by Paul Goddard
McLoud, Oklahoma, was established on June 21, 1895. The town was named after John W. McLoud, a railroad attorney for the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway. It was settled by homesteaders who made the Kickapoo land run into Pottawatomie County on May 23, 1895. The following month, the first train passed through this new town on the 4th of July. It was a time of celebration, and a picnic was held in honor of the occasion.
The picnic became a yearly event. During the 1940’s, blackberries were a major cash crop in this area. There were many commercial growers, and they would pay pickers 3 cents a quart to pick the berries. Since the blackberry harvest was completed just before July 4th, the picnic was named “The McLoud Blackberry Festival.” One year, there were so many surplus berries that they were dumped into the North Canadian River. This stunt received national media attention and capitalizing on the coverage; the McLoud Blackberry Growers Association even sent a crate of the berries to President Harry Truman. McLoud, Oklahoma, was now known as the “Blackberry Capital of the World.”
In the Spring of 1968, when my family moved to McLoud, a faded sign still stood on the west side of town proclaiming, “Blackberry Capital of the World.” With much anticipation, I could not wait for the Blackberry Festival. I pictured truck loads of free berries. Much to my surprise, I was very disappointed that I could not find one single blackberry at the festival. I asked an elderly gentleman, “Where are all of the berries?” He replied, “Blackberries are no longer grown in McLoud. The growers association disbanded in the late 1950’s.” I was in shock! “McLoud is the blackberry capital of the world, this is the McLoud Blackberry Festival, and there are no berries? Why?” He replied, “Well, you see son; it is hot in July, the vines have thorns, and the chiggers get under your skin. No one wants to pick berries.”
McLoud still claims to be the blackberry capital of the world, but it is just that in name only. This reminds me of some who meet together on Sundays to spread the Gospel. The time is set, the sign is up, and everyone is excited; but the gospel is only shared with those attending the celebration (Matthew 9:35-38). Sharing the gospel is not easy. It is hard work, and we have to go outside the building to find the harvest (Romans 1:13-17). Some days will be long and hot. Some days people will stick us with harsh words, and they will get under our skin. Christian, are you up for the task?
“Of one the Lord has made the race,
Thro’ one has come the fall;
Where sin has gone must go His grace:
The Gospel is for all.” J.M. McCaleb
by Paul Goddard