Story by Laurel Henagan, OSU Library intern
The Cowboys in Every County team headed west to Erick, Oklahoma, in Beckham County to visit with educator, pilot, and OSU Cowgirl Charlene Davis. Being a full-time college student is hard enough for most folks, but Charlene earned her degree while also raising her family, before enjoying a three-decade-long career in Erick.
About Beckham County and Erick
Hugging the Texas Panhandle border, Beckham County was once part of Cheyenne Arapaho land and was named for Kentucky governor John C. Beckham. Route 66, which changed to Interstate 40 in the mid-1970s, has brought its fair share of travelers through Beckham County over the years. Today, Elk City is home to the National Route 66 and Transportation Museum, which is much, much more than the typical museum. Visitors can, in a sense, walk through the eight states which the historic route intersects, while viewing classic vehicles, replicated historic scenes, and interactive exhibits. It’s definitely worth a stop for history buffs, lovers of the “mother road”, or travelers who may be a little road weary and need an entertaining break.
The town of Erick is, without a doubt, pure western Oklahoma with most of its economy based in agriculture and livestock. A couple of folks from the small town moved away and into big-city entertainment but held onto their country roots. One of those Erick natives is Sheb Wooley. He had a regular appearance on the television series Rawhide, not to mention spots in a number of other films and television series, and he released a Billboard number-one song in 1958, “The Purple People Eater.” Also from Erick is “King of the Road” Roger Miller. His extensive and well-known discography landed him a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the town of Erick boasts the Roger Miller Museum in his honor.
About Charlene Davis
Charlene Davis grew up working hard on her family farm in Sayre, Oklahoma. As a child, she helped milk cows and would go into town with her parents to sell cream and other farm goods. Although she kept busy with her farm chores, Charlene always made time for her education, often loading up with library books when the family went into town. When she was in fourth grade, her love of learning sparked her desire to become a teacher.
Having visited Stillwater several times with 4-H and for other activities, she was already familiar with the town. In fact, she moved to Stillwater, was married, and had a baby before finishing high school, which she did through correspondence via Stillwater High School, going back to Sayre to graduate with her class in 1960. Talk about busy!
Beginning this next chapter of her life, while her husband majored in animal husbandry, Charlene worked toward her education degree specializing in elementary education and minoring in French. As a young wife, mother, and student, Charlene once again exercised the strong work ethic she’d learned on the farm, and took all of these new responsibilities in stride.
Post-graduation, Charlene and her husband moved to his hometown of Erick, Oklahoma, where she was offered a teaching position. She started out teaching elementary school, as well as high school French, but over the years she also taught English, math, and several other subjects before enrolling at Southwestern Oklahoma State University to get her master’s degree in guidance counseling. With her master’s in hand, she returned to work with Erick schools, ultimately enjoying a thirty-eight-year career by the time she retired in 2005.
Also, during the 1980s if she weren’t already busy enough, Charlene overcame her fear of planes and flying by becoming a pilot! She also became very active in the Ninety-Nines, an official, international group of licensed female pilots that encourages and assists women everywhere to get their wings. She has been her chapter’s chairman numerous times, was named Oklahoma Chapter Pilot of the Year in 1986, and has helped with Okie Derby and Air Race Classic. These days, she’s still passionate about OSU and the Ninety-Nines, but she’s even more so about her family, especially her growing group of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Here are a few more images from our trip to Beckham County:
We’ve wrapped up interviewing for Cowboys in Every County, but we’ll continue to highlight our adventures on this blog. Check back often for more stories from the road.