August 22, 2018
MIAMI, Okla.: Only in Oklahoma, as far as I know, do they snag paddlefish.
We arrived at the Oklahoma Visitor’s Center on I-44 in mid-afternoon, after a long morning on U.S. 66 through Missouri, the “Cave State” as well as the Show-Me State: breakfast at Shelly’s Route 66 Café in Cuba, a stop at the World’s Largest Rocking Chair in Fanning, and a glance at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon. Lots of other attractions to be seen, but interrupted by long stretches of road through quiet fields and forests, then traffic-clogged commercial stretches, then quiet subdivisions. The highway parallels I-44, back and forth, like an extended boundary road curling along the interstate. Around Rolla, in the interest of time, we jumped on I-44 for 50 or so miles, then went back to 66. After a wrong turn in Springfield we stayed on the interstate to Joplin and then across into the “OK” state.
The sun was blazing and we were tired of the road, so we found Twin Bridges State Park in Miami, just off the Quapaw Reservation, which sits astride the Oklahoma-Missouri border. We set up camp and took a walk to the lake, fed by Spring River, a murky brown fast-moving stream and, we learn, prime waters for snagging paddlefish. Didn’t see anyone actually doing it, but from the announcement of strict rules, learned that a paddlefish is a heavy slow-moving fish sporting a long flat paddle-like blade on its upper jaw that grows to enormous sizes around here. People come to the lake to “snag” them, that is, catch them without rod and reel. One per customer, and an ordinary fishing license isn’t good enough. You also need a paddlefish permit.
We grilled ourselves a nice salmon and chicken dinner, garnished by lots of the veggies we picked up at the Walmart in Flora yesterday. Everything is green and lush and quiet, undercutting the stereotype of Oklahoma as a dust bowl pocked with oil rigs. None of that here. But a long, long way to go in Sooner country, channeling Glenn Campbell, I guess. We’ll hit 66 again early.