The Grapes of Wrath

Edmond, Oklahoma is mentioned in the pages of

John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Grapes of Wrath,”

published in 1939.

Chapter 12

Highway 66 is the
main migrant road. 66–the long concrete path across the
country, waving gently, up and down on the map, from
the Mississippi to Bakersfield–over the red lands and the gray lands, twisting
up into the mountains, crossing the Divide and down into the bright and terrible
desert, and across the desert to the mountains again, and into the rich
California valleys.

66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from
the thunder of tractors and shrinking
ownership, from the desert’s slow northward invasion,
from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from floods that bring no
richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these
the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads,
from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road, the
road of flight.

Clarksville and Ozark and Van Buren and Fort Smith on 64, and
there’s an end of Arkansas. And all the roads into Oklahoma City, 66 down from
Tulsa, 270 up from McAlester. 81 from Wichita Falls south, from Enid north.
McLoud, Purcell. 66 out of Oklahoma City; El Reno and Clinton, going
west on 66. Hydro, Elk City, and Texola; and there’s an end to Oklahoma. 66
across the Panhandle of Texas. Shamrock and McLean, Conway and Amarillo, the
yellow. Wildorado and Vega and Boise, and there’s an end of Texas. Tucumcari and
Santa Rosa and into the New Mexican mountains to Albuquerque, where the road
comes down from Santa Fe. Then down the gorged Rio Grande to Los Lunas and west
again on 66 to Gallup, and there’s the border of New Mexico.

And now the high mountains. Holbrook and Winslow and Flagstaff
in the high mountains of Arizona. Then the great plateau rolling like a ground
swell. Ashfork and Kingman, and stone mountains again, where water must be
hauled and sold. Then out of the broken sun-rotted mountains of Arizona to the
Colorado, with green reeds on its banks, and that’s the end of Arizona. There’s
California just over the river, and a pretty town to start it. Needles, on the
river. But the river is a stranger in this place. Up from Needles and over a
burned range, and there’s the desert. And 66 goes on over the terrible desert,
where the distance shimmers and the black center mountains hang unbearably in
the distance. At last there’s Barstow, and more desert until at last the
mountains rise up again, the good mountains, and 66 winds through them. Then
suddenly a pass, and below the beautiful valley, below orchards and vineyards
and little houses, and in the distance a city. And, oh, my God, it’s over.


this portion taken from: Steinbeck, John, “The Grapes of Wrath,” Penguin Classics, 1939.
Thanks to Seward Meinstsma