An Unofficial Guide to Sites in Okemah, Oklahoma associated with Woody GuthrieAn Unofficial Guide to Sites in Okemah, Oklahoma associated with Woody Guthrie
An Unofficial Guide to Sites in Okemah, Oklahoma associated with Woody GuthrieReturn to Home PageAn Unofficial Guide to Sites in Okemah, Oklahoma associated with Woody Guthrie

Carved Tree Memorial

No. 4 on Map of Okemah Showing Location of Sites Associated with Woody Guthrie (PDF)
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Carved Tree Memorial, Okemah side

Carved Tree Memorial, 'This Land Is Your Land' side

This whimsical memorial to Woody Guthrie is almost certainly one that Woody himself would approve. It used to be a cedar tree standing in what was formerly the yard of one of his boyhood homes.

To reach the memorial from downtown Okemah, drive east on W. Broadway. Turn right at S. 1st Street and go two blocks south to W. Birch Street (you'll first cross Ash Street). Turn right on W. Birch. By this time you ought to have spotted the memorial on the south side of W. Birch. There's not much room to park alongside the road here but there are not any "no parking" signs either. The nearest parking lot is just a short distance away, at the public library, located at the southwest corner of S. 2nd and W. Birch.

The memorial was carved about ten years ago (more or less) by wood sculptor Justin Osborn, who lives across the street (southeast corner of 1st and Birch). You can see his house, the yard full of other wood sculptures, from the memorial.

Carved Tree Memorial and handrail

The sculptor has very thoughtfully provided a rustic wooden handrail and stone steps that lead from the street to the memorial. Be careful though, the ground around it is a little uneven and rocky. Stones that formed part of the foundation of the Guthrie family home can be seen just a few steps away, on the side of the hill. This was the old "London place," a two-story home occupied by the Guthrie family in 1913-1914, when Woody was still very young. See page 13 of Ed Cray's biography of Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Man for a description.

The east side of the statue is topped by a carving of a guitar, the initials "W. G." and an outline of the state of Oklahoma. Below it, in big carved letters is the name of the town, "OKEMAH." The west side of the memorial features the name of Woody's most famous song, "This Land Is Your Land," and some musical notes. If it were up to me, this song would replace "The Star Spangled Banner" as our national anthem. "This Land is Your Land" is not only about something more peaceful (land, as opposed to "bombs bursting in air"), it is also a lot easier for most people to sing!

Celebrated folk singer Pete Seeger, who was one of Woody's best friends, was photographed next to the memorial in 2003. Woody's first wife, Mary Boyle, visited in 2006. Photos of them can be seen on the Welcome to Woody Fest website.

The Tulsa World has an interesting video news story about the memorial.

To return downtown, continue west on W. Birch, then right on S. 2nd to W. Broadway. Be sure to watch out for traffic (although there probably won't be much), stop at the "stop" signs and obey the speed limit.

Photo of Woody Guthrie's childhood home (above), courtesy Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

All color photos copyright © 2012 by Steven R. Butler, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

This is a personal website with no official connection to the City of Okemah, Oklahoma, the Woody Guthrie Coalition or Festival, or any other entity or organzation.
This website is completely not-for-proft. Its sole purpose is to inform and entertain.

This website copyright © 2012 (except where noted) by Steven R. Butler, Ph.D. All rights reserved.