Issue 347 – Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

Issue 347     –     January 30, 2017

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Ree Drummond: “The Pioneer Woman”

 by Stan Paregien

Copyrighted Jan. 30, 2017

The lady now known as “The Pioneer Woman” was born Ann Marie Smith and nicknamed “Ree.” She grew up as a privileged kid, living with her parents in an upscale house in Bartlesville, Okla., near the 7th tee of an exclusive country club. In 1987 she graduated from Bartlesville High School. In 1991 she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in gerontology from the University of Southern California.

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So Ree Smith’s life was progressing right along a desirable path for a upper class lifestyle. Then Cupid forced her into a left turn up a country dirt road. That’s when she married a good ol’ boy, a hands-on rancher in nearby Pawhuska, Oklahoma by the name of Ladd Drummond. The result was that she became as comfortable in cowboy boots as she had been in high heels. She learned how to help deliver calves, how shovel manure out of stalls, how to rope a horse and how to cook meals cowboy style.

Ah, yes, that cooking thing.

Ree Smith Drummond had a natural talent for cooking and she began to share her recipes and experiences on her blog titled, “The Pioneer Woman: From Heels to Tractor Wheels.” Remember that degree of hers in gerontology? Initially she was a journalism major and she apparently took really good notes. Hundreds and then thousands of people—mostly ladies—sat up and paid attention. And it snowballed. By 2009, she was logging 13 million hits per month. Two years later her blog was receiving 23 million hits per month, with about 4 million being unique individuals. Amazing.

Also in 2009, Drummond saw the publication of her very first cookbook. It was titled, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.

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Of all things, in 2011 Ree switched to writing a children’s book featuring their own dog, Charlie. I don’t know, but the idea for writing about the family’s flop-earred companion may have come from the highly successful “Hank the Cowdog” series of books in which author John Erickson describes ranch life through the eyes of Hank. In any event, Charlie the Ranch Dog was a hit. And she has published several more since then.

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Also in 2011, her publisheR sorted through her blogs going back to 2007 and compiled them into a book titled, The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. It talked about food, of course, but it was mainly a lively revelation of how a city gal fell in love with a cowboy. And it jumped to Number 2 on the NY Times hardcover non-fiction list.

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Now, keep in mind that this jeans-clad cowboy was part of a well-to-do Drummond clan. He wasn’t exactly sleeping out in the bunkhouse with the hired hands when he met the redhead from Bartlesville. So when Rees and Ladd Drummond  honeymooned, they did it in style. They went to Australia.

Ladd Drummond’s ancestor, Frederick Drummond, immigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1884 at the age of 20. He promptly invested in a Texas cattle operation and, knowing nothing about the business, even more promptly lost his money. About 1886 young Fred, now a bit wiser, went to work as a trader (licensed by the U.S. Government). He got a job with the Osage Mercantile Company way out in the village of Pawhuska in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), right on the Osage tribe’s reservation. He sold or traded hundreds of Pendleton-brand blanets and other merchandise to the Osage.

Then love came calling and he married Ms. Adeline Gentner in 1890. They were frugal and saved enough money for Fred to puchase a partnership in the OMC. By 1904, he had stockpiled enough cash to starting his own outfil, The Hominy Trading Company, in the village of Hominy. In time he diversified into real estate, ranching and banking investments. And in 1905, Frederick Drummond built his dream home in Hominy, a Victorian style mansion that still stands today. It is now a museum operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society. It is located at 305 North Price Avenue in Hominy.

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Mrs. and Mrs. Fred Drummond had four children: R. C. (Cecil), F. G. (Gentner), Blanche, and A. A. (Jack). When the patriarch of the family died in 1913, the three Drummond sons went together and founded the Drummond Cattle Company.

Ladd Drummond attended Arizona State University, but he has made his living the hard way. Working the cattle and the land day after day, come rain, shine or snow. Here’s a photo of Ladd Drummond from back in 2011 when he competed in the Amarillo (TX) Range Rodeo with a team of cowboys from the Drummond Land & Cattle Company. They competed in several events, including Wild Cow Milking and Team Branding. Their team was the winner for the sixth consecutive year. And Ladd was chosen as “The Tough Hand” of the rodeo. Heck, no surprise there.

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Well, back to the Pioneer Woman.

Along came the year of 2012. In March of that year Ree published her second cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from My Frontier. While her first book was well-received, this one rang the bell so loudly no one could ignore it. That book hit Number 1 on the Non-Fiction list and stayed there, not just for a week or two but for months. Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching.

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In 2016, Ladd and Ree Drummond proudly opened the doors to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile (and restaurant, and bakery) on the main drag in Pawhuska. They bought the delapidated two-story building in 2011 and worked on remodeling it on a pay-as-you-go basis. Finally, after several years of starts and pauses they got ‘er done. And they did a magnificent job of turning an eye sore into a beautiful, modern place of business. Lots of business, believe me.

My wife Peggy and I went there with James and Glenda Cotton on Friday, January 27, 2017. We all spent quite a bit of time in the Mercantile, then we each had a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll at the bakery on the second floor of the building. Peggy and I got to meet Ladd Drummond and I took a photo of her with him. A few minutes later I was able to take several photos of Ree Drummond after she came out from an office to sign her book and was swamped by dozens of enthusiastic fans. 

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It has become the major tourist draw in that small town. People—yes, mostly ladies—flock there in droves. And on the mercantile floor they eagerly go elbow-to-elbow to select fairly high-end dishes, coffee cups, ball caps, books, sewing material and related items, aprons, rolling pins, and novelty items like Bison Lip Balm. Then they stand in a long line to pay out. And, what with all that hard work, they get in another line to eat at either the full-service restaurant or the bakery upstairs.

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So, there you have it. Ree Drummond zig-zagged to a career she never imagined. She is an award-winning blogger, a nationally recognized force in the book publishing industry, a host of her own wildly popular TV cooking show on the FoodNetwork, the owner of her own retail store and much more. Add to that the role of mother to four teenagers and wife of a hard-working rancher.

Ree, as they like to say in Oklahoma, “Ya done good. Real good.”

NOTE: Her web site is at: http://www.thepioneerwoman.com, and that’s where you’ll find her blogs. 

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