This last summer my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Ree Drummond’s mercantile store and ranch in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Ree Drummond, who is also known as The Pioneer Woman, is a famous television host, cook, author and blogger. She’s practically a household name! Her home, which just happens to be one of the largest ranches in America, is just outside of Pawhuska, which is where you’ll find her restaurant and store.
Pawhuska is a quintessential rural country town in northern Oklahoma. It once boomed, but an oil bust, the Great Depression and Dust Bowl left lasting scars on this small town. Less than 5,000 people call Pawhuska home, but it does have one famous resident that has breathed new life into the area, and it has become a mecca of sorts, a tourist destination for fans of The Pioneer Woman. People travel from all over the county, even the world, to visit The Mercantile.
You might be wondering right now what any of this has to do with photography, as Fuji X Weekly is a photography blog, other than I captured some photographs of this place while visiting. Well, a lesser known fact about Ree Drummond is that she’s a pretty good photographer. She’s captured some amazing photographs of Oklahoma ranch life. In fact, her store and ranch are decorated with her pictures. You’ll find some of her photographs in her different books. I know that she’ll never read this article, but if by chance she ever does, I would strongly urge her to publish a photoessay book showing life on her ranch, which might include 40-50 of her best black-and-white photographs. The art world has yet to recognize Ree’s pictures, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a talented artist or that she shouldn’t share her pictures with the world. I do believe someday her prints will find their way into an exhibition somewhere, and she’ll receive recognition for what she’s done with a camera.
We visited The Mercantile, which is an old brick building in downtown Pawhuska, in the afternoon, browsing the store that’s packed with unique items. Some of these things feature Ree’s designs, while other things fit her style but aren’t designed by her. It’s a fun store to walk through, and my wife found many things that she wanted to purchase. After that we went upstairs to the coffee shop, which includes a great space for sipping hot drinks and eating tasty pastries and just relaxing. The Mercantile was busy, but it didn’t feel overcrowded, and we took our time soaking up the experience.
The Drummond family opens up The Lodge for tours from time-to-time, and it just so happens that it was open for tours while we were there. The Lodge is located on their ranch several miles outside of town and down some dirt roads. This is where the cooking show is filmed, and it serves as a guesthouse for visitors. It’s a beautifully restored and decorated ranch house. Visiting it was an intimate experience, as it felt like stepping into their home, even though this isn’t their main house. My wife pretended to host the show, and we got a good laugh out of that. We were able to pet a few of their dogs, which are seen in the show and books and were just hanging around the building. We even saw some of their horses, and my 10-year-old daughter, who loves horses, got to pat one on the nose. It was a good time and well worth the dusty drive to get there and back.
That night we returned to The Mercantile for dinner in the restaurant. The food was every bit as delicious as we imagined and then some! The atmosphere was just as enjoyable as the food. It was one of the best meals we had on our road trip. Ree’s restaurant really was ridiculously good!
We spent the night in Pawhuska. We awoke the next morning to rain, but that didn’t stop us from returning to The Mercantile in the morning for breakfast. As delicious as dinner was the night before, breakfast was even better! I can understand why Ree is a popular television cook, as her recipes are incredibly tasty.
Before coming to Pawhuska we had read on the internet that The Mercantile and restaurant can be extremely crowded with long lines, and that sometimes you have to wait for hours. We didn’t experience any of that, but as we were leaving town we did notice that the line for the restaurant was becoming quite long. I would suspect on weekends or busy travel days, during peak hours, that it can get extraordinarily crowded. My recommendation would be to come during the middle of the week and be there either early near when they first open or late just a little while before closing and you’ll miss the gobs of people.
The Pioneer Woman experience was a highlight of our summer vacation. It felt like we were invited guests and not strangers. We ate delicious food. We toured their guesthouse. We purchased some merchandise. We didn’t want to leave, but it was time to go. We took with us some good memories. Oh, and I captured the photographs you see here.