Eagle Park and Other Legends
I grew up along the banks of Cache Creek and Rock Creek just outside of Cache, Oklahoma and many of those summers I spent time with friends fishing and swimming in the runoff waters that flowed out of the Wichita Mountains. We would catch grasshoppers and dig up a few worms to bait a hook while the spring waters still flowed down the sandy bottom. Then Summer would come and the creek would dry up some years leaving a sandy ribbon of dead carp.
Those were quite memorable days and I explored Cache Creek on foot and on the back of my dirt bike light enough to slide under barbed wire fences until I discovered a shortcut through the brush down Cache Creek to take me to Eagle Park. I can remember when there weren’t houses all up and down both sides of the creek in what is now called Rock Creek Estates. By foot, I’d cross the old train bridge looking, listening both ways before I embarked or by way of motorbike I’d ride beneath the graffiti painted trestle.
Then just off the bank at the edge of the trees was the Eagle Park Skating Rink. The kids from town packed the place and there I would go to spend a few of my quarters to play some pinball. I remember the extra-wide Superman machine we would try to beat on warm summer evenings before I made my trip back home before it got too dark.
Then Labor Day weekend came, school was back in, temperatures settled down a bit, and we had the Cache Frontier Days celebration. There was an outdoor carnival with a buffalo chip throwing contest that my dad won three times. The climax of the day was the western shootout outfitted with a quick vigilante trial and a fine hanging. Night would come and there would be the rodeo and a dance afterward.
These young ones growing up today probably don’t have any sense of the community that Cache, Oklahoma once was. It was put on the map by men of old such as Chief Quanah Parker and Frank Rush. Quanah built his famous Star House in the 1890’s. Parker was quite a popular man in those days and was a friend of President Theodore Roosevelt who made a trip to the area to meet Quanah and another friend, U.S. Marshall Jack Abernathy back in 1910. Old Jack would hunt wolves on horseback and catch them with his bare hands and thus the president arranged a wolf hunt near Frederick. During the same period of time, Jack’s young sons made their legendary journey alone to Washington D.C. on horseback to meet Roosevelt then drove a car back home–before there were highways.
Later Frank Rush built Craterville Park just north of Cache near Quanah’s home in 1924 (thirteen years after the death of Parker). Both of these men helped bring the Indian and white communities together through their efforts to form one fine little town. There was an All-Indian Fair at Craterville that was the front runner of the modern Indian Exposition seen today that exists in Anadarko. The agreement for the fair between Frank and the Indian tribes was drawn up on a tanned buckskin and it drew people from all over to attend this unique festival. Will Rogers even made the trip to see the sight.
Frank was involved in promoting rodeo as a sport during his life and while he was in charge of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, he was instrumental in bringing buffalo back to the plains. Frank was a champion of western heritage for both the cowboy and the Indian.
During the cold war that ramped up in the 1950’s, Fort Sill expanded and took the land that Craterville sat upon nestled in the foothills of the Wichita Mountains as well as the land the Star House sat upon. Craterville relocated north of Altus near Lugert then faded into oblivion.
Shortly afterward, Eagle Park was opened on the nothwest side of Cache on the beautiful banks of Cache Creek amid towering pecan trees. There were rides, miniature golf, bumper cars, a skating rink, a reptile house with even alligators, and a nice little rodeo arena where the Cache FFA organization sponsored an annual event. In addition, historical houses and buildings were brought in to be saved for future generations to appreciate including Quanah Parker’s Star House and Frank James’ Fletcher farm home.
Eagle Park endured decades providing entertainment for the citizens of Cache and the surrounding communities. In the early ’80’s, Lawton convinced Cache to allow the Lawton Chili Cookoff to move to Eagle Park and merge with Cache’s Western Days celebration. It was great for a couple of years. More people came and the concerts drew names such as Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn.
It seemed good for a time but it soon became evident that this was no longer a Cache Community event. You had all sorts of people you never saw showing up and the place got rowdier and finally when Lawton decided to call it quits, the community event was left gutted. Around the same time frame, the man who really made Eagle Park go was ‘ol Wayne Gibson. He was a man with a great vision and was a hard worker. He put many hours into making the family business a success and a great place for all us Cache folks to enjoy. With the aftermath of the vacated chili cookoff and the untimely death of Mr. Gibson, Eagle Park and the Cache community was left with a huge void–Cache would never be the same again. This is not meant to sound as if present Cache is bad, just that it is not the same for those of us who grew up there.
It was no one’s fault, Cache was just a victim of some untimely and tragic events amid an era of changing demographics of an evolving small town. To top off the 1900’s, in the final years of the century, the old skating rink along with the bumper cars the Ghost Mine ride caught fire and burned to the ground like a symbol of fading legends.
The nineties began some booming times for Cache but the old community was gone for the most part with new faces and housing developments popping up all around. Many of the great original folks were still there but something was missing–something we may never get back. Oh well, I suppose times change and you have to move on and start new legends with different folks to carry the mantle into the 21st century but this video brought back some old memories for me.