What does the rest of the country think about Oklahoma in 2007? To answer this question, I recently completed an unofficial and unscientific survey of news stories about Oklahoma found in newspapers and broadcasts across the nation. My methodology was simple: I typed "Oklahoma" into a Google news search and read stories from non-Oklahoman sources.
Most of the reports were about football. According to the newspapers, Oklahoma has teams. Opinions vary about who will win what when.
Folks in the upper Midwest and Northeast were still talking about Oklahoma flooding and several dramatic rescues. In areas hit by the same storm system, our overabundance of rain had moved to the background, providing a basis of comparison for their own local misery.
Out west, nobody mentioned floods. In Los Angeles, Oklahoma was being touted as home for some members of Shiny Toy Guns, a rock band getting increasing attention by the trendy crowd. In Seattle, basketball fans were outraged with Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon, two of the original Oklahoma partners in ownership for the Seattle SuperSonics. Bennett has been watching possibilities for a deal that would provide a new arena for the team at Washington taxpayers' expense. In the meantime, McClendon was fined $250,000 by the NBA, apparently for suggesting that the ownership group wanted to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City in the first place. The fans evidently plan to stay mad for a while.
In science news, amateur astronomer Richard Smedley of Broken Arrow has been lauded for capturing photographs of "Gigantic Jets," rare electrical discharges that spew energy and spears of bright light from the tops of thunderstorms to the ionosphere, roughly 50 miles overhead. The phenomena have been recorded only 30 times, mostly over oceans, since their discovery in 2001.
Then, I found the news story that explains almost everything " except the West Coast, which often has no explanation: Marvel has brought back comic books featuring Thor, the Nordic god who doubles as a superhero. Furthermore, the Thor comics topped July sales to comic book stores, according to ICv2, an Internet business publication for pop-culture retailers. In the comic's new version, Thor's human persona happens to live in Oklahoma.
An "Immortal Thor of Asgard" Web site by fan Chris Vaughan offers a synopsis of the story in the current issue (Volume 3, No. 2; October 2007):
"In a diner, in a small town in Oklahoma, just west of Oklahoma City, Don Blake sits enjoying some griddle cakes. Bill tells him that this is a small town and they're happy to have him. Don then drives out to a deserted stretch of land, and changes to Thor. Using the power of Mjolnir, he whips up a massive storm. For the next week, this storm rages, no one daring to venture into it due to its intensity. When he's done, Asgard stands restored."
Wow! And that's just the beginning. Asgard, the beautiful home of all Norse gods and goddesses, is now somewhere in Oklahoma, thanks to superpowers and that massive storm.
Not one of the news stories I found mentioned the Dust Bowl. All it took to shake that unfortunate image was nearly 75 years, record rainfall from a massive storm and " maybe, just maybe " the Norse god of thunder.
Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Norman.