NBC’s Today Show ran a segment on it this morning 9-21-15, and HBO’s “The Vice” are running their documentary on his visit this Sunday. The links are below.
NBC Today Show Video on Vice Episode and El Reno Correctional Facility: http://www.today.com/news/take-exclusive-look-president-obamas-visit-federal-prison-t45186
The Edge of Nowhere and El Reno, OK
For some people, home is a specific location. It’s the place you grew up. It’s the backyard where you and your best friend pitched a tent every summer. Or maybe it’s a favorite climbing tree or the lake where you caught your first fish. For me, home is about those places, of course, but it’s also the people. It’s the police officers who treat me as an old friend only because they had my father as a teacher some forty years ago. It’s the editor of the local newspaper who still remembers a 16-year-old me and promptly answers an e-mail asking for a “favor,” even though he’s not seen or heard from me in nearly thirty years. It’s the town mayor who answers a general “shout out” to everyone on Facebook for help relating to the town. We’ve not talked in 25 years, but his response is to send a personal message asking, “What can I do to help?” and then doesn’t hesitate to say “yes” to whatever the request, so long as it’s within his abilities to provide. For me, home is certainly the location; but, more than that, it’s the people – the people of El Reno, Oklahoma.
My debut novel, The Edge of Nowhere, is set in El Reno – a town of roughly 18,000 people and located about twenty miles west of Oklahoma City. This is no mistake or accidental act. When I sat down to write my novel, it never occurred to me to set it anywhere else. Before the first words ever hit the page, I knew without any doubt that it must be set in El Reno – not so much because of the town, but because of the history and the people who make up the town. El Reno is home,
The Edge of Nowhere is a novel inspired by the experiences of my grandmother, who was widowed at age 28 and raised a combined fourteen children and stepchildren in the midst of the worst disaster to ever hit American soil – the 1930s Dust Bowl. Though the story itself is a product of my imagination, many of the anecdotes contained within are based upon family stories passed down from my father’s generation. Many of these stories took place in El Reno, or very nearby in the surrounding towns, and the same families who lived there and farmed the land during the era my book is set are still there, farming those same lands by newer generations. They’re a resilient people, taking hardship in stride and always lending a hand to a neighbor in need. It’s just what they do.
El Reno is the definition of a small town. It’s not really a place that people move to; rather, it’s a place you go back to because the values taught there haven’t changed since it was settled with the first of the 1889 Land Runs. It’s a town where most people know each other, or at least know people in common. And it’s a town where people come together to help each other at the slightest hint of need. It’s a friendly town, embracing newcomers into their inner circle of friends. El Reno residents – and Oklahomans in general – don’t know a stranger. It’s no secret that I’m very proud of my home and the people who live there.
Last week, I was especially proud as El Reno played host to the first sitting president to ever visit a federal prison. As part of his reform message, President Barack Obama met with prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institution – a medium security prison in El Reno. Whatever your political leanings, there can be no doubt that it is a huge honor for a small town to welcome a sitting president, and El Reno did exactly that and with style.
Residents lined the streets and children waved flags larger than themselves in hopes of catching a glimpse of possibly the world’s most powerful man. All political agendas were left at home. El Reno hospitality would not allow for dissention. They were welcoming the President of the United States into their living room, so to speak, and anything other than a gracious welcome would be rude. Hospitality is ingrained into every resident, and that’s what President Obama received: Old Fashioned El Reno Hospitality.
I’m proud of my hometown and the people there. Though I’ve been transplanted in Minnesota for nearly 23 years, Oklahoma will always be home and El Reno will always hold my heart. Seeing my friends and neighbors represent our small town with such pride and respect, I’m doubly happy with my decision to set The Edge of Nowhere – a novel set in Oklahoma and about the Oklahoma resiliency – in the small town that embodies the values that my main character fought hard to instill in her children.
About the Author:
C.H. (Cathie) Armstrong is a 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Her debut novel, “The Edge of Nowhere,” will be released in January 2016 by Penner Publishing
Catherine Armstrong and Penner Publishing are happy to bring you The Edge of Nowhere releasing in early 2016. We could not be prouder of the wonderful story and the state of Oklahoma.