- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

SLAPOUT, Okla. (AP) - Slapout, population 8, is for sale. Not the entire town; just its business district.

“I’d like somebody local to buy the place,” said Brian Lopez, who operates High Plains Energy out of Garden City, Kansas. “Right now it’s out of the scope of my strategy.”

His business focuses on propane sales to the rural market. The Slapout store, which includes a retail shop and tire business, is his only Oklahoma property, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1QPgqCR ) reported. Lopez acquired the Slapout store nine years ago.

“The locals like the store, especially the tire shop, which came with it when we bought it,” Lopez said.

The iconic Oklahoma Panhandle location has been the butt of many jokes and a traditional pit stop for Oklahoma drivers going to and coming back from Colorado over the decades.

Lopez points to a state Transportation Department study that showed 2,100 vehicles pass the Slapout store on average each day. The store itself has food, soft drinks and cof?fee and the all-important restroom, while the tire shop attracts local farmers and passing truckers.

“The people who work for us are phenomenal,” Lopez said. Most are from farm houses within two miles of the store, with one employee driving in from Laverne just outside the Panhandle.

Lopez said he’s fielded of?fers from three potential buyers. Slapout, an unincorporated town, has eight residents, according to the 2010 census.

Slapout is just one of many Oklahoma businesses seemingly in the middle of nowhere that have been economically sustainable for decades becoming part of Oklahoma tradition and folklore. From the valleys of the Kiamichi Mountains to the High Plains of the Panhandle, the state is peppered with them.

They are a godsend for the traveler driving down a deserted road in the middle of the night far from any town only to have a tire blow out or the engine light come on or the needle on the gas gauge strike “E.”

Pack Saddle is nearly 20 miles south of Arnett in far western Oklahoma overlooking the bluf?fs of the Canadian River. Here Gen. George Custer left his supply train as he headed out for the Battle of the Washita. The name comes from having a barn for pack mules used to haul freight across the river before a bridge was built.

Of?f in a distant blue haze across the sagebrush, one can see the Antelope Hills where Comanche warriors and Texas Rangers battled it out in 1858.

Pack Saddle had been many things, including the Pack Saddle Grocery, when 73-year-old Buck Caldwell pulled over across the road from the abandoned structure to stretch his legs five years ago.

“I was staring at the old site, and it occurred to me it would be ideal for an eating place or a bar with the oil boom coming into this area,” Caldwell said.

Finding financing, he leveled the place - save for the cold storage section - and rebuilt it.

Under the stare of a longhorn mounted on one wall, Pack Saddle now has a full-service kitchen and full-service bar to handle a full room of patrons. It can be astonishing how many customers the Pack Saddle ends up with here in the middle of the sagebrush.

“We get oil-field workers, business from the local ranch families and hunters in all the time,” Caldwell said. Occasionally, he arranges for a band to play on weekends.

“Getting employees to drive all the way out here can be a problem, especially in winter,” Caldwell said. “But the tips are real good, and they make the drive out to work here. Overall though, this is a family operated business.”

Caldwell put in and is enlarging a patio. An elevator takes his cooks downstairs to a storage room dug into the bluf?f where Pack Saddle resides. He got the elevator at a bargain rate since it was a demonstrator model.

“Winters here are the hardest on me,” said Caldwell, who has transformed his of?fice into a mini-apartment with a private toilet so he doesn’t have to drive back to his ranch.

Valerie West is not so lucky. As manager of the Earheart store at the intersection of State Highways 51 and 74, which is 17 miles east of Hennessey, she’s been driving in from Bixby. Her parents have owned the store for nearly a decade after buying it from the Fuksa family.

“When we first started out here, getting stock for the store was an issue, but not anymore,” West said. “We have very little turnover in staff even though they’re driving in as far away as Enid to work here.”

But the Earhearts inherited what the Fuksas encountered when they had the store - the stranded motorist.

“We’ve had quite a few here,” West said. “The locals were very happy when we opened the tire shop next door.”

West said they do a tremendous amount of business on college game days since the store sits on the intersection for people going to either Stillwater or south for Norman. She said the store also does a large lunch business with its grill.

“A lot of people don’t know we have it, and they’re surprised when they come in as to the variety we of?fer.”

Misty Magnison, managing the Smok-Shack Bar-B-Que, in Ingersoll can relate to West’s stories of stranded motorists. Save for her eatery, Ingersoll is a ghost town along U.S. 64 north of Cherokee, and open until 10 p.m. every night. The place is surrounded by empty buildings.

“We get a knock on the door late at night every now and then with someone needing help,” Magnison said. Her mother, Debra Engle, had an old Pizza Hut building moved to the site in 1985 during an oil bust as a means of making ends meet.

“Most of our staf?f are from the college in Alva,” Magnison said. “But we’re right in the middle of a central area, and we do a very good business here.”

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com


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