Following Woody by DeLoss McGraw Today I drove to Okemah for a little visit. Okemah is the town of my youth, and the home town of Woody Guthrie. I grew up with the knowledge that a great folk hero was from Okemah. My mother, who taught high school English told me that when she took the teaching position in Okemah in 1948 that she had planned on teaching Woody’s “Bound for Glory”. She taught the book one semester and then she had a citizen ask her to stop teaching the book for they knew Woody Guthrie and he was nothing but trash. When I was in junior high I read “Bound for Glory”. I didn’t recognize the town. The author referred to gangs roaming the hill and doing battle. We lived one block from what was referred to as the hill. At fourteen I worked several jobs in town and one job was at a gas station owned and operated by Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox knew Woody Guthrie and so I ask him about the gangs in Okemah. Mr. Fox just answered – “Woody couldn’t have whooped his way out of a paper sack.” With this information I started to Realize that perhaps authors exaggerated – oh, well. Last week I drove to Okemah and I made drawings of the house I grew-up in. This helped me to get on the right track – although I had not stuck Woody into a painting, as of yet. A few years back there was a house that Woody had lived in – as a child. The house was on the east side of the hill and vacant – this was during the 70’s and a lot of folks were traveling and stopping off in Okemah to see the house. Many wrote prayers and notes to Woody and then signed the walls – even “Rambling Jack Elliot”. I always stopped off when I was in Okemah to visit the house and then one day it wasn’t there. Someone in Okemah had torn the house down. I was told that the community was tired of having hippies stop in town – asking where the Woody house was. This memory allowed me to alter the painting “Fiddler on the Roof” after Chagall – the painting of a violinist who played the violin that no one in the town liked or understood his playing and they ask him to play on “top of the town” after Chagall’s “Fiddler on the Roof”. Well with all this information I had to change the painting idea. Most of this new information will not be on the paper but in my heart. That’s the way art works. I didn’t realize until today that the few little studies I made of Woody playing the fiddle were based on a photograph that I had used in an artist book – made twenty-five years ago. Mr. Logston from the University of Tulsa had given me a photograph of Woody with his hat cocked and legs crossed. I had been leaving the casually crossed legs out of the identity and the character of the artist. Today Okemah gives Woody a week long “Woody Festival”. Folk singers from all over the world come for one week and sing their hearts out. His name is written on the Grand water tower – towering over Okemah. He’s made it.