Bill and Susan Dragoo and I had just started on our trip to drive the Trans-America Trail for our story in Oklahoma Today Magazine when we ran across the Buffington Hotel in Westville, Oklahoma. Not exactly the Ritz Carlton, although back in the early 1900’s the Buffington was quite a swank hotel for eastern Oklahoma it seems.
“We gotta stop!” I said to Bill over the walkie talkie.”
Bill had traveled with me enough to know that I like to stop at the craziest places to meet unusual people.
When I travel for a story, I love to stop and visit with local people. I feel this adds “color” to the travel story. I want to meet local folks, ask them questions about the history of the location, and hopefully photograph them for the story. Other photographers often ask me how I talk complete strangers into letting me take their photo. In simple terms, I just ask, although as most photographers know it is not quite that simple. I like to approach folks without my camera and talk to them first, find out about what they are doing, before asking if I can take a picture. Once approval is given then I go to my car or bike and grab a camera.
As we poked around the front of the old hotel in downtown Westville, an elderly gentleman in overalls stepped out and said “hi”. Bud Rose is the long time owner of the Buffington Hotel and after telling him about our story, he invited us inside.
The Buffington Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and Bud has the certificate certifying this designation. It seems Bud lives in the downstairs part of the hotel and has for some time. He is semi-retired. His buddies from around Westville stop by on a regular basis. On warm summer days they congregate outside under a “patio” to drink clear liquid from a mason jar and reminisce about old times. On cold rainy days, they move the party indoors around a big pot belly stove. Bud invited Bill to join him at the stove and partake of the clear liquid. Bill aat with Bud and talked a bit but passed on the unknown fire water in the mason jar.
Later Bud took us upstairs to explore the hotel – flashlight required.
You won’t find experiences like the touring the Buffington Hotel by flashlight in any travel guide! You gotta get out and talk to folks to discover hidden gems like this.