An Essay on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Roman Nose State Park
by Gordon Eskridge (Apr 2009)


            July 4th,1966, was the first time for my wife, Rosemary, to visit Roman Nose State Park, located  seven miles north of Watonga, Oklahoma, and 81 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.  Roman Nose was once a favorite area of the Cheyenne Tribe and was named after Chief Roman Nose who lived in the canyon from 1887 to 1917.

The area is a scenic setting of canyons with towering cedars, buffalo grass, and blue sage. The stream that runs through it comes from a shallow cave near the swimming pool built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. The Park has white outcroppings of gypsum with beautiful mesas for hiking, two small fishing ponds, a golf course, lodge, and cabins.

            Because July in Oklahoma is hot, Rosemary thought that going swimming would be a great way to spend the fourth of July. I told her about the many times my family had gone camping at Roman Nose and how the very large swimming pool was made of natural rock, very pretty and was spring fed. I did not tell her how cold the water was.

            We had purchased our very small tent and a Coleman ice box at Gibson’s in Oklahoma City a few days before. She had grown up with her family going camping every chance they got. We had two sleeping bags that would zip together and two air mattresses to sleep on. She has four sisters and two brothers, Joyce, Beverly, Frank, Marshal, Corlynn, and Cheri, and over the years we have brought many of them to Roman Nose. We loaded up our 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Spider, black with red interior, and headed for Roman Nose State Park.

            When we got to the park, we found a great camping spot under a large tree for extra shade. The table was clean, and the fire pit had a cooking grate in good shape. We pitched the tent, rolled out our sleeping bag, and inflated the air mattresses to take to the pool with us. We drove to the pool and changed into our swimsuits at the bathhouse and met at the poolside.

            It was about ten thirty in the morning, and the pool was about half full of people. The sky had a few white, puffy clouds moving slowly to the north and a warm breeze. I walked toward the shallow end of the pool, and my wife chose to jump in from the side. When she surfaced again, I thought she was going to walk on the water to get out of that pool. It was that cold. I couldn’t laugh or she would have pushed me in. All I could do was rub her down with the towel and hold her close to get her warm again. She had swam in the waters of West Texas most of her life, but the public pools in West Texas never got this cold. She had been a lifeguard at her local pool for several summers and could swim like a fish.

            My wife had a childhood dream of being the new Esther Williams. She had swum with her high school and practiced synchronized swimming with some of the other lifeguards. She could water-ski and just enjoyed swimming in general.

            We decided, too, that jumping in was probably the best way to get in the pool, but with knowledge of how cold it was it took several minutes to work up the courage. Many of the other swimmers encouraged us by calling out things like “Come on in; the water’s fine” or “It’s only cold for a little while.” Soon we made the supreme effort and jumped in and jumped up and down in the water several times.  We rubbed our bodies to help the blood circulate and to acclimate to the temperature of the water. We were grateful that it was mostly a sunny day.  Rosemary and I had a great time in the pool, but we had soon worked up a lunchtime hunger. We got out of the pool and dressed again and returned to our campsite.

            I told Rosemary about the Watonga Cheese Factory, and she said that she would like to see it. So we went into town and found the cheese to put on our ham sandwiches. This, together with some potato chips, made for a tasty lunch. After lunch we went back to the swimming pool area. Just north of the pool is a stream, and we followed it upstream until we found the source. We returned to the pool and had another swim; the water was warmer having been in the sun for a while.

            When we returned to camp a large family pulled into the campsite across from us. We watched them unload - mom, dad, five children, and a large dog. They set up a large three-room tent, a dinning fly, and a portable kitchen. While the mother was getting dinner ready, the children played with a Frisbee and the dog.

            I have always enjoyed photography and had brought my Argus C3 35-mm camera. You have to cock the shutter before you click it with a button on the top of the camera, but there was no remote timer. So I ran some kite string up through the tree limbs and tied one end to a rock and raised it above the camera while holding the other end in my hand. Rosemary and I sat on the table and posed together. I slowly lowered the rock down until it hit the release button on the camera and took our picture. We still have the picture.

            After a dinner of hotdogs we toasted some marshmallows and placed them on half a Hershey bar and placed them between two gram-cracker squares. Smoores! Aren’t they great?

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