As Others see us

Friends,

I got this passed to me by friends in the Pacific Northwest. It is from the paper in Eugene, Oregon, where the University of Oregon resides. Corvalis, where Oregon’s OSU is located is right down the road…. even closer than Norman and Stillwater. The Phil Knight mentioned in the story is the founding genius of Nike, headquartered in Portland. He is U of O’s major “benefactor.” It is interesting and kinda heartwarming to see how others find us here in Stillwater, America.
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Bob Welch: This OSU is a far cry from Oregon’s

By Bob Welch
Columnist, The Register-Guard
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

STILLWATER, Okla. – Amid Oregon’s more liquefied version of Rossetti’s “bleak midwinter,” I escape for two days to speak at Oklahoma State University. And to be reminded that it’s not only not raining everywhere, it’s not Oregon everywhere.

In Oregon, we’re fearing rain-triggered floods. Oklahomans are fearing drought-triggered fires, the kind that swept across nearly a half-million acres of grasslands in late December and early January.

It’s Dust Bowl Lite. East-central Oklahoma is experiencing its driest winter since 1921. In the Stillwater area, it has rained 1.49 inches in the past 90 days.

“Goodness,” I told my audience, nurses from around the state, “it rained more than that while we were waiting for takeoff in Eugene.”

In Stillwater, people are watering their lawns in hopes their grass won’t die.

But what strikes you as different about this place isn’t only the rock-hard grass the color of Parmesan cheese and matted down like a bad comb-over. It’s all sorts of nuances that remind you you’re not in Kan – er, Oregon anymore.

It’s brick – an entire campus virtually made of brick, the hard edges often softened by modified Georgian architecture that give it an almost Southern feel. (And, at 692 acres, more than twice the size of UO’s campus.)

It’s the giant freeway billboards touting this church and that. It’s a morning paper headlined by – well, of course – Oklahoma winning the Miss America pageant.

It’s fans at Saturday’s Oklahoma State-Colorado basketball game not booing the visitors when they came on the court. And coach Eddie Sutton appearing in “Charlie’s Chicken” TV commercials.

It’s 91 out of the 100 people I counted putting a hand over their hearts for the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And, following that, most everyone putting their arms around each other and singing OSU’s school song, swaying back and forth to create what looks like wind tickling a field of bright orange wheat.

It’s not sitting until the Cowboys make their first basket. It’s 7 a.m.-to-7 p.m. bank teller hours. And something I’m ashamed we don’t have here: “Duck Street.”

People might think of Stillwater as a sort of supersized Monmouth; and, yes, it’s flat and in the middle of nowhere. But the university pumps life into the city of 60,000-plus people – nearly one out of three residents are students and, judging from the turnout at Eskimo Joe’s on Saturday night, they’re not all studying for Future Farmers of America midterms.

Eugene has nothing to rival Joe’s, the nation’s third-ranked college postgame hangout, according to The Sporting News. One of its summer street parties is said to have drawn 65,000 – and I’ll personally vouch for the cheese fries.

In another departure from my Oregon norm, I stayed in a student-run hotel – The Atherton. It’s attached to the OSU Student Union and operated largely by undergrads in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration program, who are astute enough to offer Oregon wines.

Of course, I found plenty of similarities between here and there: OSU has its own “Westmoreland” on its hands; more than 300 houses, apartments and duplexes will be bulldozed for a new “sports village.”

It has its own Phil Knight: T. Boone Pickens, the gas and oil tycoon – and Time magazine coverboy – who recently dumped an NCAA-record $165 million into OSU’s athletic program. (Yep, that would be Pickens Stadium getting new skyboxes, some of which will allow deep-pocketed patrons to watch football from one side of their suites and basketball from the other.)

And it has friendly people, including a woman who gave me a $30 ticket outside Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday. I offered to pay. She wouldn’t have it.

So I’m going to send her a nice thank-you present this week: a bottle of Oregon rain.

It’s not like we’ll miss it.

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One Response to As Others see us

  1. Vera Long says:

    After Oklahoma being called a waste land on national TV last night, reading this letter was very inspiring. Despite the big controversy, the people of Stillwater are good people, believe in doing what is right. Only a group of Johnny-Come-Latelys who puts the dollar sign above people’s rights and have blackened the image so proudly displayed by our citizens for a century.
    Keep up the good work with your excellent writing. Vera Long.

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