Where are you from?


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Where are you from?

By Bobby Winters

When people ask me where I am from, I say, “Just a little ways south of Ada, Oklahoma,” and then I pause because there are a number of ways the conversation can go after that.

The person I am talking to can say “Oh” and then say nothing. This means they don’t know where that is and don’t particularly want to know. They also know—or think they do—that I am a hick who has to describe where he’s from in terms of a town they’ve never heard of. This happens mainly with our brothers one of the coasts.

Then there are the folks who say, “Ada! Well, gaaaw—lee my Great Aunt Begonia goes to Ada to have her corns sanded and her bunions buffed. I know it like the back of my hand. Have you been there since they started working on the bypass?” and so forth. The conversation with these people typically goes on for a long time, and I make a new friend.

And then there are the folks who say, “Where is Ada?”

And I tell them. You cut Oklahoma into quarters by I-40 going east and west and I-35 going north and south. Then you take the southeast quarter and mark it like a tic-tac-toe board. Ada is in the middle square on the left hand side.

These folks walk away from me nodding as if they have learned something profound, so I usually stop there while I am ahead. I don’t go on to tell them that I am not really from Ada. Ada is where all the sophisticated folks lived when I was growing up.

What I don’t tell them is that about nine or ten (this is one word, by the way, pronounced as ninerten) miles south of Ada there is a place where the road dips and the speed limit is slowed to 45 miles per hour for the space of half a mile which is called Fittstown. I don’t tell them this because I am not from Fittstown either.

To the east of Fittstown about two miles there is a place where a gravel road crosses the blacktop road which is known to the locals as Harden City.
I am from just shy of a mile on east of there.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

There were quite a few of us at my high school that just lived out in the woods in places without a name attached. Some came from Fittstown or other where-was-that-we-just-passed-through places like Pontotoc or Connerville. Some even lived in suburbs of those places like Franks. But there were quite a few of us that just lived out in the country.

Somehow being from a place that is in some sense “no place” just makes it more precious to you. I think that is one reason I’ve felt such a strong connection to McLish High School, where I walked across the stage 25 years ago last month.

My brothers and sisters from that place are meeting for their biennial school reunion this week.

Graduating from there was a rare honor, one that was only given to 18 the year it happened to me. There have been 43 Presidents of the United States, but there were only 18 members of the McLish class of 1980. Which of those would you rather brag about?

I got a call from Susan Used-to-be-McElroy the other night to remind me about it. Sadly, I have a conflict and can’t make it. The event is likely to be a memorable one as it is the first reunion since McLish was forced to shut its doors.

I always like seeing the folks who attend as well. There is something about us that is different from any other type of folk I’ve seen. We’ve been given the gift of coming from a place that no one else has ever heard of and being in a school where you knew every one and had to try and get along with them whether you wanted to or not. It was like being a member of a family in that way.

Now that the school is closed there won’t be any new members of the family, and we’ll have to cherish each other all the more.

There is a lot to be gained from international travel, and I am a great believer in it as a means of broadening one’s horizons. It is good to have broad horizons, but it is also good to have a well-defined center. Those of us who are from “no place” have that.

In recent years, I’ve been to Warsaw, Madrid, Moscow, and London, and it was great. There are millions of people there, but hardly any of them have been to Fittstown, Harden City, or East Jesse—or Weir or Opolis or Chicopee for that matter. From what I’ve seen, I think it would do them a world of good.

(Bobby Winters is a professor of mathematics, writer, and speaker. “Will speak for food.” You may contact him at bobby@okieinexile.com or visit his website www.okieinexile.com.)
LOL, reminds me of John Updike's (sp) A&P. Similar vein. Good piece.


There is a lot to be gained from international travel, and I am a great believer in it as a means of broadening one’s horizons. It is good to have broad horizons, but it is also good to have a well-defined center. Those of us who are from “no place” have that.

this is true Oakie. travel is a real education.
i have only been to Canada & a couple of cities in Mexico.I have been in every state except for the little ones in the NE, and New York.
I enjoyed the writing this time a lot too. I also want to say, from my travels, my visit to Oklahoma, especially Oklahoma City, was by far the friendliest of any U.S. city or state I have ever been to. I enjoyed the people there a lot.

I was so welcome there. The people smiled & were awesome by the way they speak the warmest hello. I also liked the way so many different freeways crossed there.

I have considered moving there because of these things.
but then I learned about the tornadoes:eek: . that still would not stop me from living there.