I had never heard of Ada Oklahoma. All I knew was that I had been invited, and it was on my speaking schedule. Sometimes my speaking trips are so similar, I can forget exactly where I am. “Am I in Kansas? No that was last week, this week is Iowa.” The schools are aways very polite, the students excited and most of the time they know the books.
But from he moment I arrived in Ada, I knew this was not going to be a typical author visit. I was greeted at the airport in Oklahoma City by Ada’s scout troop 13 – where I met scoutmaster John Garber; the mastermind behind my entire visit. A wildly energetic guy who has mastered the fine art of never growing up. This is an art I try to master, with mixed results. “I hope you don’t mind riding in a bus,” Dr. Garber said. I thought he was joking. No! He brought the troop in a church schoolbus. I was actually delighted. This was not going to be the dull 90 minute exhausted-after-flying two passenger drive I was expecting. I rode with a bus load of scouts who had all read a whole bunch of my books and had great questions. Since the ride was a long one, I gathered the kids around, and opened my laptop, reading a story no one — and I mean no one — had ever heard before. A story called “Resurrection Bay.” 33 pages, which took almost an hour to read. With nothing but the computer light shining on my face, it was like reading a story around a 21st century campfire. I don’t know who had more fun, the kids, or me.
We arrived at my hotel and The Holiday Inn was then beset by a scout troop escorting me to the check-in desk.
The next day, I was picked up in the morning in a 1929 Model A Ford Coupe, and driven to my first set of speaking gigs.
At lunch time I was the guest of honor at a performance by members of the community in period clothing re-enacting (well, not actually re-enacting) the “Four Men Hanging,” an infamous lynching of notorious criminals, which is the event that brought an end to the “the wild west.” Then, in the evening, we had a “dry-run” of Dr. Garber’s haunted house. I thought my family did the haunted house thing pretty well, but this one put my house to shame. I took my place in full ghoul regalia, at the front door, pretending to be an animatronic monster, until people actually passed by at which point I would scare the shitake mushrooms out of them. I am told that 991 people showed up on Halloween last year. I’m sorry I have to miss the real thing, but I’ll be back in California by then.
On day two, I was picked up by a 1928 Model A sedan, and taken to my speaking venue. The Chickasaw tribe had planned to have some traditional dancers perform in my honor, but apparently word got out, and as word-of-mouth will do, it became like the game of telephone. “Some guy who sometimes writes for the Disney Channel is speaking in Ada,” magically turned into “A film crew from the Disney Channel is in Ada, and is going to be taping Native American Dancers.” Suddenly a Native American dance troop all the way from Oklahoma City showed up hoping to be a part of the festivities. And so the dance began, and when it ended, I was presented with an eagle feather by the Chickasaw Nation. This, if you don’t know, is an incredible honor! You can bet that feather is going in a place of honor in my home. ( I was assured that an eagle feather is legal when presented by an Indian tribe, and if TSA tries to take it away at the security check, they are in for a fight).
After a few booksignings, I was then whisked away to a Dia De Los Muertos celebration. “I know we’re in breach of your contract,” Dr. Garber said, “making you do all these things.” What my contract doesn’t state is that you can breach it all you want, as long as I’m having a good time, and actually want to be there — which I did.
So now it’s 10:30 at night, and I’ve just gotten back to my hotel. Am I exhausted? Yes. Would I have missed anything today? No! The warm reception I’m getting everywhere I’m going is worth sacrificing some free time.
I understand that arrangements are being made for tomorrow, and that I may be picked up in a hearse. With a coffin. (It is not clear as to whether I am expected to ride in the coffin, and then pop out at the school visit. I may draw the line at that, though). Be that as it may, this has rapidly turned into one of my all time favorite speaking trips, ranking right up there with my amazing trip to Guam a few years back!
Ada Okahoma. Who’d a thunk it?