The Oklahoman has had many columnists over the years, and they have covered a variety of subjects.
One of the most popular columns, “The Smoking Room,” was written by one of The Oklahoman’s great editors and writers, who was known to most newspaper readers as R.G.M., the initials that accompanied his column.
R.G.M. was Richard “Dick” G. Miller, who came to The Oklahoman in 1920 and retired in 1968. For the 30-plus years lof his column, R.G.M. wrote mostly about the state he loved and its people and places. He was, according to his obituary published Sept. 16, 1970, “the state’s undisputed champion booster and ambassador.”
Here’s an excerpt from a “Smoking Room” column published March 29, 1936, that captured my attention:
“We should like to have the help of Smoking Room readers in naming the Seven Wonders of Oklahoma. Jot down your ideas and send them in. Of course, the whole state is a wonder, having been settled only 47 years ago and ranking among the best of them now. Our oil fields constitute another wonder. It is also a wonder, sometimes, how some men get elected to high office in Oklahoma. But the kind of wonder we are talking about is the kind that was built by nature but cared for and possibly aided by men.
To give you an idea and start you thinking, here is a list of what we call the wonders of Oklahoma, and there are more:
1. The Great Salt Plains in Alfalfa County, near Cherokee and Jet.
2. The artesian sulphur wells at Sulphur.
3. The bat caves at Freedom, near the Woods-Woodward county line.
4. The Glass Mountains in Major County. The queerest hill formations in the state.
5. The basket weavers’ caves in the western part of Cimarron County. Definite proof is visible there of prehistoric man’s existence in this state.
6. Devil’s Den, a few miles north of Tishomingo. Giant piles of solid granite boulders; one wonders how they ever got that way.
7. The mammoth caves and canyons in Blaine County north of Watonga and west of Hitchcock — large earth rooms that are explorable.
8. The sand dunes on the North Canadian River just south of Waynoka; more sand hills are visible from this point than anywhere else in the state.
9. The giant cliff that towers above the Illinois River just across from the village of Cookson in Cherokee county — probably the state’s largest and most scenic cliff.
10. The Kiamichi Mountain scenery, made easily accessible by CCC roads which lead around and to the peaks of the highest mountains.
11. Dripping Springs in southern Delaware County near the Arkansas line. Nature left a queer-shaped but beautiful piece of handiwork here, with sparkling 80-foot falls.
12. The Turner Falls area, in the Arbuckle Mountains between Davis and Ardmore.
13. Robbers Cave near Wilburton; giant rocks, deep hideouts, one of nature’s beauty spots.
Take that list for a starter, make any additions you like, and vote for seven — the seven which you believe to be the Seven Wonders of Oklahoma.”
I haven’t been to all the places on Miller’s list, but I can agree on all of those above that I have seen.
My list would include (1) Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur with its natural springs and range of nature; (2) Devil’s Den, with its rock formations and Pennington Creek, a natural water slide, before it became privately owned; (3) the sand dunes at Little Sahara State Park; (4) Beaver’s Bend and the Mountain Fork River; (5) Turner Falls and (6) Black Mesa, the highest spot in Oklahoma, complete with dinosaur tracks.
I have been to the salt plains, the canyons at Roman Nose State Park near Watonga, the Glass or Gloss Mountains and once spent an entire day driving on some of those CCC roads in the Kiamichi Mountains.
But for me, my seventh wonder would have to be any Oklahoma sunset that lights up the sky in colors no artist or photographer can truly do justice.
Mary Phillips writes “The Archivist,” which appears regularly on Tuesdays in The Oklahoman. If you have any Oklahoma natural wonders that you might like to share, e-mail Phillips at email@example.com.