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Spring Edition 2021

In s i de sto ries

Hilfiger family finds a new home in a familiar neighborhood Stewarts have the best of two worlds on an 11-acre spread Hammons seemed destined to move into a traditional house A 1970s house undergoes spacious, functional updates

MUSKOGEE muskogeephoenix.com

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Spring Edition 2021 Issue 57

Publisher Ed Choate


Editor Elizabeth Ridenour

Contributing editor Angela Jackson

Layout & Design Joshua Cagle WRITER Cathy Spaulding PHOTOGRAPHERS Mandy Corbell, John Hasler, Cathy Spaulding, Ronn Rowland ADVERTISING SALES Angela Jackson, Therese Lewis, Krysta Aich, Kris Hight Green Country Living is published by the Muskogee Phoenix. Contents of the magazine are by the Muskogee Phoenix. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior consent of the Muskogee Phoenix. Green Country Living, P.O. Box 1968, Muskogee OK 74402. email eridenour@muskogeephoenix.com - Editorial: (918) 684-2929 Advertising and distribution: (918) 684-2804

On the Cover


Spring Edition 2021

Featured Homes

4 Hammons Couple starts married life in a traditional home.

14 Hilfiger Family finds new beginning in a Colonial style home.


Renovate & Restore Country Club home gets 21st Century update.

34 Stewart Country spread offers a peaceful space.

44 Cook’s Pantry Meat pies, fry bread and red hominy honors Native traditions.


Spring Edition 2021

Photo by Mandy Corbell



52 Scene & Be Seen Chat, have fun and relax because you’re on camera.

Hilfiger family finds a new home in a familiar neighborhood Stewarts have the best of two worlds on an 11-acre spread Hammons seemed destined to move into a traditional house A 1970s house undergoes spacious, functional updates

The Hilfiger family — from left, Roger, Alice, Amber, Millie and Ben — pause under a shady oak tree in front of their new home. Ben Hilfiger grew up in the Country Club area.

MUSKOGEE muskogeephoenix.com

Green Country Living


Fe at u r e d Hom e H a mmons

Dream home in the making Couple starts married life in ‘Candy Cane Lane’ home


t t or ne y J oh n Tyler Hammons and his new bride, Courtney Burden Hammons, are starting a their married life in a home that John Tyler seemed drawn to since he was a child. He said the

three-bedroom house was built in 1988, the same year he was born. He recalled being dazzled by the neighborhood Christmas lights. “As a kid, this was always Candy Cane Lane,” he said. “I always adored coming down here on holidays.”

By Cathy Spaulding • Photos by Mandy Corbell


Spring Edition 2021

Courtney and John Tyler Hammons seemed destined to live in this home within walking distance of Civitan Park.

Green Country Living


Fe at u r e d Hom e H a mmons John Tyler said he and Courtney are Cherokee, and the house is in the Cherokee Nation. “So that’s important just for our culture,” he said. Also, former Congressman Dan Boren had lived in that very house years earlier. “For a politician, that’s an important sign,” said John Tyler, a former Muskogee mayor. “There’s a lot of good political history in this house, so that should be good tidings.” Courtney, originally from Jenks, is a stenographer for the Cherokee Nation. They moved into the house on Nov. 16. “Statehood Day,” John Tyler said. They moved in just in time to take part in the Candy Cane Lane tradition. Every homeowner has passed down the candy cane lights, he said. The holidays weren’t the only thing that kept the new homeowners busy those first few weeks. “There were a lot of earth tones before, a lot of reds, a lot of wallpaper,” John Tyler said. They removed old wallpaper, then

John Tyler and Courtney Hammons rest in their back yard with their golden doodle, Roman. Another pup is on the way.

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Spring Edition 2021

Strings of lights, a stone outdoor kitchen and a cozy fire pit accent the Hammons’ back porch. The back yard also has a pool.

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Fe at u r e d Hom e H a mmons

An open kitchen welcomes human — and canine — diners with soft, traditional colors.

spent the first month resurfacing and painting the walls. “It totally tested our patience, but it made us better for it,” he said. Resurfacing took some practice. “You get stucco and just go with no particular pattern,” John Tyler said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s not difficult.” They painted the walls in SherwinWilliams Agreeable Gray paint from Lowe’s. Throughout the house, white, turquoise and blue accent the gray walls.


Spring Edition 2021

They also replaced brass door hinges with dark gray ones to contrast with the white doors. “We’re traditionalists,” John Tyler said. “We’re also very minimalist. We thought these were beautiful colors without adding too much. And she adores turquoise.” They didn’t have to splurge to decorate their house. In the entry, a beige chair came from Walls Bargain Center. They got other items from Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and flea markets.

Courtney repainted a fireplace screen she found at a consignment shop. “It’s cheap,” she said. “I’m cheap.” “Economical,” John Tyler said. Courtney bought a $25 living room coffee table from Facebook Marketplace and repainted it. She and John Tyler “freshened up” other things in the living room, including a white wood fireplace frame and mantle. They bought much of the new furniture, including a beige couch and chaise lounge, through a family friend, John

Traditional decor in gray, tan, turquoise and blue make the Hammons living room inviting and comfortable.

Green Country Living


Fe at u r e d Hom e H a mmons

Law books and personal heirlooms fill shelves in John Tyler Hammons’ home office.

Tyler said. Courtney said she got the blue Persianprint living room rug through Amazon. The Hammons’ dogs are not overlooked. A tiny teepee for the couple’s miniature goldendoodle, Roman, is in one corner beside a cozy tent for the new dog, Pearl. On the other side of the entry, John


Spring Edition 2021

Tyler’s home law office features natural wood wainscoting, shades and builtin bookcases. The bookcase surrounds French doors and display some law books, as well as mementos such as a letter from a high school teacher, his grandfather’s bank nameplate and the nameplate he had as Muskogee mayor. The office rug came from Lowe’s. A

world map in blue and turquoise, which came from Walls Bargain Center, hangs on an office wall. A couple from Oklahoma City gave him his white desk, he said. The cozy kitchen features granite countertops and a stainless steel double sink. A row of sink faucets feature a spray faucet, cold water dispenser, a hot water

The Hammons repainted tile around their master bathtub and got new flooring and fixtures.

dispenser and a soap spout. John Tyler said he’s the cook in the family. “I made her a deal. I would learn to cook anything she wants, as long as she doesn’t get mad if I buy a $300 stand mixer,” he said. The mixer ended up being a wedding gift.

The master bedroom has a ceiling fan, a wall mounted fireplace and its own back patio. The Hammons repainted the tile around the whirlpool bath. “Here’s where we did the most work,” John Tyler said. “It was an off-yellow and we wanted a bright white.” They laid the bathroom’s patterned

vinyl floor and got new sink, tub and shower fixtures. A second bathroom also has new floor and new fixtures. The Hammons are still pondering how to use the other two bedrooms. Exercise room? Children’s rooms? Raising a family is what John Tyler said he desires most in the house. Two

Green Country Living


Fe at u r e d Hom e H a mmons

A wall map in John Tyler Hammons’ home office shows the world in blue tones.


Spring Edition 2021

children seem ideal. The backyard, with lots of patio space and an in-ground pool, offers all sorts of possibilities for entertaining or relaxing. The Hammons plan to turn a shed into a pool house. A back gate opens onto a threeminute walk to Civitan Park. The stone outdoor kitchen, with a smoker and sink, surrounds a cozy conversation area. The wraparound outdoor couch surrounds a fire pit. A ceiling mounted projector shows movies on a pull-down screen. John Tyler said he especially likes the strings of lights that criss-cross overhead. The yard offers a view of the OG&E plant and the Braggs mountains. “This is where we sit and enjoy,” he said. “We love sitting out here in the evening. It’s a gorgeous view, it’s quiet. Everyone who has come out here at night has said ‘oh my gosh, it’s unbelievable.”

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Green Country Living


Homeowner Spotlight Hilfiger

No place like home Muskogee native moves family back to familiar area


colonial-style, Country Club area house seems ready to welcome Ben and Amber Hilfiger and their three children. Three towering oaks and a fragrant magnolia tree frame the front yard. The back

yard blooms with red and white azaleas. “It’s just a classic home,” Ben said. Ben’s no stranger to the area. He recalled growing up in the Honor Heights neighborhood, but having “a ton of friends in Country Club.”

By Cathy Spaulding • Photos by Mandy Corbell


Spring Edition 2021

The Hilfiger family — from left, Alice, Amber, Roger, Ben (holding Roger) and Millie — pause under a shady oak tree in front of their new home. Ben Hilfiger grew up in the Country Club area.

Green Country Living


Homeowner Spotlight Hilfiger

Together time is the best time for the Hilfiger family — from left, Roger, Amber, Millie and Ben, holding Alice.

Funding provided by Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. Administration and Center of Substance Abuse Prevention


Spring Edition 2021

A back yard blooming with azaleas and other flowers await the Hilfiger family at their new home.

The 1998 Muskogee High school graduate said his parents graduated from Central High School. His father, Roger Hilfiger, is a longtime Muskogee attorney. Ben recalls choosing another path. He eventually went to work doing title work for an oil and gas company and moved to Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, Amber grew up in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton and earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. She became a consultant for a medical device company. A running event brought them together. “Amber lived in Austin. I lived in Oklahoma City,” Ben Hilfiger recalled. “A friend of mine went down to Austin to run a marathon.” The friend’s cousin set up a singles dinner at an Austin chop house. “That’s where we met,” Ben said. Two days later, they ran a halfmarathon. Three months later, they were engaged, he said. They got married in January 2015. Soon afterward, Ben was forced to shift careers. “In 2015-16 the oil market dropped and all of us land men got laid off,” he said. Ben chose to move to New Orleans and attend law school. “I knew I wanted to work for myself, work for my dad,” Ben said. “And I always loved it here.” He said he debated between New Orleans and Muskogee, and his hometown won out. “I graduated May 10, or whatever it was and we moved the following Monday,” he said. “It’s closer to family, friends. It’s home,” he said. In 2018, Ben returned to Muskogee after 21 years. It seemed unchanged that time,

Green Country Living


Homeowner Spotlight Hilfiger The Hilfiger’s new home features a white pergola that matches their house’s Colonial style.

he said. “It still felt comfortable,” Ben said. “I was excited when I came back. Excited to see people that I had seen once every couple of years, now I’d see them regularly. I love the familiarity of Muskogee, I love the town itself. I love the people I get to run into.” Amber said she felt at home, even as a newcomer. “I’d go to the store from day one and run into people I knew, or who would know me and recognize me,” she said. “There’s something about the small town feel of Muskogee.” In fact, Amber said Muskogee wasn’t that much of a culture shock from the larger cities. “Carrollton’s big and you’ve got the big Metroplex of Dallas,” she said. “I like having close small networks of friends. So in Austin, I had friends from college who moved to Austin after me and friends from high school. I had people from Carrollton and people from New Orleans. We had our small little clique. So I guess it kind of feels the same. I made my own little small world.” Amber said she managed to keep her job with the medical device company and works remotely. “Technically, I work for myself doing the same thing, but I also work for the company,” she said. The Hilfigers spent the past two years renting a house Ben’s sister owns. His parents are in the same neighborhood. “We both had been living in towns without our family there since we left for college,” he said. “And then to come back and be


Spring Edition 2021


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three blocks from your family is pretty cool.” The Hilfigers say the Muskogee area has lots to offer them and their three children — Millie, 5; Alice, 3; Roger, 1. The girls attend Learning Tree Preschool, which Ben said he attended about 38 years ago. The girls love going to Honor Heights Park. “They call it ‘the butterfly park’” Amber said. “They like the big toy that’s there. We’ll go into the Papilion and the children’s area.” Ben and Amber Hilfiger are on the Friends of Honor Heights board. “I help out there to get people to the park more,” Ben said. “The park has a lot of character. It’s a huge part of the city.” It helps to be active in the community. “There is such a united community of people here who like to do events,” Ben said. “You can’t help but meet people around the

Irises add pops of purple behind the Hilfiger’s new home.

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Green Country Living


Homeowner Spotlight Hilfiger


Spring Edition 2021

TOP: Ben and Amber Hilfiger love taking their children — Roger, Alice and Millie — to Honor Heights Park’s Papilion . BOTTOM: The Hilfigers take a break by an Honor Heights Park tulip bed.

LEFT: A circular driveway and tall oak trees greet visitors to the Hilfiger’s new Colonial style home.

Green Country Living


Homeowner Spotlight Hilfiger

Alice Hilfiger, 3, finds a pretty place to take a picture of her big sister, Millie, 5, at Honor Heights Park’s Papilion.

town.” They spend summer weekends at the family cabin on the Barren Fork Creek. Ben said Lafitte, their Cocker spaniel, loves getting off his leash and running around out there. The Hilfigers also love hiking at state parks. They’ve been to Eufaula, Greenleaf, Tenkiller and Sequoyah state parks. “We’ve only been to a couple more

than once. We just kind of throw a dart and go,” Ben said. “We really don’t do anything when we go out there, just walk around, look at everything. Always real pretty.” After two years in the rent house, the Hilfigers are ready to sink roots into their new home. Amber recalled loving it at first sight. “We’re both kind of drawn to older

styles,” Amber said. “A month before it went up for sale, I remember driving past the house. We put an offer on it the day after it went on the market.” Ben looks back on the friends he had in the neighborhood. He said he sees the potential that the friends their children make now “will be the same ones they’re friends with in 40 years.”

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Green Country Living


R e n ovat e & R e s to r e W hi ta k e r

A lime washing brightened a 1970’s era house in the Country Club area. Even more updates are inside.


Spring Edition 2021

Wiping out the

’70s feel Clearing out the ’70s with upgrades, redesign


ulie and Les Whitaker knocked out 1970s leftovers to create a spacious update for a Country Club area home. “We wanted the house to be open and spacious because one of the selling points to me was the open, beautiful backyard,” Julie

Whitaker said. “Once it had that open feel with the French doors going out, I just wanted you to feel that open feeling.” She also aims for functionality in her redesigns. “I want it to look beautiful, but I also want it to be the most functional space,” she said.

By Cathy Spaulding • Photos by Mandy Corbell

Green Country Living


R e novate & r e s tor e Buch a n a n Julie and Les Whitaker worked together to bring a 1970s era house into the 21st Century.

The Whitakers bought the house as an investment property in April 2020 to flip, update and remodel. She said she designed the remodel, and Les Whitaker was the architect and engineer. They recently sold the remodeled house. “I’ve been flipping houses since 2004,” said Julie Whitaker, who moved to Muskogee five years ago. She said the four-bedroom house showed great potential when they bought it, but it had not been updated since it was built in 1975. “Not an issue with the house,” she said. “Solid foundation, good bones, great structure, solid everything. It just needed to be cosmetically updated.” The red brick exterior underwent a lime washing, which Whitaker said is a treatment to help brick breathe. “Brick is a porous product,” she said. “You allow the brick to breathe, you

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Spring Edition 2021

ABOVE: White oak floors and a vaulted ceiling add a sense of openness to the living room/ kitchen area.

LEFT: The kitchen island opens onto the living room, which features two doors to the back yard.

Green Country Living


R e novate & r e s tor e Buch a n a n The kitchen has been opened up and features white quartz countertops, versatile ovens and stainless steel appliances.

allow it to have resistance to mold and mildew and it’s a lifetime warranty.” Concrete front steps were broadened across the front porch. Inside, the house had a galley kitchen immediately beside the entry, and a wall separated the kitchen from the family room. “The 1970s cabinets were knocked out and custom cabinets were put up,” Whitaker said. “We just wanted to give it that spacious feel, especially with the vaulted ceilings in the living room.” The vaulted ceiling is accented by a 27-foot wood beam that came from an old


Spring Edition 2021

Tulsa warehouse, Whitaker said. “They tore down an old, old building and we salvaged it as a historic piece,” she said. “We used part of the beam to make the fireplace mantle, so it’s got a little piece of Tulsa.” The kitchen wall was replaced with a 10-foot long island, featuring white quartz countertops and a Whirlpool gas stove. The minimalist white kitchen also features a double farmhouse sink. Samsung ovens feature a digital Wi-Fi compatible convection/microwave combo on top. The bottom is a double oven with a removable platform. The platform allows the oven to

cook two things at different temperatures, Whitaker said. The Whitakers added larger, full-length bay windows to the breakfast area. “We wanted to bring in as much light into the space as possible,” Whitaker said. A narrow hall from the breakfast area to the garage was widened into a mudroom. Deep custom cabinets and shelves, as well as a bench, line one side of the mudroom. “This gives lots of extra storage for small appliances, blenders and pots,” she said. “It has adjustable shelving or you can add rods and make closets for jackets and winter clothes. Instead of a bench, you’ve got

ABOVE: A mud room offers plenty of space, shelves and storage, as well as a bench. LEFT: Full-sized bay windows bring the sunshine into the breakfast area.

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R e novate & r e s tor e Buch a n a n

ABOVE: Sliding barn doors open onto the master bath and walk-in closet.

A bathroom shower door opens both ways.

massive storage for anything. The mudroom’s other side has a pantry and a half bath. The half bath has a new vessel sink. The living room had a backyard door on one side of the fireplace. The Whitakers knocked out a bookcase on the other side and added a second backyard door. They German-schmeared the dark brick fireplace to whiten it. “You basically take a white mortar and you just wipe it off — wipe on, wipe off,” Whitaker said. French doors open onto what could be an office or a formal dining room. New lighting and door hardware throughout the house came from Garbe’s


Spring Edition 2021

Lighting and Home Accessories in Tulsa. The floors are 5-inch white oak. “It just brings back the nature and the natural look, instead of engineered hardwood,” Whitaker said. “I wanted to give it that modern farmhouse look.” Farmhouse doors open onto the master suite, which features his and her walk-in closets. The bathroom features Italian marble countertops. The shower features an overhead rain shower head, a spray hose and side showers. The shower bench is Italian marble. “It’s got nine different settings,” Whitaker said. “Is that not luxury?” A 70-inch-long freestanding tub features

LEFT: White vanity cabinets with a vessel sink, plus a standalone tub add elegance to the master bath.

a faucet and spray hose. Another bedroom has its own threequarter bath, allowing it to be used as a mother-in-law suite or an Airbnb apartment, Whitaker said. The bedroom has its own small patio. Imbedded flagstone paths lead to the front drive and the back deck. Bedroom doors were heightened from six to eight feet. All bedrooms have remote control ceiling fans. One bathroom features a jacuzzi whirlpool tub with black marble niches. A redwood deck in the backyard came with the house. The Whitakers covered a lower patio with an inlaid redwood ceiling. The ample backyard has space for a swimming pool.

Green Country Living


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Spring Edition 2021

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Fe at u r e d Hom e S t e wa rt

A rustic, broad front porch and Tudorstyle trim on garage doors accent Candace and David’s in-town/country home just south of the Arkansas River.


Spring Edition 2021

Town and country:

Best of both worlds

Couple adds features to home to meet their needs Optometrist Candace Stewart says her house on the north tip of the River Oaks addition offers the best of both worlds. Her husband, David Stewart, said it has “the convenience of town and country.” “You get the privacy of a country setting on 11-plus acres,” Candace said. “You

can sit outside, you can’t hear anything but birds.” The yard spreads from Country Club Drive to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property along the Arkansas River. A pond is off to one side. Flagstone steps lead to a porch that stretches across the front of the Texas limestone house.

By Cathy Spaulding • Photos by John Hasler

Green Country Living


Fe at u r e d Hom e S t e wa rt

Candace and David Stewart say they have the best of both worlds in their 11-acre spread.
















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David Stewart has a comfortable view of his big screen TV in the spacious living room.

When Candace and David Stewart moved there 12 years ago, the house oozed with Southwest style. They kept some rustic southwest touches, such as the antler chandeliers in the entry and dining rooms. They also kept the office’s knotty pine paneling, but had it glazed to give it a more formal, less yellow look. David, a retired electrician with OG&E, made the stained glass window over the office entry. He also crafted the wrought iron banisters that go up the entry room steps and throughout the house, plus other

adornments. The first story has a hickory wood floor throughout. The living room’s limestone fireplace matches the exterior stonework. Candace said the fireplace and window shades operate by remote control. The Stewarts redesigned the kitchen to have a big island. A sink on the island has a regular faucet, plus a smaller one that dispenses hot or cold drinking water. The main kitchen sink is a copper farmhouse sink. “Copper is so forgiving, because it’s

antibacterial,” Candace said. “It spots up, then it will tarnish right back to its original look.” A sunroom links the kitchen with a three-car garage the Stewarts built. The master bedroom is on the opposite end of the first floor. The Stewarts recently repainted the master bedroom and master bath in the same delicate pastel. The white tufted headboard, made by Thayer Upholstery, matches the bedroom’s delicate robin’s egg blue paint. “But the same color in the bathroom looks green,” Candace said.

Green Country Living


Fe at u r e d Hom e S t e wa rt

The open kitchen features several seating options.

Another antler chandelier lights the formal dining room.

An antler chandelier hangs in the entry.

The remodeled bathroom features a square free-standing tub and a spacious walk-in shower. Both are new. Candace said the bathroom used to have a corner tub. The former shower area was changed into a toilet nook. The bath has heated floors. Cream-colored cabinets and drawers surround the walk-in closet. The cabinets reach the ceiling, but the Stewarts can pull down clothes rods that are too high. Candace said her favorite part is a fulllength mirror that covers her jewelry box. The closet has enough room for a leather bench.


Spring Edition 2021

The utility room has a sink and ample granite countertops. Down a few steps, the Stewarts converted a former garage into what Candace calls “an apartment.” It features a kitchenette with a sink. A toilet and shower are in a closet space. A Murphy bed pulls down from the wall. “My grandkids stay here now,” she said. “They’re 11 and 12, they don’t want to stay upstairs by themselves.” The Stewarts have two children and three grandchildren. A game room is above the apartment, in what Candace calls a mezzanine. It

features a shuffleboard table and bumper pool table. The second floor, a few steps up from the game room, has four bedrooms and two baths. One bedroom could be an elegant nursery with a wrought iron crib and matching daybed. Another bedroom has its own threequarter bath. The other two bedrooms are linked by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom. A second-floor balcony offers a view of the living room and its half-cathedral ceiling.

A hide rug adds a rustic touch to the elegant master bathroom.

Candace Stewart has a selection of jewelry behind a closet mirror.

A game room offers a variety of options for fun and refreshment.

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Fe at u r e d Hom e S t e wa rt Flagstone steps go down to the Stewart’s swimming pool.

ABOVE: A pergola keeps the outdoor kitchen cool. The kitchen is made of stonework.

A red easy chair and curtains add pop to a sunroom.


Spring Edition 2021

LEFT: One bedroom has a cozy corner for reading.

One of the Stewart’s four bedrooms features a luxurious bed.

The back porch sweeps behind the house and features a textured concrete floor. An outdoor kitchen, also made with limestone, features a smoker and farmhouse sink. David also made the back porch pergola, as well as the flagstone steps that lead down to the swimming pool. The Stewarts redid the swimming pool several years ago. It has fountains and waterfalls, plus, umbrellas shade a shallow area. “It’s a sun shelf, so you can sit chairs there, and put the bubblers on,” she said. A limestone cabana is by the pool. They keep their tractors and mowers in a 3,000-square-foot shop. Candace said her husband uses a brush hog for most of the back half and mows the front half. They also have a greenhouse and an area for chickens. Plenty of wildlife, including coyotes, come onto the property. The Arkansas River flows just beyond the Stewart’s backyard, but is concealed by trees. But that doesn’t keep the Stewarts from seeing the eagles that fly over the river. “One perched right on top of the pool house one day,” Candace said. “I hollered at Dave to come look at it. It looked almost fake with a bald eagle sitting by our pool.”

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Spring Edition 2021

Green Country Living


On The Menu Guide to Area Restaurants

Food & Drink Cook’s Pantry

‘Amazing women’

foster passion for cooking


arah Megan Kelley cherishes the culinary heritage handed down from her elders. “I love to cook because I was taught by amazing women who had a passion for cooking for their family,” Kelley said. “My grandmother, Sarah Shimoon Kelley, cooked all her life, so I got to learn how she cooked delicious southern comfort foods, and my mom’s traditional Osage foods.” She said she learned to make

Osage meat pies from her aunt, Frances Overly Holding. Sarah Megan Kelley comes from a rich multicultural background that also reaches to Persia and Ireland. She said her great-grandfather, Givergous “George” Shimoon Sr., married a Cherokee woman and inherited a 100-acre allotment by the Arkansas River southeast of Fort Gibson. He and his wife planted a 50-acre pecan orchard and grew turnips and squash, as well. Wild onions grow nearby.

By Cathy Spaulding • Photos by Von Castor


Spring Edition 2021

Sarah Megan Kelley pulls meat pies out of the oven. The pies also can be fried, but Kelley prefers baking.

Green Country Living


Food & Drink Cook’s Pantry

ABOVE: Sarah Megan Kelley takes pride in her family heritage, as seen through old photos.

LEFT: Sarah Megan Kelley mixes kidney suet into the ground beef to make meat pies.



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Spring Edition 2021



TOP LEFT & RIGHT: An old Native cookbook keeps recipes that Sarah Megan Kelley uses.

BOTTOM LEFT & RIGHT: It takes five or six hours of boiling to get the tiny red hominy kernels (right) to pop and soften to popcorn size.

Kelley said she learned how to cook lamb and Persian saffron rice, as well as prepare tabouleh and hummus, from that side of the family. “Mom’s side, that’s when I get the traditional Osage style, like the fry bread and the meat pies and the hominy,” Kelley said. Sarah’s mother, Margrett Oberly Kelley, recently helped her prepare a traditional Osage meal of meat pies, fry bread and red hominy.

They had to make a special trip to get red hominy, as well as the kidney suet for the meat pies. Kidney suet is the fat the comes from a cow’s kidney, Sarah Megan Kelley said, adding that she had to go to Wild Country meats in Cleveland for the suet. “This hominy came from a seed that my Aunt Frances had,” she said. “And she gave it to my cousin and he grew red corn hominy.”

When the red corn is ready to pick, it is dried, soaked in wood ash and dried again to become hominy, she said. It takes five or six hours of simmering for the tiny red kernels to expand to popcorn size. “If you want to speed it, you can soak them the night before in a half teaspoon of soda,” Margrett Oberly Kelley said. “Rinse them off before you cook them.”

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Food & Drink Cook’s Pantry Sarah Megan Kelley keeps modern Native art and traditional art in her home.

Sarah Megan Kelley uses a traditional recipe for the meat pies, which she pronounced in Osage “do-jou.” “Growing up, I always used to hear my grandma say ‘you gotta put a pinch of salt and a pinch of this,’ so there weren’t any measuring cups flying around,” she said. Still, she grew to know how much to use. Kelley slices across the suet and three pounds of ground beef and folds them together. This helps cut the suet clumps. Meat pies can be fried, but Kelley said she prefers baking them. The finished pies offer a rich, beefy taste. “When you eat a meat pie, you’re going to see some of the kidney suet in the meat pie,” she said. “You don’t have to use lip gloss after you eat the meat pie, because it’s going to moisturize your lips


Spring Edition 2021

Kidney suet adds texture and bulk to meat pies as it is mixed with ground beef.

TOP: To make authentic meat pies, Sarah Megan Kelley rolls out the dough. ABOVE: The ground beef and kidney suet mixture is spooned in the middle of rolled dough. RIGHT: The meat pie is folded into a square and securely patted.

& ASSOCIATES Green Country Living


Food & Drink Cook’s Pantry

Fry bread can be round or sliced into squares before frying.

Fry bread is turned in the lard when it starts bubbling around the edges..

Kidney suet moisture to the meat pies.

Meat pies are baked at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.


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Recipes Osage baked meat pies

Filling: 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef 1 table spoon salt 1 tablespoon black pepper 1/4 cup of kidney suet 1/4 cup water Meat pie dough mixture: 1 cup milk (2 percent is good to use) 2 tsp. baking powder 2 tablespoons shortening (lard) 2 cups all purpose flour 1 tsp. salt Cut up shortening with dry ingredients before adding milk. Roll out dough in a small ball enough for a small or medium size. Then get an ice cream scooper and get 1 scoop of ground beef placed on top of the rolled out dough. Mash down a little, then roll up like you would if you were to make a burrito. Fold the sides in and place on a baking sheet. If you use six ounces of meat on each meat pie you should get 8 to 10 meat pies from this recipe. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

with the kidney suet. If you had chapped lips before you will not have it after you eat the meat pie.” Kelley uses self-rising flour, whole milk and a tablespoon of sugar for her fry bread. She lets the dough rise for a couple of hours before rolling it out for

After they are cooked you can wrap them in aluminum foil to keep them warm before serving.

Fry bread

2 cups self-rising flour (Shawnee Mills or Gold Medal are perfect to use) 1 cup warm milk 1/2 cup water 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt On cutting board, cover with flour and dust rolling pin with flour so the dough doesn’t stick. Roll a small or medium size ball in your hand. Roll out on the cutting board with rolling pin. Heat 2 rounded ice cream scoops of shortening in an electric or cast iron skillet. Fill to medium. Then make sure your stove is set at medium high or on the electric skillet at 400 degrees. Place bread in skillet. You may poke a hole in the middle to let air get to it and once the bread is rising up turn it when you see the bottom is getting brown. It takes less than 30 seconds to fry one piece, so don’t let it cook

slicing. “It’s more light and fluffy,” she said. Instead of the round fry bread used with traditional Indian tacos, Osage fry bread is cut into rectangles, Kelley said. This enables people to dip the bread into the hominy or scoop the gravy.


for too long. When you take out the fry bread, place in a pan with paper towels to drain the grease. If you don’t have self-rising flour, you may use all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons baking powder. If you cannot digest milk, the bread can be made with water instead of milk.

Red corn hominy and pork

1 cup of dried red corn 1 package of pork spare ribs may be used with the bone or boneless. Brown the ribs in a skillet until there is no pink on top or bottom. After the pork ribs have browned, cut them in 1/2 inch squares then add them to a big pot that you will use to make the hominy in. Fill up a large pot with water and cook on high temperature for at least five hours until the corn has popped open the way popcorn would pop. For seasoning, you can use 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper. One cup of hominy can serve seven people.

She places the dough into the melted lard until the pieces start bubbling around the edges. They’re turned when the edges start turning brown. “They get billowy like clouds,” she said. “Fry bread goes great with a bowl of brown beans, pork and hominy or a nice bowl of chili.”

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BRIGHTER DAYS AHEAD When the storm clears, we will gather again. To hugs, to play, to laughter. Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and Resort Collection hotels and spas will be here to welcome you. Stay safe. rtjgolf.com


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Lankford meets with constituents U.S. Senator James Lankford discussed several issues with the Greater Muskogee Manufacturers Alliance and other groups. Photos by Cathy Spaulding

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Green Country Living — Spring Edition 2021  


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