Monday

I Thought This Was An Insane Asylum


I am a fiend for going somewhere I’ve never been before, especially if the place has anything to do with history. When RD decided to take a day trip in preparation for our upcoming “Iron Butt 48 States in 10 Days” ride, I thought it would be fun. We sat hunkered over the Oklahoma map and he started reading potential destinations. When he said Fort Supply, my heart did a little jump.

I spent 10 years writing a novel about an Oklahoma murder trial in 1907. At one point in my research,Fort Supply was a potential trip that never panned out. The old fort was the first State Insane Asylum established in 1908. RD is not as curious about odd destinations as I am. I would save the whole history for later.
As we headed north on Hwy 281, I fretted about telling him the historical significance of our destination. I may have given him the idea that Fort Supply was as cool as Ft. Smith in Arkansas, where we got a tour of Judge Parker's gallows. Our itinerary took us North on 281, West on Hwy 33, North on 51A, heading towards Hwy 58 in Watonga. We missed the Hwy 58 turn, but found it again in Okeene after a nice buffet lunch of homemade pizza and salad. I tried to tell him about the asylum over lunch, but he was pretty interested in Bedlam Basketball playing on TV.
It's not like I wanted to go INTO the asylum. Maybe just touch it. Or take pictures to say I was there. The last time I spent the night in an asylum, I was with friends, looking for ghosts. Wasn't as much fun as I thought it was going to be. The hotel was a hundred years old. It sounded exactly like an old building on top of a mountain. All night long!
The point of this trip was training. It was a gorgeous day. Traffic was mild. After lunch the wind changed, coming out of the North. The temperature dropped, but we were protected in armor and linings. All was good.
Once we found the fort, my adrenalin pumped volumes. Unfortunately, the museum closed at four. We had all of 2 minutes. Not to worry. RD decided to take a chance and continued into the compound. At the visitor center, we stopped the attendant as he got in his car. We begged for enough time to take a few quick pictures. What a horrible time to find out the battery in my camera was dead. RD seemed a little perturbed. I was nervous. This trip was not going well.
We all jumped when a truck screeched to a halt in front of the building, blocking our entrance. Very quickly I realized Google needed to be updated. Not only was the site a historic fort, it was also a State Correctional Facility. The prison guard wanted to know how we got on the grounds.
It crossed my mind that her impatience was a little over dramatic. Say we were there to snatch a convict via our motorcycle. RD was in front. I ride pillion. Where would the convict sit? Even if the convict was a dwarf with extreme double joints, our saddlebags barely held tennis shoes. Suddenly, Mother Nature called my name. I was desperate to see my asylum among other things. I had no more time for apologies or etiquette. "I thought this place was an insane asylum!" I blurted.
The three adults in front of me froze. I had delivered a jaw dropper. I'm used to the "you are the weirdest woman on the planet" look from my husband, but when you get it from a guard with a gun, it's cause for alarm. I had no time for alarm.
Luckily, the museum attendant was used to weirdness. He pointed to a multi-storied red brick building about 100 yards away. "That's it," he said. The whole group followed his point. "But it's a drug rehab center today."
My spirit sank. In my present condition, it was entirely too far away for a touch and thanks to my dead battery, not even available for a picture.
"Thanks" I said.
RD and the guard were still in jaw drop. The volunteer came to my rescue again. "You can take a quick look at the barracks."
I thought how cool it was to relieve myself in a historical restroom. So what if I didn't get to touch the asylum? I was in a 100-year-old guardhouse. I didn't dare ask for anything else. I signed the guest register, while RD made several apologies to our group.
As we headed home, I mused over our little trip. Life had once again delivered a unique adventure. I imagined telling stories to my grandchildren. "One day, your Grandmother rode a motorcycle 400 miles to use the bathroom at an old cavalry fort in a state prison next door to an insane asylum." Yeah, that works.

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