OPINION

You'll find me trying to wash away a few years

Jim Redwine
Journal-Capital Columnist

According to Google Search (sounds like gospel to me), the Fountain of Youth is located in Osage County at latitude 36.6461942° north, longitude -96.097216° west, at an elevation 938 feet above sea level. To be more precise, Ponce de Leon Spring is at that location on the grounds of the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve.

Therefore, Gentle Reader, you can actually visit Osage County’s version of what people have vigilantly searched for since at least the days of Greek historian Herodotus (484 B.C.–425 B.C.), that is, the hope for eternal youth.

Woolaroc is a marvelous creation by oilman Frank Phillips, whose namesake Route 66 is America’s “Mother Road”. Phillips’ gift to the rest of us is an amazing, eclectic collection of animals, art and artifacts. It is also only seven miles from our home, JPeg Osage Ranch, so we get to enjoy it every time we drive along Oklahoma 123 between Bartlesville and Barnsdall. You can do the same thing almost every day; but during the summer the museum is closed on Mondays, and then in the winter it is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Woolaroc (woods, lakes and rocks) is one of Osage County’s greatest treasures. It is inexpensive to visit, easy to access and presents the viewer with a rare concentration of great Western art, such as original paintings by Charles Russell and Frederic Remington and original bronzes by Osage County’s own Jim Hamilton and John Free. However, for now let’s you and I return to the Fountain of Youth.

Juan Ponce de Leon (1474- 521) was born in Spain and spent his adult life pillaging the Caribbean for gold while using the indigenous Taino Indians for forced labor. There was some small measure of justice administered when in 1521 Ponce de Leon was shot in the thigh with an Indian arrow in Florida and languished in pain until his eventual death in Cuba. He claimed to be searching for what most people think was a mythical fountain of youth, reportedly because he was nearly 50 years old when he married a teenage girl.

In reality, it was not youth he was seeking but the location and plunder of Indian gold. I cannot advise on the efficacy of the Ponce de Leon Spring waters, as Peg and I have as yet not come across the proper procedure for gaining permission to access the spring. We hope to hear from the museum’s curator or maybe order some bottles online. Surely someone at Amazon is looking for a way to market such a valuable commodity. My guess is there may be a fairly substantial fee involved for what Mark Twain suggested would be the proper way aging should occur -- that is, starting at 80 years of age (we are getting there) and working backwards to 18 (there’s no harm in dreaming as even Merlin youthened instead of aging).

Apparently, the Spanish conquistadors were more interested in gold than youth, as such marauders as Ponce de Leon and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado (1541) spent what was left of their youth searching for Cibola, the fabled seven cities of gold, which were rumored to exist in southwestern America.

Unlike the French explorers, such as René La Salle (1682), Jean Baptiste de La Harpe (1718) and Claude Charles du Tiene (1719) who sought trade with the Native Americans in what became Oklahoma, the Spanish had less concern with Indian sensibilities. Fortunately, Spain sold its claims to raid the area to France’s Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800. Then, in 1803, Napoleon sold the entire Louisiana Purchase to the newly established United States of America for $15 million. This purchase included what is now named Ponce de Leon Spring almost next to our home.

So, if you will excuse me, I am going to see about getting permission for a quick soak to wash away a few years.