today, the Pawnee Bill Ranch is located on Blue Hawk Peak, land he purchased from his Pawnee friend, Blue Hawk. The ranch features tours of the 14-room mansion that Pawnee Bill built in 1910 for May. It still contains their original belongings and is filled with Lillie family memorabilia, photographs, original art work and much more.

The Ranch property also houses a museum with exhibits related to Pawnee Bill, the Wild West Shows, and the Pawnees. The 500-acre grounds include the original Ranch blacksmith shop, a 1903 log cabin, a large barn built in 1926, and an Indian Flower Shrine, all available for the public to tour.

Through October, the ranch museum is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday and Monday from 1 to 4 p.m. Adult admission is $3, Seniors $2.50, students (age 6 to 18) $1.50, and children under five are admitted free.

The 500-acre ranch and all the buildings have been owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society for many years. More information is available on the OHS website, www.okhistory.org/sites/pawneebill or call (918) 762-2513.

Stars and Stripes Fashion

By Heather Rouba



Come spring, you can always count on the nautical trend to be spotted either in a more literal translation, or in one of its many subtle interpretations. While it never seems to grow old, this trend now goes beyond the Breton stripe and is ever evolving each year. As the Fourth of July approaches, take note that the nautical trend brings an array of ideal options for what to wear on this patriotic holiday.


Whether you are dressing for work, an outdoor party or a night out, your Fourth of July options are wide open. Being able to sport patriotic chic behind the desk, even if we’re referring to a subtle, less obvious rendering, offers you all the more reason to invest in the nautical trend. Try a navy and white striped A-line dress paired with a white blazer. Add some red pumps and gold accessories, and you are Fourth of July ready!


Sport nautical garments with ease this holiday by looking for relaxed, flowing fabrics and feminine silhouettes. Trythese palazzo pants in navy with a matching navy and white striped tank. With an adorable straw hat and some red loafers, you are prepared for an outdoor event.


DSC_4037Elegant nautical style can be shown in something like this patterned red, white and blue floor-length sleeveless dress, perfectly accessorized with a pair of red espadrilles. This ensemble is ready to impress on such a patriotic occasion.


Another way to wear the nautical trend this Fourth of July is to mix and match various patterns. Take this outfit – a striped navy and white knee-length skirt is paired with the color-blocked red and navy top. Don’t be afraid to wear stripes with stripes or with other patterns. Thick and thin, horizontal and vertical – these patterns pair beautifully. Complete your outfit with flats, heels, or even boat shoes to create a perfectly fun and casual look.


When it comes to makeup, bold red lips, cat eyeliner and clean skin are the perfect complement to a nautical outfit. The trick is to enhance, not overwhelm your features, and to showcase your impeccable fashion sense. An application of winged black eyeliner, dewy blushed cheeks, and glossy red lips will pull your whole look together.


Red white and blue are not just the colors of the American flag; and anchors, stripes and boats are not just for sailors. The nautical look is a fun fashion trend to try, and one in which vertical blue and white stripes, red accents, and even anchor patterns take center stage. Get in on this trend, and channel your inner sailor with a nautical-inspired look this Fourth of July.

OnlineUniversity: A New Classroom for Adults

By Abby Lorenc


Any interest in a first or second bachelor’s degree? Or perhaps a master’s in your field? Whether you’re thinking about a bachelor’sorpost graduate degree, online education is becoming a more viable and affordable option.


Increasingly, universities are offering online certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees; and some universities are even offering exclusive online programs. In the state of Oklahoma alone there are some 60 colleges and universities offering degrees entirely online.


Thelist of online education benefits is succinct but compelling. Cost per credit hour is often the same or comparable to an on-campus education, but in most cases significant savings come from not having to commuteand not having to pay on-campus fees. But the main appeal of an online education is flexibility. With online education, you have the ability to conform the programto your schedule. What follows is a brief guide to online education in Oklahoma.





dreamstime_xxl_31586021-2Accreditation organizations evaluate colleges and universities to make sure they comply with educational standards. Whether or not your school is accredited could be important to your future employer, to colleges you might consider transferring to, and to the quality of education you will get. Check to see if your potential online college is accredited, and be sure you know which organization gave them their accreditation. Recently, severalaccrediting organizations have surfaced that are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the USDE publish a list of accreditors that they recognize. Google this list to make certain your school is recognized by one of these organizations.


(Note: You’ll notice different types of accreditation on the list. A college can be nationally or regionally accredited, the most important accreditation being regional. The USDE recognizes seven regional accreditation organizations, while the CHEA recognizes six. If the school you are looking at is accredited by one of these, you’re good to go.)



Find out how the university charges you for your classes. Some online schools charge per credit hour, some per semester. Depending on your situation, one school might have a more promising degree while another is more cost effective. You’ll have to choose based on your priorities and whether or not you are able to take a full course load. Ifyou aren’t able to enroll fulltime, the fixed semester tuition is not a good option.



You need high-speed Internet,a webcam, a headset with a decent microphone, a printer, and note-taking software such as Endnote orEvernote. Most schools will offer more detailed lists of required software and operating systems. Be sure to factor this into your initial financial investment as an online student.


Quality of Faculty

Man on ComputerOrganizations that rank online colleges look for the percentage of terminal degrees among the faculty. That means the more professors with a Ph.D., the better. Check to see how the faculty has been educated, and if they are qualified to teach in your field.


Size of Class and Opportunity for Teacher/Student Interaction

Class size matters just as much online as it does in a traditional classroom. If there are 400 students in an online class, you may not be able to interact with your professor or peers like you wish to. In most cases, the fewer students per professor, the better.





For Oklahomans wanting to enroll in an online degree program, the best option will likely be a state school or a school that does not charge out-of-state tuition. (Just as if you were an on-campus student, out-of-state tuition is often double the cost of in-state tuition.)Of course, if you want the best of the best, you can attend Duke Business School online at roughly $300,000. However, for most of us that is not a wise (or possible) investment. Here is a sampling of schools to consider:


Looking for a business degree? Oklahoma State University Spears School of Businessis nationally ranked for itsonline Graduate Business Programs, offering five master’s degrees, including a Masters in Business Administration, available entirely online. The cost is $377 per credit hour for in-state tuition, whether you are a full-time or part-time student. With a total enrollment of over 1,200 students in the online program,the school is thriving, and it is easy to transfer general education credits from community colleges or other schools to complete your degree.


Studying onlineInterested in Liberal Arts? The University of Oklahoma in Norman offers several bachelor’s and master’s degrees through their College of Liberal Studies. These programs are also offered entirely online, including general education courses. OU is unique in that the online college has created its own degrees, and while one is geared toward business, the diverse degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Arts in World Cultural Studies, and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies. The average age of students is 37, and over one fourth of the students enrolled are military. The resident tuition and fees are less than $300 per credit hour for the undergraduate programs, and just over $300 for graduate programs.


Oklahoma State University Oklahoma City offers eight associate’s degreesand a Bachelor of Technology in Emergency Administration online at less than $150 per credit hour for residents. This could be a great option if you’re looking to knock out an associate’s degree before moving on for a bachelor’s, or if you’re looking at an associate’s degree in applied sciences.


dreamstime_xxl_16774505 copy-2Several community colleges and public universities includingLangston University, Southeastern State Universityand Cameron University work with a program called Reach Higher, an Oklahoma program for working adults who want to finish their college degree from a state university. The program is simple and affordable, although it offers only a Bachelors of Science in Organizational Leadership.


For those who have an associate’s degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program,Southwestern Oklahoma State University offers an RN to BSN degree available online, as well as a Master of Arts in Educational Administration for teachers with at least two years’ experience.


There are several other schools that offer affordable options for Oklahomans. Western Governor’s University, University of Wyoming, Walden, and Fort Hays Virtual College all offer competitive programs and tuition.


For a complete list of programs, the U.S. News and World Report provides rankings each year of the best online degree programs in each field. The major factors considered in their rankings are based on student engagement, faculty credentials, peer reputation, and student services and technology. Take a look at the list, but keep in mind that each student’s priorities will differ when approaching their online higher education.




Relaxed young girl looking at you with a computer laptop on bed

What does my employer think? If your employer is encouraging you to get a master’s or a bachelor’s degree, make sure they support your choice to pursue a degree online. Still relatively new, online degrees can carry a stigma, but every year the schools are improving, and in the 2014-2015 academic year there are some excellent programs. This may be the best option for both you and your workplace. Communicate openly with your employer to ensure that you are making the best choice for their needs as well as yours.


How well do I manage my time?Some online programs offer eight-week classes, while others are 16 weeks. Some offer more flexibility with completion, and others less. Regardless, with an online education you will not suffer the immediate consequences of showing up late or of being counted absent. So be honest – can you trust yourself to show up? How much flexibility and accountability do you need to make your education successful? Find a program that works for you, and admit if what you really need is face-to-face interaction.


How am I going to pay for it? There are organizations such as Project Working Mom that exist to fund online education for adults with financial need. Most colleges that provide online degrees offer off-campus students the same scholarship opportunities they offer traditional students. Also, find out if you can test out of certain classes, or if classes you’ve taken in the past can apply to a degree in the school at which you are enrolling. The more you can transfer, the more you will save.


Finally, What do I really want? Most importantly, you need to be aware of what your specific goals are. The great thing about online education is that you can tailor it to your needs, but that means you must be aware of your needs. Are you a single mom who needs significant flexibility and grace for missed courses? Are you an MBA student working fulltime and wanting to do projects that apply directly to your business? Are you a retired adult looking to expand your educational horizons? Make yourself a dream board, and then make it happen for an affordable price.


Woman using computer in kitchenOnline education is affordable, convenient, and now there are enough accredited programs that you can be picky about exactly what you want. Online education is not for everyone, but it could be a great way to help you meet your potential.



Much controversy and debate surrounds for-profit schools as more and more working adults turn from public schools to these institutions. For-profit schools operate as businesses, and often have shareholders. Most of these schools, such as DeVry or University of Phoenix, operate entirely online. They are pragmatic, have no entrance requirements, have little if any required electives, and offer flexible schedules. Whether a school is for-profit or not-for-profit is likely not as important as the programs it offers, how affordable it is (for-profit schools are often more expensive), and regional accreditation.



The other night, my daughter took Otis out for a run around our neighborhood. They weren’t gone very long, but apparently Otis brought up the rear during the final leg of their “run.” Needless to say, Otis is not built for running, and this proved to be too much for his short legs. He finally made it home, and practically collapsed next to his water bowl, which he emptied before passing out on the cold tile floor. The moral of the story: don’t let people torture your pets in this heat!


And remember – don’t leave your pets in your car for any length of time, even if your windows are left open. In just a few minutes, temperatures can rise over 100 degrees, causing your pets to overheat and possibly become sick … maybe even worse. Better to leave them home by the swimming pool!

Preparing Your Car for the Summer Road Trip

By Paul Santana
dreamstime_xxl_2762367Growing up, the month of July always meant two things to me: for one, on the28th I’d turn one year older;and two, my family would embark on our annual summer road trip. As a child, I have to admit the idea of spending all day cramped in the van with my three older sisters didn’t exactly top my birthday gift wish lists, but looking back now,I remember fondly the places I’ve been and the time I spent with my family, much more than any gift I had received.


Like most Americans, I still enjoy taking road trips. Whether it’s visiting family in states I used to call home, or exploring popular vacation destinations, sometimes it just makes more sense to drive there.  While most of us know what basic maintenance is required to keep our vehicles running around town, we may take for granted the comfort of our familiar surroundings and the idea that, should a breakdown occur, help is just a phone call and a few miles away.  As you travel farther and farther away from home toward your summer destination, access to your usual mechanic or service dealership that you’ve come to trust over the years disappears in your rear-view mirror. It’s safe to say that no one wants to deal with a breakdown during theirdaily commute, much less while on vacation. And while no one can guarantee a trouble-free trip, even if it’s a new vehicle, the good news is that common problems can most often be prevented through proper planning and maintenance before you hit the road.


Check Your Oil, and Check it Often

dreamstime_xl_221114It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: oil is your engine’s lifeblood, and much like real blood, without it your engine will die. If it’s been a while since your last change, why not opt for new oil to start your trip off right.If it’s a few hundred miles until you’re due, you might end up far away from home searching for an auto mechanic instead of enjoying your trip.

If you’re towing, you might want to consider a thicker oil. When your engine works harder, it gets hotter, and may start to breakdown less viscous oils. Running a thicker weight oil can help protect your engine’s vital components and ensure proper performance for years to come.


Let’s Talk Inflation         

dreamstime_xxl_31430270Let’s face it, not every roadway is perfectly smooth and free from buckling. Oklahoma heat can wreak havoc on even the most pristine roadways and cause problems for your vehicle’s tires, soproper inflation is critical to vehicle safety and tire longevity. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, it’s important to know your vehicle’s recommended inflation psi and to check it under the right circumstances (hint: pulling over to fill up the tank after hours on the road is not the proper time to check your tire pressure!).In order to get an accurate reading, tire pressure should be checked in the cool of the early morning, or at least after proper time is given to let the tires cool. And please don’t rely on the station’s air gauge. At best, it’s probably well used and possibly out of calibration, at worst it’s broken and could be putting your family in danger.Invest in a quality gauge and keep it in the vehicle so it’s there when you need it. As they rotate, the air in your tires heats up and expands;this is why every tire lists the recommended cold tire pressure.Overinflation can lead to blowouts, which can cause catastrophic results, so please, check your pressure before and during your trip … and don’t forget to check the spare. Use the pressure recommendations of your vehicle (from the manual or the door jamb of the driver’s side door) not the psi on the tire.


Now, before you grow tire-d of this topic, (sorry – I couldn’t resist), one final note. Excessively worn tread affects wet weather traction and can cause excessive tire heat. So if you’re close to needing a new set of tires, now is the time to replace them.


From Shifting to Transmissions

dreamstime_xxl_20508391Ask any respectable car guy or gal when they last changed their oil, and chances are they can not only tell you when it was changed, but how many miles until it’s due again. Now ask them the last time they performed a transmission flush or a differential fluid inspection, and they may not be so quick to respond. Since the interval in which these fluids need attention is typically much greater than their more familiar oily cousin, it’s much easier to neglect checking your levels. A small leak in a transmission line canlead to huge repair bills down the road, so if you’re not comfortable dealing with these fluids, plan a stop at a reputable lube shop and get them checked. But don’t just change it because I said so, consult your owner’s manual for recommended mileage intervals and keep track for future service. It only takes a few minutes to record your vehicle’s service history, and it’s a lot easier to check a table than to try and remember what you replaced months later. Also, a properly documented service history can add to your vehicle’s resale value and overall appeal when it comes time to sell.


On the Topic of Fluids

hEngine coolant keeps your engine operating at its peak performance and should be checked along with all the other fluids. Higher temperatures and/or altitudes can cause engines to overheat, and low coolant levels will only complicate the situation.Be sure to use the proper fluid for your vehicle, as colors and percentage mixtures will vary by make and model. Although replacement is becoming less and less common, with some newer vehicles recommending replacement only every 100,000 to 150,000miles, check you mileage and service history. If it’s time to replace, be sure to flush the old fluid from the radiator and the engine block, and please recycle the old fluid responsibly.


Take a Look Underneath the Hood

dreamstime_xxl_26769619Check the belts, hoses, battery terminals and brake fluid. Visually inspect for signs of wear (cracking on the belts and hoses), corrosion on the battery, and check for leaks.Besides the obvious pools of fluid under your car, small leaks can become large leaks when your engine is stressed, so addressing small problems now will prevent costly repairs later. Hose clamps can become loose over time, and a simple turn of the screwdriver may be all that is required.


Pack the Essentials

hBy this I mean bring a few items that you might just need in case of a mechanical breakdown.  Personally, I carry a roll of duct tape in every one of my vehicles, even on my motorcycle. A quart of oil to top off a leaky engine, and some spare fuses don’t really take up much space. A good multi-tool offers multiple functions, as the name suggests, and can help alleviate the need to bring multiple larger hand tools. An air compressor that runs off your vehicle’s 12v battery can be very useful with a slow leak, and help you get your vehicle back to civilization for a proper repair. While on the topic of tire repair, most vehicles include a factory jack that’s designed to work with you vehicle; but have you ever actually used it? Take the time to locate your spare and factory jack, and even perform a trial run so you know how everything works. The last thing you want to do on the side of the road in the pouring rain or excessive heat is try tofigure out how your jack works or whether your spare tire actually fits.


Trust Your Senses

Oil ChangeYou probably drive your car every day. No one knows the sounds and vibrations that your car makes better than you, which means you are uniquely qualified to notice when something doesn’t feel right.  Sometimes it’s just a change in the road surface or the effects of added luggage weight, but sometimes that strange new noise coming from under your vehicle can be a sign of something much worse. If you notice something, don’t automatically dismiss it, especially if you’re in a place where service is available and headed off into the desert, where no one will locate you broken down on the side of the road.  Noises and smells are often the indicators of a developing problem, and should be diagnosed or ruled out before you set out into the blacktop wilderness.


Common sense and proper preparation can help ensure that your family road trip is a successful one.  After all, no one remembers that summer trip when you left for Disneyland and you got there without any issues, but that’s kind of the point.Roadside breakdowns can take away from the experience, not to mention the vacation budget, and lead to unhappy children, unhappy spouses, and the wrong type of memories. And let’s face it –nobody wants that.


Each month we receive lots of pictures of your cute pets. With summer upon us, there will be dogs in swimming pools and lakes, cats dressed up for the 4th of July, and other pets doing funny things to stay cool. Please send us your “Cute Pet” photos so we can feature them in the next issue of Distinctly Oklahoma magazine.

‘Geeks’ of the World Come Together at Annual SoonerCon

By Staci Elder Hensley


“Race, religion, gender, creed, age, background, employment status, et al,

do not matter in the fan world. Simply put, you are what you geek.”

 – Aislinn Burrows


SoonerCon 2013 signIf your idea of a science fiction convention islimited to Star Trek uniform-clad nerds roaming hotel halls, then it’s definitely time for an image upgrade. There’s no better opportunity to do that than during the upcoming SoonerCon, scheduled for June 27-29 in Midwest City.


Now in its 23rdyear, SoonerCon is one of the longest-running science fiction conventions in the country. Unlike its more specialized cousins, SoonerCon includes everything from guest appearances by top-tier science fiction/fantasy writers, artists and actors to original film debuts, costume contests, workshops, computer gaming marathons, comic books, art auctions, a masqueradeand “filk” singing (like folk singing, but withscience fiction/fantasy-based lyrics.)


SoonerCon 2013, Ryan McKinley cosplayNew this year is an anime track, with several major anime voiceover actors appearing as special guests. (For those not in the know, anime isa type of Japanese animated cartoon, distinguished by unique camera angles and movements, plus stylized characters, usually with large, emotive eyes.)


Some events may not be as familiar to those outside the science fiction/fantasy fan community, but are definitely worth a look-see. One example is cosplay, a combination of the words “costume” and “play,” which is best described as performance costuming. Participants of all ages work to create a hyper-realistic character (either existing or original) and then have fun playing that character, according toSoonerCon programming chairAislinn Burrows.


Another bragging point for the convention – it hosts the largest science fiction/fantasy art show in the Southwest United States. Featuring hundreds of two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, this year’s artist guest of honor is sculptor and multiple award-winner Vincent Villafranca.


SoonerCon 2013 gaming            “This will be SoonerCon 23, so while it’s not the oldest, that certainly speaks well of its staying power and demand,” said co-chair Leonard Bishop. “There are conventions in virtually every major metro area around the country, but not that many of them are specifically general interest shows, with a broad variety of featured guests and activities. We have something for everyone.”


“While we maintain our roots as a literary convention, it’s evolved today as the Oklahoma City metro’s largest pop culture convention, with more than 100 writers, journalists, illustrators, producers, actors, directors, performers, costumers, special effects artists, academics and fan industry professionals,” Burrows added.



A big part of the appeal of theseconventionsis that they are family-friendly, and multi-generational attendees are the norm, rather than the exception. Also, science fiction and fantasy genres have become much more mainstream in the last several decades, boosting attendance even further.


SoonerCon 2013 exhibitors hall“Pop culture is a funny thing,” Burrows said. “What is first perceived as the strange and unusual becomes commonplace with the vehicle of word-of-mouth interest. With the advent of the Internet and neutral information sharing, people have become more and more outspoken and open about their so-called ‘geekiness’ or ‘nerdiness.’ Both of these are now accepted and encouraged identities in conventional society. People attend these conventions to proudly showcase that identity and to meet like-minded people.”


The very first SoonerCon was held in March 1986. Prior to that, the state’s only conventions were held in Tulsa, spurring the Oklahoma City-based fan club STAR OKC (Star Trek Association for Revival) to establish its own centrally-based event.After a few years’ hiatus in the early 2000s, the convention was re-established in 2006. Attendance has increased steadily since then. Approximately 1,700 people attended last year, and that number is expected to exceed 2,000 this year.


Since its beginnings, it has attracted top-tier writers and artists. Among this year’s many literary guests are authors C.J. Cherryh, Peter S. Beagle, Tim Powers and John Ringo. However, guest writers don’t just talk about their own published works.


“In addition to discussing the mechanics of their respective crafts, guests also will discuss fandom in general, and popular cultural topics ranging from Bigfoot to racism in fantasy worlds,” Burrows said.


CJ Cherry receiving 2013 Nucleon Award            In 2013, SoonerCon organizers established the Nucleon Award as a way to recognize the lifetime achievements and contributions of Oklahoma writers to fiction and pop culture. This year’s award will be presented posthumously to Dwight Swain, former professional writing professor at the University of Oklahoma, who mentored untold numbers of aspiring writers throughout his career. Swain is best known for his nonfiction works, but got his start writing pulp fiction and science fiction/fantasy. For decades his book, “Techniques of the Selling Writer,” served as a ‘Bible’ for would-be writers in Oklahoma and beyond. He will also be inducted into the Oklahoma Speculative Fiction Hall of Fame during the convention.


“Dwight Swain’s early publications were done during the time of and in the style of what is referred to as the ‘golden age’ of sci-fi,” Burrows said. “His work is in the company of now-classic science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clark.”


Nucleon awards also will be presented to two art show participants. One will be voted on by fans; another by the artists themselves.


SoonerCon 2013 art receptionPulling off a three-day convention with this many attendees, around 100 guests, and a wide variety of ongoing events and exhibitsrequires a tremendous amount of year-round, behind-the-scenes work for SoonerCon’svolunteer 15-member core committee. During the event itself they rely heavily on 20 to 30 additional individuals who volunteer their assistance with everything from running art shows and gaming rooms to taking care of guests and providing security.


The convention has a philanthropic side as well. Each year the core committee raises funds for a selected charity. This year’s recipient is the Oklahoma branch of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


SoonerCon 2013 attendees“We selected NAMI this year because funding for mental health wellness and support services in the state of Oklahoma is at record lows, particularly for low-income people seeking assistance,” Burrows said. “SoonerCon and its attendees are all stakeholders in a community of mental wellness and prosperity. Much of the speculative fiction genre celebrates the underprivileged and underserved, so it’s logical for us to do so through charitable works and donations.”


Both Burrows and Bishop said they are very proud of SoonerCon’s success and its role in encouraging additional science fiction/fantasy events across Oklahoma. More information about the event is available through its website, www.soonercon.com.


“I continue to be amazed each year by the diversity of people and content at fan conventions,” Burrows said. “Race, religion, gender, creed, age, background, employment status, et al do not matter in the fan world. Simply, you are what you geek.”


By Lance McDaniel


for usage please email justinbrotton@gmail.comThe 14th annual deadCENTER Film Festival is coming up June 11-15, and we have all the info you need to enjoy the phenomenal parties, exciting events and 100 fabulous films at Oklahoma’s largest film festival.


Since 2001, deadCENTER has brought the best independent films from around the world to Oklahoma City. From hilarious comedies to intense dramas and insightful documentaries, deadCENTER programs a diverse selection of films to cater to every possible taste and genre.  Info about how to attend is below, followed by an overview of some of the films we are most excited to see.


take-me-to-the-river-pstr01What:              deadCENTER Film Festival


When:             June 11-15, 2014



Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Harkins Bricktown Cinemas

Devon Tower Auditorium

Myriad Gardens Grand Lawn


How:               Register for your All Access Pass at www.deadcenterfilm.org/passes

“The Trip to Italy”

deadCENTER’s funniest opening night film ever stars British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they enjoy six amazing meals on a road trip around Italy. Coogan was nominated for two Oscars this year for writing and producing Philomenia, which he also starred in alongside Dame Judi Dench. The film is directed by Michael Winterbottom, the British director who filmed The Killer Inside Me in Oklahoma.

C312E0FD-C7D2-3C20-806CA3D2448F1FD9“To Be Takei”

Over seven decades, actor and activist George Takei boldly journeyed from a WWII internment camp, to the helm of the Starship Enterprise, to the Howard Stern Show, to the daily news feeds of five million Facebook fans. This enlightening and hilarious film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and is one of our most anticipated films. Join George and his husband, Brad, on this star’s playful and profound trek for life, liberty and love.



Oscar nominees Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Fassbender star in this hilarious, quirky comedy that electrified audiences at its Sundance debut. Jon, a young wanna-be musician, discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.

sewing hope_poster copy“Sewing Hope”

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe is the subject of Sewing Hope, an amazing documentary about her efforts to reclaim the lives of Ugandan girls, produced by Pros for Africa Co-Founder Reggie Whitten and directed by Derek Watson, who won deadCENTER’s Best Short Documentary last year for This Is Normal about water pumps saving lives in Africa.


Oklahoma-made films

deadCENTER always features great films made right here in Oklahoma. This year includes The Posthuman Project, a high school superhero film;Army of Frankensteins, a monster mash set during the Civil War; Rough Cut, a comedy about making movies in a small town; and Light From the Darkroom, a Catholic thriller directed by me, and written by Oscar nominee Al Reinert (Apollo 13) and first-time screenwriter Kathleen Rooney, whose husband served as ambassador to the Holy See.


Free Outdoor Films

As a thank-you to the city, deadCENTER screens free outdoor films on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in the Myriad Gardens. This year’s outdoor films include the 30th Anniversary of Footloose on Flashback Friday, Take Me to the River about the Memphis Blues on Saturday, and Aerosmith: Rock for the Rising Sun on Sunday. All the outdoor screenings will be preceded by live bands. The Saturday night film will include a free concert after the film, with 22 of the featured musicians.


This looks to be a great lineup, so plan to make it to any of the four downtown locations during the deadCENTER Film Festival to catch some great independent films.

Birding in Oklahoma

ByRandy C. Anderson


To a bird aficionado, it is “Birding,” not “Bird watching.” Whatever you choose to call it, just know that millions of people across the world love studying our feathered friends. Multi-millions of dollars are spent every year by all of these birders in pursuit of their favored pastime. They purchase everything from various birdseeds and feeders to high quality optics like binoculars and spotting scopes. Many will drive for hours just for a chance to get a good look at a species that is “not on their list” (more on these lists later). They buy lots of gas since they drive for hours on a never-ending search for birds, and many stay at motels and hotels during these extended birding trips – having quite an impact on our economy.


I say all of that to make a point – birding is a serious pastime. Serious birders keep lists of every bird species they see. There are seasonal lists, yearly lists, area lists, and most importantly the “life list.” A life list is a listing of every species of bird a birder has seen in his or her lifetime. Every bird, regardless of where they saw it – in state, out-of-state, or somewhere else in the world – will be on this list. Lists are helpful in remembering when and where you saw what species of bird, as well as for conservation purposes. They are so important that the prestigious Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology sponsors “bird counts” every year. Christmas bird counts have been around for decades, while backyard bird counts are somewhat new. Backyard count information can be uploaded to Cornell via your computer, which has made the entire process of participating very simple and easy to do. The Oklahoma Wildlife Department also conducts online surveys and counts. You can find information on how to participate in these state programs on the website www.wildlifedepartment.com.


The National Audubon Society is the granddaddy of birding groups. There are smaller, local Audubon Groups based on the state and even city levels. Joining one of these groups will help connect you with birders from every level of experience. Most groups also hold formal and informal outings, as well as monthly meetings. It is a good place to learn and share information.


What do you need to become a birder? All you really need are a good pair of binoculars, a good bird book and patience. You will be surprised by what shows up in your own backyard. If you want to increase the number of species you will see in your backyard, add a feeder and a birdbath (water feature). Water is very important to birds, especially in the winter when ponds and lakes are frozen and rain puddles are nonexistent. Use quality foods such as black oil sunflower seeds. DO NOT throw out bread, popcorn, or any other “human foods.” While the birds will eat these items, they get no nutritional value from them, and fill up on foods from which they get no energy. Visit a store that specializes in feeding and attracting wild birds.


Once you have conquered your backyard, it is time to visit your local lakes, ponds and city parks. Birds are everywhere, and a specific type of area will attract specific types of birds. Oklahoma is blessed by being right in the middle of the Central Flyway. Over half the 800-plus North American bird species have been recorded in Oklahoma at one time or another. The potholes, rivers and lakes that dot the state are especially important to migratory waterfowl. Our central location also brings birds from both the east and west. While these birds are only occasionally seen here, they are becoming more common. I believe it is because more people are birding, and even more reporting their sightings.


People are surprised when I tell them that Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Pelicans, and the occasional Snowy Owl visit Oklahoma during spring and winter migrations. While we have nesting Bald Eagles in Oklahoma, the numbers go up in the winter when the northern lakes and rivers freeze over, making it impossible for the eagles to fish. Extremely cold temperatures in the north can cause an eruption of Snowy Owls to head south – even to Oklahoma. I have been lucky enough to see two Snowy Owls in Oklahoma in my lifetime.


If you are connected to a birding group such as the Oklahoma City Audubon Society, you can sign up to be on a birding list and be notified when rare birds are in your area. If you are new to birding, check out these birding clubs by doing a search online for birding clubs in your area. Bookstores have dozens of field guides, pick one that you like – there are even apps available for your phone or tablet.


Birding is the most popular sport in the country. The entire family can easily participate, and you can combine hiking, camping, biking and even fishing with birding. Once you get the hang of it, birding will become a life-long passion for you. If you are new to the sport, I highly recommend joining a local birding club in your area. They will teach you the do’s and don’ts of birding, andyou will learn the best places to go birding.


I am oftenasked where I go birding. My answer is: anywhere and everywhere! Here is a list of some of my favorite birding spots:


  1. My backyard, right in the middle of northwest Oklahoma City.
  2. Lake Hefner, southwest corner to canal.
  3. Lake Overholser, south side and east side below the dam.
  4. Stinchcomb Wildlife Preserve (north of Lake Overholser).
  5. Oxley Nature Center, Tulsa.
  6. Kaw Lake.
  7. Tall Grass Prairie Preserve.
  8. Pathfinder Parkway, Bartlesville.
  9. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
  10. Great Salt Plains.
  11. Lake Keystone.
  12. Western Hills State Park.

The Legacy of Dr. Ghazi Rayan

By Paul Fairchild


INTEGRIS Baptist’s Dr. Ghazi Rayan knows history as well as orthopedics. Describing his native Lebanon, he excitedly points out its heritage as the Mediterranean anchor of the Phoenician Empire. Alexandria, Egypt, isn’t just the home of his alma mater, Alexandria University, he cheerfully notes. It takes its name from its illustrious founder, Alexander the Great. So it comes as no surprise that Rayan, an accomplished surgeon, teacher and researcher, sees his own work through a historical lens. His work in Oklahoma is poised to leave a global legacy.


DrGRayan03_RT8“Through his teaching, Rayan’s become one of the most important contributors [at Baptist]. That’s true generally, but also specifically with his topic of interest, hand surgery. He’s one of the nation’s best,” says longtime colleague and cardiologist Sandy Sanbar.


Rayan’s long journey to Oklahoma City and INTEGRIS Baptist started half a world away. Born underneath the sun-drenched skies of Beirut, Lebanon, he spent his childhood there before attending college in Egypt. He has fond memories of his first home, a beautiful seaport on the eastern Mediterranean. His parents, a businessman and a homemaker, gave him eight brothers and sisters to enjoy. Family life and school kept him busy, but even as a child he was curiously eyeballing his future.


“I was 10 years old when I decided to be a surgeon. Not just a physician … a surgeon. A friend of our family, a surgeon who trained in Germany, told stories about helping people. I said to myself, ‘this is what I want to do. I want to help people, possibly even save lives,’” he recalls.


He never drifted from that desire, and when it came time for college, he packed up and shipped out to Alexandria, Egypt, another coastal paradise on the Mediterranean. Alexandria University offered an excellent college education, but was also home to the best medical school in the Middle East. It was here that he first heard of the land that would later become his new home: Oklahoma.


“Oklahoma was a familiar name for me in the early days of my internship in Egypt. I heard of a knee injury that was documented by Dr. Don O’Donoghue, an Oklahoma surgeon who later became the father of sports medicine. Doing my due diligence, I discovered that Oklahoma City was a well-kept secret. It’s a great place for raising children and has outstanding opportunities for advancing the professional careers of young people like myself at that time,” he says.


While in medical school, he fell in love with orthopedics, doing two orthopedic rotations in local hospitals. The surgeries captivated him, and the differences that orthopedic surgeons made in their patients’ lives kept him in a state of constant amazement. Rayan loved – and still loves – challenges of any sort, but orthopedics promised constant challenges of the intellectual kind. As he grew more familiar with the field, Rayan felt that he stood at the gates of a thinker’s playground.


As with all life decisions, there were other things for Rayan to consider. Wanting to walk through the gates of his new playground, he searched for a place where he could pursue his fascination and curiosity. It was clear that maintaining an orthopedic practice alone wouldn’t satisfy him intellectually. He also wanted access to the best postgraduate education, facilities and equipment. Lebanon offered no options, and the country’s civil war, a brutal and disruptive ordeal that would last until the early 1990s, was heating up. In a successful bid to marry his passion with career needs, he again relocated, this time to Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, home of the oldest – and one of the most prestigious – residency programs in the U.S.


DSCN6743While there, he put a finer point on his interest in orthopedics, and in 1980s landed a highly competitive and coveted fellowship at the Raymond Curtis Hand Center. He improved his surgical skills and indefatigably chased his research interests. He worked side by side with the best of the best in the field, and his academic genealogy impresses. His own mentor trained with Sterling Bunnell, the doctor responsible for putting hand surgery on the medical map after World War II.


The human hand contains 27 bones and countless muscles and nerves. The hand is an amazing anatomical machine, optimized in structure and configuration for the performance of the most delicate tasks, and it’s no surprise that surgery on the hand requires a certain delicacy. Specifically, it requires microsurgery, performed under a microscope with infinitesimally small instruments. As a director of INTEGRIS Baptist’s Hand Microsurgery Center and later a chairman of Baptist Medical Center’s hand surgery division, Rayan championed the adoption of cutting-edge microsurgical techniques – and the introduction of all the fun toys they required. His own microsurgical skills came in handy when he collaborated with other Oklahoma doctors to perform the state’s first live liver donor transplant.


After completing his postgraduate work, it was obvious to Rayan that textbooks and lectures only go so far in the creation of an excellent hand surgeon. Becoming a superior hand surgeon demanded the opportunity to practice side by side with superior teachers. He’s quick to mention the debt he owes to the doctors who showed him the ropes, and developed a personal mission to pay that debt forward and give future medical students opportunities similar to the ones he had enjoyed.


DSCN1204Rayan felt like he’d hit the lottery in 1981, when a spot for a professor of orthopedics opened up at the University of Oklahoma. At last he’d found his ticket to Oklahoma. The school was a good fit for him, and as a professor he eagerly engaged his students, always wanting to provide them with the same types of learning opportunities he had received years earlier. He still provides those opportunities, working with O.U.’s College of Medicine in a variety of capacities. His research moved along at a steady clip, and he regularly published articles in high-end medical journals. To date, he has contributed almost 200 articles to the best orthopedic and sports medicine journals.


In 1987, Rayan joined the staff of INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, where he still practices, and consults in the emergency room, along with continuing to teach at O.U. He sees roughly 18 patients each day, and speculates that over the course of his career he has seen over 20,000 patients. He’s looking forward to seeing 20,000 more, but research is still near and dear to his heart. Baptist Medical Center gave him the opportunity to practice, teach and research. With enthusiastic help from the hospital, he established Oklahoma’s first hand surgery fellowship in 1992.


“After approximately eight years of being on the full-time faculty at O.U., I decided to move to INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center. Now, INTEGRIS was, and still is today, considered to be an outstanding facility that embraced talented physicians. The leadership there and the potential for expanding research and education were irresistible for me. And they offered all of the support I needed to establish a hand surgery fellowship program while I also continued my medical research,” he says.


With so many achievements to choose from, Rayan hesitates a bit before naming the one he’s most proud of. He should! He was a principal in Oklahoma’s first live liver transplant; as a professor and founder of a fellowship program, he has left his mark on a generation of orthopedic surgeons; the surgeries he has performed have improved the lives of thousands. He insists, however, that he’s most proud of the establishment of Baptist Medical’s Oklahoma Hand Surgery Fellowship. At any given time, Baptist Medical hosts two orthopedic surgeons – often from points as far away as Oman and China – interested in the arts of healing the hands. Rayan has trained 32 doctors through the program.


“The program has an impact not just on people in Oklahoma City, but around the world. Mentors live through their apprentices. The students we teach are our intellectual progeny. Each one is a seed of knowledge, and when it grows, it benefits many. It’s the difference between giving somebody a fish and teaching them how to fish,” he notes.


And that, Rayan knows, will one day be his legacy.