I just learned that Chuck Drummond passed away this last Friday at 79-years-old. I met him once, and he was very kind. My deepest sympathies go out to the Drummond family, who I’m sure are still mourning.
This last summer my family and I embarked on an epic roadtrip that took us through Oklahoma. Pawhuska was a little out of the way, but we made sure to detour through it so that we could visit The Mercantile, the restaurant/coffee shop/bakery/gift store owned by Ree Drummond, who is also known as The Pioneer Woman.
For those unfamiliar, Ree Drummond became famous for her cooking blog, where she shared recipes used to feed her family and the hungry ranchmen, which turned into books, television shows, product lines, and The Mercantile, among other things. She lives on a large ranch in rural Oklahoma. Pawhuska was barely on the map before Ree became famous—now it’s still barely on the map, although it certainly has seen a significant resurgence, and it can become quite busy with tourists. Yes, for The Pioneer Woman fans, Pawhuska is a destination.
I’ve written about Pawhuska before, and I don’t want to rehash that; instead, I want to share a serendipitous encounter while in the small town, which I’ll remember for some time to come.
We awoke to steel grey sky and light rain. After getting ourselves put together, my family and I strolled around the small town of Pawhuska, which was almost deserted—the weather seemed to scare people off, or at least keep them indoors. We explored the streets, and I captured photographs with my Fujifilm X100V using the Kodak Tri-X 400 Film Simulation Recipe—black and white seemed especially appropriate for the weather. Eventually we made our way inside The Mercantile for breakfast, something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives—to say that it’s good is as big of an understatement as saying the Grand Canyon is big; both are true, but neither truly describe it.
While waiting for our food, an old man wearing a cowboy hat walked in by himself. He appeared weathered and worn, but in good spirits, with a smile on his face. My wife stated in a whisper just loud enough for our children to hear, “Look, there’s a real cowboy.” A true ranchman. An iconic stature of the American west. He sat at a small table near ours.
My wife knew right away who he was. This was Chuck. Ladd’s dad. Ree’s father-in-law. When the waitress came by, my wife asked if it would be alright to say hi to him. “Oh, sure,” she answered with a wink, “he loves the attention.” So my wife stood up, walked to his table, and introduced herself.
Chuck grinned, and he, too, stood up. He shook my wife’s hand, then he shook mine. He noticed my little girl’s cowboy boots, and made a comment to her about how nice they were and that he liked them. The waitress asked if she could take our picture, so with my wife’s phone she snapped one with Chuck, myself and my wife standing together. It was all very quick. Then we sat back down. Our food came, and we ate. His food came, and he ate alone, although other people also recognized him and he would pause to shake their hands and maybe take a picture. Chuck was a celebrity of sorts.
Our encounter was brief, but memorable. His kindness was obvious. His cheerfulness contagious. We met a genuine cowboy in rural Oklahoma. Just now I showed my daughter the picture I captured of Chuck Drummond (at the top of this article), and asked if she remembered him. “Oh, yeah,” she stated without hesitation, “that man said he liked my boots.” We’ll forever remember this chance encounter on a rainy day in May.
I’d yet to share any of these pictures, which were all captured on that drizzly morning in Pawhuska. I hope that you enjoy them!