A Little Miss Tuttle contestant tosses candy during the Tuttle Fair parade Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Tres Savage)

TUTTLE — A live cake auction is no place for amateurs.

Seated in the back row of the Tuttle High School auditorium Saturday night, NonDoc team members Andrea DenHoed, Angela Jones, Angela’s son (Lincoln) and I were highly unprepared for the task at hand: Bidding on and winning a cake to support the Tuttle 4-H and FFA Booster Club.

“And at $250 (…) now $300, now three-and-a-half, do I hear $400?” the auctioneer brayed, slamming his syllables together to tighten the tension. “Threesevenyfi — helping you, buddy.”

The moment of truth was upon us. Holding my phone with one hand to record the moment, I raised my baseball cap to signal our bids.

“$375,” the auctioneer barked after a spotter yipped that he had seen my hat in the air.

Suddenly, a bid of $400 was announced, and the man again pointed in our direction then. Was that our bid? Or had we been the $375?

Angela seemed to think we were in the lead. But I thought the $400 bid came from the folks in front of us, whom I knew to be the family of this cake’s baker, Kelly Roberts née Bomgardner, Miss Tuttle 1981 and a longtime supporter of NonDoc, as fate would have it.

Tuttle Fair
Supported by her husband, Mick, 1981 Miss Tuttle Kelly Roberts shows off the apple-spice cake she baked for the Tuttle Fair on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Tres Savage)

To recognize her 40th anniversary as Miss Tuttle, Kelly and other former Miss Tuttles had ridden down Main Street in the back of a boat an hour earlier for the day’s parade. The apple-spice she had baked for the auction was immaculate: pristine butter cream salted-caramel icing, three kinds of apple filling, a ring of nuts and a caramel apple on top.

“Do I hear $425? Fourtwunyfi, Fourtwunyfi, Fourtwunyfi do I hear…”

It dawned on me that Kelly’s parents were in it to win it, and why shouldn’t they be? I kept my hat on my head.

“Sold her cake, $400,” the auctioneer proclaimed, subtly disappointed the bidding had stopped before really heating up.

The next cake, however, would be ours — a butter cake made by Dee Mittlestaedt, which we would win at $350, a small amount to pay to support the community’s young people, and an amount made possible thanks to our Oklahoma Media Center “innovation” grant, which we have used to finance informative trips to smaller Oklahoma communities this summer.

We had ventured to the annual Tuttle Fair on Saturday because we had some existing relationships in the area. And, even though we ultimately missed the livestock show, the cornhole tournament and the chicken-poop bingo (we made it to the parade, the barbecue dinner, and the cake auction after), it sounded like a fun, important event.

“Local fairs in Oklahoma have been a place of social gatherings and agricultural competitions since statehood,” said Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle). “I’ve been attending our local and county fairs since I could walk. Events like this help keep smaller communities together and give local citizens and businesses an opportunity to support our youth.”

Saturday’s fair certainly did that.

In all, the nearly six dozen cakes sold raised $33,125, an amount that left Angela, our lead development staffer, pondering a NonDoc cake auction for 2022.

“OK, but we will have to add ‘baking’ to the intern job descriptions,” I said.

Marketing right-side-up and upside down

From left to right, Jason and Tina Shepherd show off NonDoc’s Newsie Koozies at the home of Dr. Brian Chastain. (NonDoc)

As Andrea, Angela and Lincoln headed home — the young man’s WalMart sack bursting with parade candy — I drove south three miles to deliver some Newsie Koozies to a few Tuttle friends who had delegated their cake-purchasing duties to others.

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Jason and Tina Shepard were strangers before we launched NonDoc, but they have been foundational donors and supporters ever since. We’ve had several interesting conversations about the economics of the energy and health care industries.

As small-town fate would have it, I eventually learned they hang with a local dentist, Dr. Brian Chastain, who grew up with one of my good friends (nickname: Joe Dirt) and who once volunteered for a Remote Area Medical event back when I organized RAM Oklahoma‘s free dental, vision and medical care events.

Saturday, I found Jason, Tina and Brian conversing with friends around a pool while the Good Dentist grilled burgers. We discussed Jason’s recent travels and how much Tuttle has grown.

New census data shows the population of Tuttle has climbed 23.2 percent since 2010, I said, boasting about some press release I had opened from the Redistricting Data Hub. (That’s the 14th steepest increase in the state, from about 6,000 people to about 7,400.)

Looking around at the nice terrain and comfortable property spacing, I could see the appeal.

Much of the growth has been east of town, along State Highway 37, north of where another Tuttle-area friend, Brian Jay, lives.

Jay runs an HVAC company called Climate Concepts, and I ended my evening with a visit at his family’s property, which was purchased in 2003 and falls within the Bridge Creek Public Schools district.

“We have never looked back and have loved every moment of the solitude that living in a small town offers,” Jay said. “The close community we are surrounded by has become second family, and we are thankful for the many friends we have made.”

Brian Jay, owner of Climate Concepts, LLC, has his ducts in a row. (Tres Savage)

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The opinions are labeled as commentary

I had gone to Jay’s home after leaving Chastain’s when it was time for folks to eat. It was a hard decision, because Chastain’s burgers smelled amazing, but I had eaten an enormous plate of brisket prior to the cake auction at the high school.

The barbecue dinner had been free to the community, with donations accepted. As we had waited in line, a Grady County man who knows the value of a free meal flagged me down: State Capitol lobbyist Tyler Norvell.

“I saw someone carrying around your beer koozies, and I asked, ‘NonDoc is here?'” he explained with a laugh.

Looking more comfortable in his land-working clothes than his politician-working duds, Norvell helped me navigate the Tuttle High School senior portrait display in the cafeteria. I snagged shots of Bomgardner, Paycom CEO Chad Richison (a strong supporter of Tuttle Public Schools, Norvell said) and Paxton.

Lonnie Paxton
The high school haircut of now-Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) is a thing of beauty. (Tres Savage)

“I recently captured House Speaker Charles McCall’s senior photo in Atoka as well,” I told Norvell.

Back in line for the barbecue, our team chatted with a lovely couple who liked the idea of “nondoctrinaire” journalism.

“It seems like everything is opinion now,” the man said.

I explained that we publish both news stories and commentaries, the latter of which are labeled with a yellow bar above the photo. (Scroll up to see.) All voices are welcome.

While we chatted about the civic sector, Lincoln showed excellent marketing initiative by gifting a pair of Newsie Koozies to our new acquaintances.

“Good job, young man,” I said. “You’re hired.”

Lincoln smiled, his incoming front tooth distracting slightly from the sticker he had pasted onto his shorts.

Learning the rules

Sporting a NonDoc sticker, a young woman picks up candy during the Tuttle Fair parade Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Angela Jones)

During the parade, Lincoln had not been the only youth sporting our brand while scooping pounds of candy off the hot concrete.

Missed connection

One Tuttle resident I know and admire had his hands full with a softball tournament, so we were unable to connect.

I met Breck Draper when he was coaching baseball at Heritage Hall High School and I was coaching something resembling baseball at Harding Charter Prep. Draper was winning championships, but he was also a positive influence and resource for other coaches.

When Tuttle hired Draper, I knew the school had a quality person to lead its ball programs.

One pleasant young woman had slapped her sticker right on her forehead, beaming with enough hometown pride that I dared not note it was on upside down.

The clicks would still roll in.

As did the candy.

Contestants in the annual Miss Tuttle and Little Miss Tuttle contests flung it from the backs of trucks with great gusto.

Younger children raced around, snatching pieces off the ground. Lincoln did his part to help.

“Just yesterday, I gave him a long lecture about how we don’t put things in our mouth that we found on the ground,” Angela said with a laugh.

Life is all about learning the rules, and the exceptions, I suppose.

Generally speaking, NonDoc doesn’t buy $350 cakes.

But sometimes we do.