Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning

The Road from Tonkawa to Edmond and Back

Clifford & Maxine Plummer

Clif and I were raised on farms near Tonkawa. We attended the First Baptist Church. We graduated from Tonkawa High School. Clif went on to OBU and after I graduated from high school, we were married. We both felt God was calling us for some special work, which was to come to pass much later. Clif went into the service and I moved back with my folks until after World War II.

In 1956, we moved to Boys Ranch Town, feeling sure this was where God wanted us to be. We packed our personal clothes, TV and my sewing machine and moved to one room in the Johnson Building at BRT. John, our son, slept on a couch. He even had a little dog that he named Brownie, who became a pet to all the boys. John celebrated his 7th birthday just four days after we arrived at the Ranch. John says he remembers having to use a basketball to stand on to reach the drinking fountain. Several of the boys had to stand on a wooden coke box when they helped with the dishes.

We had a two-lane bowling alley that few people used, mainly because they had to have someone at the other end manually setting the pins and rolling the ball back to them.

Clif and John remember when a pond was dug down in the pasture by the farm house. It was called “The Blue Pond.” This pond was spring-fed and it had to be near 32 degrees, it felt that cold, even in the middle of the summer. They would all go haul hay, get hot and covered with chaff, then after unloading the last truck, they would head for the pond. Within a minute of diving in, they would be jumping out, trying to get warm. Part of the time, they went over to the Children’s Home in Oklahoma City. They had a big in-ground pool with a 12-foot diving board. No matter who you were, you weren’t much of a man if you didn’t at least jump off the high dive once.

During the 1960s, there were a number of fields which caught on fire during the summer drought. They would load the boys from the Ranch into a truck. They would fill our buckets with water and beat the fire with a wet gunny sack. Once they even made national news with several of the boys from the Ranch shown beating out the fire with their gunny sacks.

I was a cook when we first arrived at the Ranch, and then Clif and I were houseparents in Johnson and Gensman Cottages. The Ranch continued to grow and Clif and I moved to an apartment in the Howard Cottage. Clif became Program Director and I was Health Supervisor and Hostess. We did supply work, so the cook and houseparents could have time off.

As we moved from place to place, it was a different experience and responsibility. We took boys to the doctor, bought their clothes, made trips to Edmond to pick up boys who stayed out for sports or some special activity at school.

Buying their clothes was a very enjoyable job for me. It was great to see a boy proud of his new clothes or something he had not been able to have before. Clif always says, “a clean dressed-up boy can look in a mirror and like what he sees.”

One time Clif had a group of boys and they were to dig a ditch for a water line from the well house down to the Ag Barn. To decide how much each boy would have to dig, he had them lie down on the ground and measure how long they were and that is how far they had to dig. Clif is 6’3”, so guess who had the most to dig?

We enjoyed meeting the people who came from over the state to visit and to see what the Baptists of Oklahoma had at BRT.

We also took the boys to Falls Creek several times and to Kiamichi Baptist Camp Ground near Talihini.

When school started in the Fall, it took all the staff working together to get everyone ready for that first day--getting new clothes, books, school supplies and seeing that each boy got to the right school. They always went to several grade schools, mid-high, junior high and high school. Also, some boys went to special-learning classes at the college.

After the bus pulled out with everyone on board, you would think it was time for you to catch your breath, but for the cook, it was time to think of what she would have for the evening meal and the housemother to start the wash and get things ready for 16 boys to pick up when they got home.

Christmas was such a fun time. Some of the boys had church sponsors who would send them a gift. Santa Claus also gave each boy a gift. The Ranch also bought each boy a gift. Each boy had the same number of gifts.

When the Administration Building was built, we moved there and lived there for 13 years. Clif and I shared an office.

After being at BRT for 26 years, we thought it was time to retire. We started making plans. We bought a home in Tonkawa and the last of September, 1982, we moved back to Tonkawa. Things had changed in Tonkawa. Our parents were deceased, but we had brothers and other family and lots of friends who still lived there. We miss Edmond and return as often as we can.

Since we have retired, we spent seven summers in Buena Vista, Colorado, and loved it. We keep busy in the church. We also return to Denver, Colorado, as often as we can since that is where John, Angie, Aaron, Jeff and Chris live.

We love to return to Homecoming at Boys Ranch Town on Labor Day on odd-numbered years. It is gratifying to have reunion with so many of “our boys” who are now grown and bring their wives and children to Homecoming. It is rewarding to sense their pride in their families, their jobs, and to hear them reminisce about their days at the Ranch.

We are very proud to have been a part of the program at Boys Ranch Town which enabled so many boys to grow in self-esteem, character, citizenship, education and in their relationship to Jesus Christ. For 26 years we saw hundreds of boys turn their lives around to the point of achieving a sense of self-fulfillment and happiness.

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