Little Tom and Fats: Tales of Early-Day Oklahoma Around Ripley, By Alvan L. Mitchell
1983 [ISBN: 0-91350-700-8; 260 pages; 5 ½ x 8 ½ inch; soft cover] $19.95
A series of tales about two adventurous boys and their friends and families in and around Ripley, Oklahoma, during early statehood days, Little Toni and Fats brings a colorful past to life. The boys roamed on foot, on horse, and on mule throughout the Ripley Bluff area where Little Tom’s father homesteaded and where his Sooner grandfather (one of several “Berry Brothers” who held a land- lease from the government in the Cherokee Strip) had an outpost before the Run of 1889.
The boys went where Indians held their dances and pow wows, where Doolins and Daltons once “hid out,” where “possom and pole cat hunting was best,” and where strange things happened at Ghost Hollow. They walked up and down the railroad track between Mehan and Ripley, and sometimes ran across the long and oftimes frightening railroad bridge.
This book, with its names of real people and places and events that actually happened, dramatically portrays the life-style, the innermost thou the humor, and the pathos of people who lived out their destinies along the sand-barred Cimarron, where the fragrance of lush, green cedar trees was nearly everywhere.
The book preserves a lovingly nostalgic record of most any young town U.S.A. in the early 20th Century. It fills the void usually left by academic historians and genealogists.
For people who lived in the period of history covered by the book, these stories will bring back nostalgic memories. For the present generation, the stories may elicit surprise that so much pleasure could be had without television, radio, picture shows, or video games.
Early-day Ripley, with its town- building railroad and its high hopes of becoming a leading city in the new state, characterizes a part of Oklahoma’s heritage that is rapidly fading. Fat’s book is a concrete reminder of a past to be cherished and will keep Ripley’s memory alive forever.
Alvan L. Mitchell, formerly of Ripley, was the real-life Fats in his book. Ultimately living in California, Mitchell was the author of technical manuals and articles, various trade brochures, short stories, two books, and a newspaper column, “The Red Baron.” As a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, he wrote the manual used by the air force for shipping air freight.