I was in Okemah a week or so ago. I went looking for the old Guthrie house. The first time I saw it, nearly thirty years ago, it was already long-time abandoned, windows gone, door gaping. A few years later, on my next visit, it was nearly hidden by brush that had grown up all around (and inside) the house. Some acquaintances in town, an old couple named Dill, told me that an out-of-towner was considering buying the house to make some sort of memorial. Being a fan of Marjorie's as well as Woody's, I had been wondering if anything came of it.
The first time I had stopped in Okemah, I was on a cross country motorcycle trip from Boston to San Francisco. Now I live in California and was on my way to Boston. I knew the Dills were long gone but I wanted to see Okemah again. I drove up the little hill that is the Main Street and tried to remember where the Guthrie house was. I cruised the backs streets but nothing looked familiar. I went back to the Main Street and looked around for a bit. The town seemed almost empty but the few people who drove by in pick ups nodded friendly-like at the long-haired biker with the California plates.
I walked around for a bit until my ear was caught by a snatch of music. I followed it like a puppy following the smell of a piece of juicy meat. It led me to a small speaker hanging from underneath the overhang of a furniture store. The music was Hank Williams, or at least he had written it. The singer was a slick characterless voice accompanied by a guitar, an dobro and an orchestra!
Okemah may be wiling to celebrate the birthday of WWG but it seems that other than for that weekend that draws hundreds of people and thousands of dollars to town, they are still not comfortable with his memory.
Even so, I was glad I had stopped by. I just wish I could have found the house.