We got to have a final visit with our friends Dave and Susie Smeal this past weekend. They came to our rig and hung out with us for a few hours, chatting and talking about the countdown to the time when they will become full time RVers, like us. It's always great to see them during our time in Oklahoma.
We also got to see some of our RV Women pals from the area. We last saw them during the RVW National Conference in Gillette, WY last summer. We went out to dinner at an area restaurant and had a good time catching up.
On Saturday we went to an 89ers parade in Lexington, OK. I guess many communities have these. They are celebrations that mark the great land rush in Oklahoma where people staked their claim to land for a homestead. Folks, like the ones in this wagon, in search of making a new life for themselves and their families. There were a lot of entries like this in the parade. I guess that there are actual clubs where these folks go out "camping" together in the wilderness. Talk about boondocking.....this is one of the earliest forms of that. There were bucket seats, that had come from a car, in some of these so the driving arrangement was a little more comfy than back in the homesteading days. You gotta improvise !
We also got to take a tour of the Braum's manufacturing facility in Tuttle, OK. They have a 500,000 square foot processing plant, warehouse and bakery facility on 10,000 acres. I don't remember how many cows they have at this facility but they did say that there are 50 calves born DAILY at the facility and we could see the thousands of calf hutches lined up near the facility. All of the cows are in an indoor area, with each cow having a cubicle of space to hang out in until the trolley takes them to the milking parlor (I would think the exercise would do them good to walk to the parlor but what do I know). There is another farm located on the border between Texas and Oklahoma that has a dairy herd and 24,000 acres that is used to grow alfalfa for the herds. In the video we watched, this other farm lets their cows graze most of the time, as opposed to the Tuttle farm where they seem to spend most of the time indoors. There are over 300 Braum's stores, in five states. William and Mary Braum still live on the farm. William is 85 and still involved in the daily operations of the farm, although Drew Braum, the son,is the main overseer of the business now.
I must say that I wasn't very impressed with our tour guide. She had just returned from vacation and was either really distracted, by the work waiting for her on her desk, or she's just a lousy tour guide. We had several elderly people in the tour and it wasn't until we had climbed the first flight of steps that she said to the elderly couple, "Oh, we do have an elevator" but made no effort to show them where it was so they could utilize it. At the end of the tour, when we returned to the office and sat eating an ice cream bar, she said " This is the time when I usually sit and chat with you but since I've been on vacation for the last six days, I've got a huge pile of papers on my desk. When you're ready for your cookie, come to the door and see me but don't eat your cookie inside the building." Apparently her work was more important than delivering good customer service. She was also very abrupt and annoyed if anyone got ahead of her on the tour route. In my mind, she's not the person that should be the face of Braum's. While their operation is huge and impressive in some regards, I'm not a fan of cows being kept indoors and not allowed to do what ruminant animals are intended to do...graze for grass OUTDOORS. The video showed all the fancy grains they are fed and the specialty mixes of roasted soybeans, etc. but when someone asked the tour guide what they do with the "mistakes" on the production line in the bakery, she said they grind it up and mix it in the cow feed. Hmmm, that sounds like a natural part of a cows diet....ice cream cones, cookies, bread and muffins.
Braum's only builds stores within 300 miles of the production facility so that items can be delivered fresh to the stores every other day. They'll never become a national brand for that fact (so she said). They employ 9000 employees for the whole chain...the production facility has 500 employees. If you're interested in taking the free tour, call several days in advance. They give 3 tours a day but it can take them several days to get back to you to schedule it. I don't have as big a warm and fuzzy feeling about the banana splits we've consumed over the last 10 days as I did before learning more about Braum's. It will be a great deterrent when I get the urge for more ice cream. Yea Braum's !