Keeping small towns special: murals in Alva, Oklahoma

Alva, Oklahoma threshing mural, center portion (photo by Sheila Scarborough)On a recent trip to Alva, Oklahoma (home to my Tourism Currents business partner Becky McCray) I slammed on the brakes while passing the local farm co-op store downtown.

Painted on the side of their one-story building was an intriguing mural about threshing; the center part was painted and colored in but the edges were only outlined.

If you looked closely, though, the artist had painted himself painting the mural.

It is supposed to look like a work in progress, but has been finished since 2001.

Alva, Oklahoma threshing mural outlined (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Becky gave me a little background on the mural, and mentioned that they were “all over town,” which was true – I saw them everywhere.  They really add a lot of character to the place (remember how much I loved the ad art that I found in Atlanta, Illinois on old Route 66?)

A little digging turned up the Web site for the Alva Mural Society (founded in 1997) and a specific page on the Threshing Time mural there at the Co-Op, painted by Roger Cooke.

He advertises himself as “America’s Small-Town Muralist” and apparently goes all over the US painting interesting scenes on otherwise blank, boring buildings.

There is a map on the Mural Society Web site to all the other murals in town, which depict a variety of famous locals and historic events in Alva.

People were bustling in and out of the Farm Co-Op as I was taking photos, and I felt a mite out of place. I am a total city kid and the Obama sticker on my car was rather an anomaly there in the reddest of red states (although I think it is well-balanced by my NHRA drag racing press parking stickers. But still….)

Alva, Oklahoma threshing mural outlined, closeup (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Little did I know until later that a look at the Farmers Coop Association Web site would have shown me not only a continuously updated ticker of wheat, corn and soybean prices (complete hieroglyphics to me) but also links to blogs.

There’s the DTN Production Blog with posts like what to do with wet grain, and a blog named Harrington’s Sort and Cull which I think has to do with raising hogs and other concerns about livestock.

I’d found a bloggy tribe!

Small town charms may require more patience and digging, but they are there to be found if you’re patient.

Grace's homemade, from-scratch cinnamon rolls at the Honey Wheat B&B in Alva, OK (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Meantime, if you visit Alva and want a homey place to stay, the Red Carpet Country tourism organization (for whom I did some speaking and workshops) hosted me at the Honey Wheat Bed and Breakfast.

Owners Grace and John were a down-home delight, the full breakfasts were de-lish and yes, their free WiFi kept me in touch without a hitch while I stayed there.

Morning walks around the nearby town square can get you closer to the murals, too!

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