The Oklahoma town of Enid—population 50,000—is near where J.D. Payne ran cattle at his Skeleton Ranch, which became a stage station on the Chisholm Trail after 1874.
Bob Klemme of Enid began marking the Chisholm Trail across Oklahoma on November 30, 1990. Klemme set his last of about 400 concrete markers on the Express Ranch roughly three miles north of Yukon, Oklahoma, on September 19, 1997.
“I had fun every day, even if I hurt myself,” Klemme says, “and I met so many nice people. Some of the ranchers down in southern Oklahoma gave me keys to their gates, so I could come and go when I needed. I still have one of the keys, for the owner told me to keep it, because I would need to get into the ranch sometime. I guess they trusted me, especially when they found out what I was doing. I had a wonderful time.”
Now 85, Klemme moved to Enid on August 18, 1934, during the Dust Bowl. He remembers when “Snicker bars or one dip of ice cream was a nickel” and steam locomotives ran through town. Here is his take on getting Western in Enid.
Best Cowboy Bar: I don’t go to any cowboy bars, but the only one I know about is Scooters on North Van Buren.
Favorite Local Cuisine: For a good sandwich or soup, I go to Pass Times at the corner of South Grand and Cherokee.
Best Art Gallery of the West: Our town is filled with H.T. Holden’s art. He was the designer of the U.S. postage stamp celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1893 Cherokee Strip run. He has a studio at the corner of North Independence and West Randolph.
Best Spot to View Wildlife: Great Salt Plains, about 40 miles to the northwest of Enid. You will see waterfowl, quail, pheasants and many species of songbirds, as well as deer, fox, coyotes and even skunks. My son Mike is a professional photographer and visits this area all seasons of the year.
Historic Site Most Schoolchildren Visit: The Humphrey Heritage Village with its one-room school. They dress in their country-style clothes, and their teacher is in period dress. It is as close to the way it was in the past, and the kids love it.
Old West Event to Attend: The Cherokee Strip Parade, in mid-September, celebrates the opening of the Cherokee Outlet by the 1893 Land Run. The first one of these I attended was in 1935, and I was nine years old.
Do-Not-Miss Attraction: Simpsons Old-Time Museum. The Simpson boys, Rick and Larry, other than operating the museum also produce movies. The museum has an Old West town main street, and the brothers produce many scenes right in the museum.
Queen Wheat City: Enid has the largest grain elevators in the country. The city hit its peak with total grain storage capacity of 80 million bushels of grain in 1987. The oldest in the city is the 1925 Enid Terminal Elevator at the Van Buren overpass.
Avg. Home Price: $110,000.
Avg. Temperatures: Summer: 92-69°, Fall: 72-48°, Winter: 47-25° and Spring: 69-46°.
Everyone in Enid Knows: Harold Hamm, an Enid oilman who maintains his corporate offices in Enid and supports our town.
Best-Kept Secret: Back in 1903, David E. George lived in the Grand Avenue Hotel in Enid and poisoned himself. He claimed to be John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s killer. The room where he died can still be visited.
Enid’s Top Historian: Maxine Austin, who has lived in Enid since she was seven and celebrated her 100th birthday a few months ago.
We Got the Oldest: Symphony in the state! Formed in 1905, the symphony performs year round at the Enid Symphony Center.
Home of Geronimo: The automobile, that is. Produced during 1916-20, the Geronimo car can still be seen at Enid parades; it’s the only one left in the world.
New Museum: Opening on April 1, 2011, the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center will tell the story of all of northwest Oklahoma, from the Land Run of 1893 (the largest horse race in the history of the world) up to the present day.