Monday 15 September 2008

Hats off in Oklahoma

Contrasting styles from neighbouring states. Oklahoma is famous for oil and gave its name to a musical. Arkansas has yet to be honoured with a musical but it is the home state of Bill Clinton. The Oklahoma City Rangers have a louche and carefree air about them that contrasts with the sober suited donkey riders of Hot Springs. Hats stay firmly clamped on Arkansas heads while in Oklahoma they are launched to the sky in a gesture of jaunty exuberance. It’s not clear whether the Oklahoma City Rangers have some law enforcement functions or whether their role is purely ceremonial but they have the swagger of Western Swing about them. There’s only one smile in Hot Springs – it belongs to the man in the middle of the card. On closer examination it turns out that not everyone in Hot Springs is mounted on a donkey – the rider on the extreme right has an alternative quadruped for reasons that are unexplained. Hot Springs has a chequered history. Originally developed as a citadel of cleanliness with thermal springs, it later declined into a cesspool of crime when gambling became established. Al Capone was a visitor to Hot Springs in the 1930’s and was photographed wearing a cowboy hat and mounted on a donkey, neatly combining aspects of both these postcards.

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