Paoli, Oklahoma

Welcome to Paoli, OklahomaThirty-nine years ago today, I had one of the most frightening moments of my childhood. I had not yet turned twelve and was riding the Greyhound bus back to Dallas from Oklahoma City.

It was the day after Elvis Presley’s funeral, and I had the bright idea to get a newspaper. I wasn’t interested in reading the newspaper; I thought the paper detailing Elvis’ funeral would be a collector’s item one day.

Since I was traveling alone I rode in the front seat of the bus, opposite the driver. This was not the direct OKC-Dallas route, which I had taken on other occasions; this was the indirect, stop at countless places along the way to pick up and drop off riders. When we arrived at the Paoli stop, the driver announced that we would be stopping for a short break and asked if anyone wanted to get off. No one responded, and the driver proceeded to exit the bus and enter the mom and pop store, presumably to get a cold drink.

A few minutes after the driver exited the bus, I noticed the paper rack outside the store and it occurred to me to rush out and get a paper. Because he had already left the bus I didn’t tell the driver I was going inside, which turned out to be a big mistake. I jumped down from the steps of the bus and ran over to grab a paper and took it inside to pay. Somewhere along the way, the driver and I passed each other. But, I didn’t notice him and he apparently didn’t notice me.

As I was waiting in line to pay for my future treasure, I noticed the bus slowly pulling away from where I had left it. A feeling of horror washed over me as I realized I was being left behind, and I immediately burst into tears AND ran for the bus. (I don’t remember if I left the paper on the counter, or simply took it without paying.)

Thankfully, the bus was slow to gain speed. As it limped forward, I was able to catch it. And by catch it I mean I was able to run alongside it banging on the luggage doors, hoping the driver would hear me and stop. He did hear me, and he did stop. When he opened the door, I didn’t have a chance to be relieved before he started yelling at me. “Don’t ever get off my bus again without telling me!” he shouted. “Get in that seat and don’t get up again!” he added for good measure. Believe me, those thoughts had already crossed my mind, so he didn’t need to rub it in.

I was terrified that I almost missed the bus and embarrassed that the driver yelled at me in front of all the other passengers, but I was relieved to be on the bus and not left in the store in Paoli, Oklahoma … wherever that was, because I had no idea at the time.

It took me a while to stop crying and get a real sense of being okay, but I finally did. Though, I think I’ve been permanently marked by the event because I can’t pass the Paoli exit on I-35 without reliving that event.



Happy 17th Anniversary

On August 7, 1999, at the Temple Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, Colleen and I promised to take one another as partners in life, for the rest of our lives. Colleen’s brother Shannon walked her down the aisle and gave her away. She’s been mine ever sense, and I’m the better for it.

Craig and Colleen Dunning leaving their wedding reception on August 7, 1999.

Craig and Colleen Dunning leaving their wedding reception on August 7, 1999.

Old Faithful 1959

In this photo, Old Faithful erupts in August 1959.

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park in August 1959. (Photo: ©2016 Craig and Colleen Dunning)

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park in August 1959. (Photo: ©2016 Craig and Colleen Dunning)

Yellowstone Bears 1959

Recently we inherited a large cache of slides of Colleen’s grandparents’ travels in the 1950s-1970s. Not only did Urban and Sallie Childers have some really neat vacations, they left us with some really interesting photos.

One of my favorite places in the world is Yellowstone National Park, which I had the opportunity to visit in May 1996. I didn’t see any bears up close like the folks in this picture. I can’t even imagine people surrounding a mama bear and her cubs like this today.

A mama bear and her two cubs are surrounded by park visitors at Yellowstone National Park in August 1959.

A mama bear and her two cubs are surrounded by park visitors at Yellowstone National Park in August 1959.

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, TX

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April, 2016)

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

I learned to play golf at Sunset Golf Course, which sits just inside Grand Prairie’s eastern city limits. It was really convenient for me as a child, as it was (according to mapquest) less than 5 minutes from our mobile home park in west Dallas. I started playing there when I was about 9; my mom would drop me and a friend off for the day and then came back to get us when we were through.

Sunset was (and apparently remains) a simple course. And by simple, I mean “not flashy.” It has been billed as “a poor man’s golf club” or as a place for the “tennis shoe” crowd to play golf. This simplicity, I think, is what gave a kid like me the chance to learn the game. After paying the minimal green fee, I could play all day, repeating the 9-hole course as many times as I desired. It was not uncommon for us to play 36 holes before calling it quits. Interestingly, regardless of how many times we played the course, I never grew bored of it.

Hole number 9 at Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

Hole number 9 at Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

My favorite hole was #9, a par 3 over water to an elevated green. My least favorite hole was number 6, which was long and uninteresting. Number 7 was probably next on my least favorite list because the left side was woods into which I hit a lot of balls. I also found a lot of balls there because the casual nature of Sunset allowed me the opportunity to ball hawk. In those days, there was no course marshal to keep golfers moving along, so it wasn’t unusual for me to spend 20-30 minutes looking for balls in the woods, or in the water on numbers 8 and 9. I had no problem letting others play through, particularly if my ball bag was getting filled. On several occasions – long before recycling golf balls became big business – I spent a half hour or longer in the water feeling around for balls in the muck. The delay didn’t do anything for my golf rhythm, but it was fun and kept me from buying golf balls.

Holes 1, 5, and 9 surround the driving range, and I have to admit to grabbing a range ball here and there. I seem to remember actually going into the range to gather balls, too. Playing #3 on Saturdays and Sundays was always interesting because it was side-by-side with Yellow Belly Drag Strip. No amount of “quiet please” signs could mute the blaring music and roaring engines. You simply had to deal with the noise.

When I was about 11, a friend and I played 18 holes during the Thanksgiving holiday; it was 25 degrees. When I was in high school, my dad started to play golf and this is the course we most often played.

It’s been decades since I played at Sunset, but it remains embedded in my happy memories.

Here’s a blurb on the history Sunset Golf Course from the Golf 18 Network:

The original Sunset Golf Club was established in the 1930s. It was a Grand Prairie golf course at the corner of Cockrell Hill and Davis, and it was instantly a popular tee time for nearby Dallas golf lovers. The club moved to its current, picturesque setting in 1953, and it has been owned and operated by three generations of the Mims family, who have a long, rich history with the classic sport of golf. C.B. Mims was the architect and PGA professional at Sunset until he died in 1992 at age 75. C.B. played on the tour in the ‘40s and ‘50s, including in the 1941 U.S. Open and several times in the Dallas Open. His family’s continued dedication to the sport they love shows in the excellent quality of Sunset Golf Club.

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