In the last post we reviewed the Marion County stamp story and I introduced you to Alex Case and his family. It was June of 1993 and my article in The American Revenuer had just come out. Kay and I were visiting her mother in Stacy, Minnesota – located about 40 miles north of Minneapolis. Her mom lived in a house on one of Minnesota’s many (10,000?) beautiful lakes, Martin Lake.
It started out as a low-key, relaxing vacation; spending time with Kay’s family and friends, taking lots of long walks, boating, windsurfing and checking out the many great antique shops that could be found throughout the Twin Cities at that point in time.
Would You Like to Walk Around the Lake?
I was pretty excited about the Marion County article and had brought along a bunch of extra copies for Kay’s relatives and my own friends in the area that I expected to see. I was rereading it late one night and woke up with a great idea.
After breakfast I asked Kay if she would like to take a walk around the lake. Her mom’s house was on Martin Lake but other relatives and friends lived on different lakes and so she said, “Sure, which lake should we walk around?” She was clearly not expecting my reply, “Marion County Lake!”
She blurted out, “What? Are you crazy? How far is that from here?” Having made the trip from Stacy a few times before, by myself, I knew exactly how far it was. I told her it was about eight or nine hours (600 miles) via I-35 South. She had a blank look on her face.
Then I pointed out that I often stopped in to see Jerry Koepp in Des Moines, Iowa and that was about half way and we could spend the night there if she wanted. She was not very impressed. Sensing this was not going well, I searched my brain for a bargaining chip. I remembered that we had been talking about going to Tulsa, Oklahoma, together for a while and suggested we could turn it into a several day trip and also visit the Philbrook Art Museum.
Kay knew the Philbrook is a world famous museum staged throughout the expansive former home of Waite Phillips – of Phillips Oil fame. It is a mediterranean villa, a masterpiece really, with magnificent gardens and a great cafe (see Figure 1). It is located in a ridiculously upscale Tulsa neighborhood consisting of wide tree-lined streets and numerous other mansions built by the oil barons in Tulsa’s golden age – before the oil companies moved to Texas. Another great place to walk around.
But the big draw (and my big carrot) was that among their collections, the Philbrook displayed some of the most beautiful objects of Native American art in the country – and west coast Indian basketry was our number one collecting passion in the early 1990s. We had both seen the pictures in books – the Philbrook had had some beauties. I could tell by the expression on her face that I had just hit one out of the park; “O.K., if you take me out to a good dinner in Tulsa”.
Stamps ‘N Stuff
My friend Jerry Keopp has operated Stamps “N Stuff (now Coins, Stamps “N Stuff) for decades in Des Moines, Iowa. Jerry has always been a good source of fish and game stamps and licenses for me, especially those issued in Iowa and the surrounding states. It’s not that Jerry gets a lot of fish and game “stuff” because he specializes in them – it’s that he gets a lot of everything.
We planned to leave the next day, right after an early lunch so that we could get to Stamps ‘N Stuff before they closed – then get up early the next morning so that we could make it to Marion in time for a picnic lunch at the lake. I gave Jerry a call and told him we would be coming by the next day. He then told me he had just got some early Nebraska hunting and fishing licenses into the shop – something else to look forward to.
When we arrived I told Kay I probably would not be long, so she elected to stay in the car and read a magazine. After Jerry greeted me, he turned around to pick up a large envelope and placed it on the counter in front of me. I pulled out a stack of Nebraska licenses, which is one of my favorite states to collect. At the top were dozens from the 1950s – 1980s with a variety of pheasant and quail, upland, habitat and federal waterfowl stamps affixed (see Figure 2).
There were several in very nice condition, so I set those aside. Then I was pleasantly surprised to find several pictorial Nebraska Licenses to Fish and Hunt from the 1910s. The condition was mixed but there was a beautiful example of the popular 1913 license that featured a mallard in flight. It was the booklet type – difficult to find in any condition and a real prize for my collection (see Figure 3).
After going through his Iowa trout stamps and finding a few for my own stock, I settled up with Jerry. Then Kay and I grabbed a bite to eat before checking into our motel. I don’t know about Kay – but I was excited for the next day!
Kay Visits Marion County Lake
We managed to get up early, eat and be on the road by 7:30 the next morning – no small feat when you are on vacation and away from your two year old. I did my best not to speed while Kay slept and we pulled into Marion at 12:30. We picked up some sandwiches, chips and macaroni salad and then I drove straight out to the lake (see Figure 4).
After living through many years of preparation and a great deal of time with me being away from home, Kay had recently read the finished article. Today she was finally going to meet my mistress – Marion County Park and Lake! I enjoy walking around the lake for many reasons – it is “just the right sized adventure” taking somewhat over an hour depending on your pace; it is normally very serene and has a palpable calming effect and, most importantly, there is such incredible history as it regards our hobby – literally around every bend!
Our first stop was the Park and Lake Office. This was truly hallowed ground – the site where Jerry and Verona Mulliken and John Waner had once worked. I told Kay that this is where Jerry Mulliken personally sold all 60 of the 1943 Marion County Duck stamps – the first stamps in the world to bear that inscription (see Figure 5).
For all the years I visited Marion County, Dale Snelling was the Park and Lake Superintendent. Dale was of great assistance to me in locating leads for stamps and licenses and he was a wealth of information. It was Dale that had pointed out John Waner’s house to me on one of my previous trips. It was located on the other side of the lake from the office. I introduced Kay to Dale and gave him a copy of the article. After chatting for a while we continued on our journey. The next stop would be one of the charming “shelters”, whose predominant feature was a large, concrete picnic table where we could eat our lunch and enjoy the view (see Figure 6).
After a leisurely lunch, we walking on for about 20 more minutes until I stopped before a stone house built at the top of the lake. I told Kay it was the Mulliken house, where Jerry and Verona had lived. Then I pointed to the curb in front of the house and explained this is where the boxes containing their old licenses and stamps, invaluable artifacts from the lake’s glory days, had been piled up by their relatives when cleaning out the house in 1992.
Apparently unaware of their significance, they had intended for the boxes to be picked up and taken to a land refill. I explained how fortunate it was for our hobby that Jerry and Verona’s ex caretaker had spotted them and taken them home with her, to keep as mementos – and, in the process, saved them from destruction (see Figure 7).
We continued to enjoy our walk around the lake for another 20 minutes or so until I stopped in front of John Waner’s house. I retold the story of the day I knocked on John’s door and introduced myself. He had invited me in and later showed me a box of his old licenses and stamps that he saved. I told Kay that when I got to the bottom of box, it was difficult for me to keep my emotions in check as I uncovered some of the most incredible usages in fish and game philately (see Figure 8).
After finishing our walk around the lake, we drove back into town and parked in front of Case & Sons Insurance. Here I introduced Kay to Alex and Casey and we had a nice chat before Alex had to excuse himself for an appointment. Before we left I gave him a copy of the article and then Kay and I headed off for Tulsa.
The Philbrook Museum of Art
If you ever get to Tulsa, The Philbrook is a real treat – even if you don’t care that much about art. The objects are housed in a fabulous Italian Renaissance villa that was built by Oklahoma oil pioneer Waite Phillips and his wife Genevieve. Construction began in 1926 and when it was finished, the mansion featured 72 rooms decorated with travertine and marble fireplaces and fountains, floors of teak, walnut and oak and ornate ceilings reminiscent of Italian villas.
The museum is surrounded by 25 acres of gardens inspired by those found at Villa Lante, near Viterbo in central Italy (50 miles north of Rome). As I said earlier, the adjoining neighborhood is beautiful as well, so plenty of opportunities for nice walks.
The main attraction for Kay and I was some of their incredible Indian baskets, woven by master weavers in the western part of the U.S. during the early part of the 20th century. I will show a few examples and tell a little about them.
The first is a relatively large coiled bowl, woven by a member of the Pomo Tribe in northern California, just north of where Kay And I live in Santa Rosa. The basket was created between 1900 and 1920 and measures 5.25 x 12.5 inches. The Pomo were well known for weaving feathers from various birds, as well as discs carved from clam shells and pendants carved from abalone shells into their works of art. The basket at the Philbrook features clamshell discs, redheaded woodpecker feathers and quail topknots (see Figure 9).
The next basket was created by Louisa Keyser of the Washoe Tribe which inhabited the area around Lake Tahoe. The weaver, better known as Dat So La Lee, is responsible for some of the greatest masterpieces in the field of Native American art. The basket at the Philbrook is arguably the best of the best and Kay and I just stood there – mesmerized – for a long time.
It is a coiled piece measuring 12 x 16.25 inches and the stitching was done with willow (the creamy color), redbud (red) and bracken fern (black). Note how the design harmoniously blends into the form of the vessel. She accomplished this by gradually increasing the size of the motifs until she reached the widest point, then gradually decreasing their size as she approached the top or rim of the basket (see Figure 10).
The final piece I would like to share is, in our minds the most impressive of the three. It was created by Sarah Hunter of the Panamint Tribe which inhabited the area of southern California along the Arizona border and on into Arizona, itself. After white contact, the Panamint weavers began to create baskets for collectors, often on a commission basis. They often wove various animals and birds into their designs and these pictorial baskets remain very popular with collectors today.
A relatively modest sized Panamint pictorial basket is often amazing to behold; the Philbrook basket includes Big Horn sheep, deer and birds in trees – and measures 8.25 x 23.5 inches. Yes, the basket is two feet across! Really incredible (see Figure 11).
After getting our fix, we walked around the gardens and then had a nice lunch in the cafe – which consisted of a lot of basket talk. Then we walked around the neighborhood and it was one of the nicest we had experienced by that point in our lives. While on our walk we met and chatted with a woman who informed us that Tulsa had another great art museum that might be of interest, the Gilchrist.
We drove across the city and spent the afternoon wandering through the “World’s largest, most comprehensive collection of the American West”. There were also many paintings by John James Audubon, which we enjoyed (see Figure 12).
By this point we had done a lot of walking and were getting pretty hungry. I had promised Kay a good dinner in Tulsa and so we asked the women at the information booth for a recommendation. All three of them agreed that a good choice would be a Tex-Mex restaurant located just a few minutes from the museum. The name of the restaurant was Cafe Ole.
The Decision at Cafe Ole
It had been a special day and, despite all of the walking, Kay and I were feeling almost euphoric – she was glad she came! Cafe Ole turned out to be another pleasant surprise. A rather unpretentious dining establishment that opened in 1987 (still open and now a fixture on Brookside), it served up some of the best Tex-Mex food Kay and I have ever had to this day – and we live in California, where there is no shortage of great Mexican food. After asking the waiter for recommendations, we both ordered the Stacked Blue Corn Enchiladas and a beer (see Figure 13).
Kind of like Mexican lasagna, it had layers of black beens, green chiles, cheeses, sour cream and a spicy Chili Colorado sauce – Yum! It melted in our mouths and left us wanting more. I ordered the Key Lime Pie for desert, while Kay went for the Brownie Ole – and we each ordered another beer. Within no time we were both feeling pretty happy.
We sat there, eating and drinking for a couple of hours and the conversation ran from the baskets to the gardens and the neighborhood mansions to the Audubon’s and delicious enchiladas. Eventually, we got around to talking about Marion County and the good fortune that I had often enjoyed there.
At this point I brought up something that I really was not planning to do, although it had been in the back of my mind ever since we left Stacy. I told Kay that for years I had been aware Oklahoma had issued a wide variety of non pictorial fish and game stamps. I knew this because I had some pretty interesting combination usages in my collection (see Figure 14).
I also told her that I had made many attempts over the years, both over the phone and in person, at trying to find someone at the Oklahoma Department of Conservation who would sell me some unused examples – to no avail. I was always told the same thing, “We don’t sell those to collectors, only the pictorial waterfowl stamp”.
Since they only sold their non pictorial stamps to sportsmen, fish and game collectors didn’t have a very good idea of all the different kinds of stamps Oklahoma printed and issued on a yearly basis. For all we knew, they issued something really unusual – or even unique.
After discussing this for a while, she asked me where their offices were located and I told her they were in Oklahoma City, another hour and a half south. Then she told me that if I wanted to try again, she would come with me. By this point in our lives we were aware that (for whatever reason) people were sometimes willing to sell us things when Kay was along – but not when I was by myself.
At first I did not think it would be a good use of our time. It would add another day onto our trip, another night in a motel and I knew that the same License Supervisor would be waiting there for us that had told me “No” so many times before. However, we were both feeling pretty good that day and started to talk about the times we had success together. Several indian baskets came to mind as we had just been to the Philbrook. No doubt helped along by the great food (and the beer) at Cafe Ole – we decide to drive down to Oklahoma city and give it a another try, together.
Getting Our Minds Blown in OKC
Early the next morning we got up and drove down to Oklahoma City. When we arrived at the Department of Conservation, Kay came inside with me. At the License Section, I walked up to the counter and Kay sat down on a bench not far away.
I explained who I was to the clerk and asked if it was possible for her to sell me some of the non pictorial stamps. She replied “I’m sorry, we do not sell those to collectors”. Then she reached into a drawer and pulled out a partial book of the current pictorial waterfowl stamps…
Now, for the moment of truth. I politely told her that I did not need any more of those and asked if I could speak to her supervisor. After a few minutes the same woman came out that I had spoken to on several previous occasions. As she walked up to the counter, I watched her look over toward the bench and exchange smiles with Kay.
I asked how she had been doing and chatted for a few minutes, told her we were in the area and asked if she might allow me to purchase some of the non pictorial stamps. Before she could say no, I handed her a copy of the Marion County article and told her that I had begun writing serious articles about our country’s various fish and game stamps, in addition to exhibiting portions of my collection. I conveyed my sincere desire to one day document Oklahoma’s non pictorial stamps for philately.
After studying the article for a while, she looked toward Kay and smiled again. Then, without actually committing, she asked the clerk to show me the stamps. The clerk reached into the same drawer, pulled out a manila folder, placed it on the counter – and opened it to reveal the arcane stamps that Oklahoma required fishermen and hunters to purchase and affix to their license.
By their colors, I saw there were quite a number of different stamps, in vertical panes. I asked the License Supervisor if I could buy one pane of of each and she asked me why I needed that many stamps. I told her that I would someday like to document the pane format and explained that collectors were very interested in that kind of information. She said, “No, I don’t think I can do that.”
I was starting to get nervous – so close but yet so far. She looked at the article some more and then said to the clerk, “You can let him purchase one of each stamp.” Then she put the Revenuer on the counter, turned, and walked back into her office before I could even thank her.
How about that? I began to go through the panes of stamps and asked the clerk if she would please cut me an example from the top corner. If I couldn’t purchase a complete pane, then at least I would obtain some of the additional printed information. After about 10 minutes I was holding a pane of Non Resident Raccoon, Bobcat and Gray Fox stamps in my hand (see Figure 15).
Holy Cow! I couldn’t believe it. Shades of the iconic Iowa Non Resident Raccoon Stamps, last issued in 1984 (see Figure 16).
Over the years, I told a few friends about the non resident stamp and then included it in Killer Two. In fact, there were actually two Raccoon, Bobcat and Gray Fox Stamps – one for non residents and one for residents (see Figure 17).
When we got back home, I looked through my collection of Oklahoma hunting and fishing licenses and found Oklahoma issued paper licenses for a Bobcat, Raccoon and Gray Fox Special Season prior to adopting adhesive stamps in 1984 (see Figure 17).
All told, I was able to purchase an example of 11 different Oklahoma fish and game stamps used during the 1993-94 seasons. To see all of the stamps, click here. In addition, I worked up the nerve to knock on the License Supervisor’s door and ask if I could please purchase one sheet of trout stamps, as trout stamps were my big passion at the time. She looked up, smiled at me and said “Sure, go ahead.” I made sure to thank her this time.
So now, in addition to being able to show you an Oklahoma non pictorial stamp year set – I am able to show you the the pane format as well (see Figure 18).
I hope you enjoyed this story. I want to thank Jerry and Verona Mulliken, Joe Brandt, John Waner, Dale Snelling, Alex (Junior) and Jean Case, Phyllis Melton and Jerry Koepp for making all of this possible. Casey Case for contributing his dad’s service record, checking my facts and providing the photos of his parents and his own thrilling fishing anecdote and, especially, my wonderful wife Kay – for always being there for me.