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Road Trip to Albany, Oklahoma, August 27

Headed out early from Norman, OK with Jeanetta & her son Michael down I-35 for awhile then on to more local roads, into the area known as "Little Dixie." We passed right through the area where the Depression-era photo was taken of Jeanetta's family, the photo that was used on the cover of her book, <i>Work is Love Made Visible</i> (West End Press, 2009), the same ridge along the horizon.

Entering Albany, we paused for pictures beneath the sign proclaiming Albany as "the boyhood home of state representative James Dunegan." Albany is about 2 miles from the Red River, that separates Oklahoma from Texas. Easily found the community center right along the road as it was gradually filling up with local civilians. Alas, most were not here to see the poets from Albany (& Chicago), but for "dinner" served 5 days a week at noon. We were given dinner, too -- chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, okra & tomotoes, also mac & cheese, beans, & peach cobbler at the end, with plenty of iced tea, or sweet tea. Mary, who grew up in the town, then went away for a while & moved back a number of years ago to live in the house that is the former hotel, served as our hostess, making us feel at home, even letting us into the lunch line (the women got their food first, then the men at the back of the line).

About a dozen people hung around for the reading, including one woman who is a student at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, whose professor, Ron Wallace had set us up with this gig (thanks Ron!). In our program we included a recording of Tom Nattell reading a poem, then a few of favorites, such as Charlie's "I-74 Street Corners of America" & "Manhattan Blue" & my poem about "Albany, KY" & "The Wall." We ended with the 3-voice "O Central Avenue," with Michael reading Tom's part. Actually, a quite appropriate replacement since Michael was born in Albany, NY almost 20 years ago (& I even baby-sat for him back in his early years).

Wandering over to the Post Office next door we found the notice about our reading posted on the wall, so we were literally on the wall of the Post Office. We mailed our postcards to ourselves -- the clerk had to look up the price since, as she told us, "I don't think I ever sold a postcard before." Unfortunately, these days the mail is all cancelled at regional processing centers & the clerk was not able to hand-cancel our postcards. Jeanetta took the obligatory photos of us to show which Albany it was.

A few more photos around town, such as it is, then the long road back. 5 more Albanys to go!

3 Guys from Albany visit Albany Wyoming -- May 4, 2009

We headed out to Albany #12, arrived there on May 4 -- Albany, Wyoming, our highest Albany yet, & perhaps the smallest. Southern Wyoming is desolate, windy & traffic-free. Albany is west of Laramie, up the Snowy Range mountains, almost at the end of the line. But there was a sign & the "Albany Lodge," & we read our poems there under the sign. Poet Jared Smith was our driver (& our host in his home in Lafayette, Colorado, with his wife Deborah & Heather, his daughter).

Our reading started with a recording of Tom Nattell reciting "Noreen Kaleeba", Dan did "Where Were the Professors" to introduce one Albany to another, then Charlie with "Growing up in Colorado..." & we ended with the ur-Albany poem "O Central Avenue," the 3-voice 3 Guys poem, with Jared ably sight-reading Tom's parts. It was a glorious moment in the muddy sunshine for another Albany on the all-Albany tour.

Back in the Albany Lodge we looked at historic pictures on the wall of mountain men floating railroad ties down the the creek & at old pictures of the Lodge in early years, as the Pine Bar. Our bartender, Lacy Langford, was related to most of the 14 others in the town & filled us in on the history as she knows it -- settled in 1886 as a railroad town, but she didn't know why it was named "Albany" (few folks know why their town is named what it is).

We checked this out the next day at the Albany County Public Library in Laramie (the county seat) & a helpful staff person named Stephen led us to a couple sources. The most useful was Wyoming Place Names by Mae Urbanek, Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1988 which indicated that the town of Albany was established in 1900 and named by railroad officials for the county. Albany County was created in 1868 by the Dakota legislature (which Wyoming was then a part of) from the larger Laramie County. Charles D. Bradley, a member of the Dakota legislature from Wyoming, worked for the new county, and named it for the capital city of New York, his native state.

Of particular note was that in 1910 Albany County elected Mary G. Bellamy as the first woman to serve in a state legislature. She went to Washington, D.C. in 1917 to represent Wyoming women in the national suffrage drive. The account claims she was the first woman Justice of the Peace in the world. It should also be noted that Wyoming was the first state in the union to have a woman governor.