Wedged between Texas to the south and Kansas to the north, OKLAHOMA is more West than Midwest, where ranchers sport Stetsons, Native American tribes mingle with oilmen and locals say “fixin’ to” a whole lot. Created in 1907 and romanticized by Rodgers & Hammerstein in their first musical, Oklahoma!, the state was one of the hardest hit by Depression in the 1930s, encapsulated most famously in John Steinbeck’s novel (and John Ford’s film) The Grapes of Wrath, but also in Dorothea Lange’s haunting photos of itinerant families, and in the sad yet hopeful songs of local boy Woody Guthrie. Today the state is a solidly Republican, conservative stronghold, the “buckle” of the Bible belt, with a booming economy largely thanks to oil and gas.
For visitors the main draws are Americana-laced Route 66, great live music and a couple of dynamic cities; artsy Tulsa, in the hilly and wooded northeast, and the revitalized capital, Oklahoma City. The state also claims a large Native American population, with 39 sovereign tribes (there are no “reservations” here) – “oklahoma” is the Choctaw word for “red man” – and many of its towns host museums devoted to Native American history.