By Gwyneth Easley

To the University of Oklahoma community, the ponies Boomer and Sooner represented more than a game day tradition. They pulled the schooner, but they also pulled Sooner Nation together and reflected the long standing tradition of OU.

In December of 2019, after ten years of pulling the schooner the University of Oklahoma said a difficult goodbye to the fifth generation Boomer and Sooner. 

When Boomer and Sooner were born 14 years ago they didn’t know that they were special. They didn’t know that they had already been selected as the next OU mascots, and they didn’t know that they were going to lead a schooner and an entire community.

They were just two white Welsh ponies that liked to run. 

After they were born, the ponies trained for years to become the next Boomer and Sooner. According to a story run by The Oklahoman, they became the mascots when the old were retired after the 2007 Bedlam game.

When the call came to retire the old ponies, the old Boomer was 19 years old and was reportedly the lazier of the two ponies. The old Sooner was 18 years old and was described as being full of life.

In 2008, when the new Boomer and Sooner began pulling the schooner, the roles were reversed. The 2019 RUF/NEKS agree that when it came to Boomer and Sooner, Boomer was the exuberant one with the big personality and Sooner was more laid back. 

“Boomer definitely had a big personality,” RUF/NEK and University of Oklahoma sophomore Conner Haigh said while laughing. “She knew she was important, so she liked to do her own thing. She was a little diva.”

According to Haigh, during the 2019  Big 12 Championship, Boomer decided she wanted to run instead of taking pictures with fans, so she started kicking up, head butting and nipping at fans. Haigh also said that they could tell when Boomer and Sooner were annoyed with each other, because Boomer would headbutt Sooner. 

“Sooner, on the other hand was a sweetheart,” Haigh said. “She always did what she was supposed to do, and she was pretty quiet. She definitely was the best with kids.” 

Haigh also said that even though the ponies looked almost identical it was easy to tell them apart by their mannerisms and by the spots on their noses.

Even though the ponies had very different personalities, they could always agree on a few things.

They both liked rolling in dirt, but hated getting baths. According to RUF/NEK and junior at the University of Oklahoma Ryan Ard, the ponies had open pastures at the farm where they lived. 

“They’d get pretty dirty,” Ard said. “Typically the night before game day the RUF/NEKS would go out and give them baths.”

 According to Haigh, there were more than a few occasions where the ponies rolled in dirt right after getting their baths, which meant they would get another one in the morning. “Boomer hated baths just a little more than Sooner did,” Haigh said. If Boomer watched Sooner get her bath first, she’d get upset. She also hated it when water touched her face.” 

Haigh also said that the ponies hated the color red, which is ironic considering one of the school’s colors is crimson. If someone was walking in front of them holding a red flag they would stop and stare at it until it was moved out of their sight. He recalled a Christmas parade last year when the ponies saw red police lights flashing. “It took alot of good pets and mane scratches to make up for that one,” Haigh said, laughing.

Finally, the ponies hated the University of Texas’s Smokey the Cannon about as much as every University of Oklahoma fan. According to Haigh, it sounded too much like the RUF/NEKS’s guns firing which made them think it was time to run. Then they would get huffy because they thought they missed their cue. 

According to Ard, on most days the ponies’ lives were similar to that of typical farm ponies with the caveat that they were a little more spoiled than the average pony. They were also adored by OU fans on game days. “I always liked seeing little kids’ reactions to the ponies when they saw them on game day,” Ard said. “It was like they were seeing a unicorn.” 

As a driver for the RUF/NEKS, Ard went through three months of training with the ponies. “It’s weird how you develop a connection with them,” Ard said. “They knew me. They knew my voice, and there was a relationship established there.” 

As the University community is awaiting the announcement on whether or not Boomer and Sooner will be replaced one thing is clear, the OU RUF/NEKS don’t like to think about life at OU without Boomer and Sooner. “Live mascots are disappearing all over the place,” said Ard. “It was a cool thing that the University of Oklahoma took so much pride in, and if anything were to happen to the ponies or if they were to go away it would be traumatic.”

RUF/NEK and University of Oklahoma senior Kaleb Brown also feels the loss of the two ponies. “We have two younger ponies that are in the training process,” Brown said. “When Boomer and Sooner retire they’re supposed to step up and take their place.”

Only time will tell if the University decides to replace the fifth generation of mascots with the sixth, but Brown feels that the ponies place in the community is too important to give up.

“OU is such a tradition based school, and we have had these ponies and the schooner since 1965,” Brown said. “Alumni like to come back and see we’re still doing the same thing and really feel like they’re still part of that tradition.” 

One thing is for sure, and it is that if  the next two ponies being trained become the next Boomer and Sooner, they will have big horseshoes to fill. 

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Multi-Level Social Media

By Gwyneth Easley

Four years ago, Taylor McCoy was sitting in her dorm room scrolling through Instagram. McCoy, like many other college freshmen, had fallen victim to “the freshman 15.”  As she scrolled, she saw a friend of a friend promoting a product that caught her attention: The Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living. McCoy, intrigued with the product, navigated out of instagram and began texting her father.

“Dad, I found something that I want to try but I don’t have any money right now. Will you buy it for me?”

“What is it?”

“It’s the Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living. It’s a little bit expensive though.”

“I’ll make a deal with you. I will buy this for you, and then you can sell the products until you make enough money to pay me back.”

“Deal.”

So McCoy contacted the friend of the friend and ordered the products. Then she signed up to be an Arbonne Consultant.

McCoy began using the products: drinking the protein shakes, brewing the detox teas and taking the digestion pills everyday. After a few weeks McCoy realized the products were working for her. She felt sharper, more energized and she was losing the weight. 

After posting about her success on Instagram, McCoy experienced an influx in her sales. Her friends who had originally poked fun at her new business, were now ordering the products.  In a month, she had made enough money to pay back her father.

“I realized that this was a way I could make money in college,” said McCoy. “It was flexible, I liked the products and I had already made a lot of money doing it.”  McCoy stayed on as a consultant and used the money she had made to fund her life in college. 

Multi-level marketing through social media is a new way that many people, especially college students have found that they can make extra income every month. 

Before social media, multi-level marketing consisted of someone signing up to sell a product then inviting all their friends to a party where they advertised their products. Now with social media, consultants don’t have to wait for parties to market products to their friends and acquaintances. They can do it with just a few taps over their phones. 

According to McCoy the secret to selling products via Instagram is to limit how many times a day you are actually promoting the products. 

“No one wants to feel like they are being sold to” she said. “They want to see you as a person, and then see you using and achieving success with the products.”

One in every four of McCoy’s Instagram posts is related to Arbonne. Then McCoy’s friends and her fellow Arbonne consultants will “like” her content which makes her look more appealing to potential new customers who come across her profile on social media.

McCoy is not the only student who has figured out this selling model. University of Oklahoma junior Taylor Thibodeau sells Monat hair products to pay her rent and college tuition.

“I began selling Monat when a friend of a friend reached out to me on Instagram” Thibodeau said. “I tried to products, realized I liked them and then I signed up to sell it.” 

Where public perception of these companies begins to turn negative is recruitment. According toThibodeau many people have reached out to her via social media and have accused her of being in a pyramid scheme.

“I’m not nor have I ever been in a pyramid scheme” Thibodeau said while laughing. “First of all pyramid schemes are illegal so my company would have been shut down if that were the case. Second of all, I don’t make money by recruiting new people I get paid for training them.” 

On New York Attorney General Letitia James’s website, she explains the difference between the two. A pyramid scheme “involves the sale of products or distributorships in an attempt to show legitimacy.” The profits in a pyramid scheme are dependent on the recruitment of new people to invest in the company rather than the sale of the product. 

  Multi-level marketing, on the other hand, are when products are sold through a network of distributors and salesmen who earn commission on the sales they make. Recruitment is a factor in multi-level marketing, but in order to stay legitimate the majority money and the emphasis of the company cannot be in recruitment. 

Pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing both share a pyramid like structure so they can appear similar, and it some cases a multi-level marketing business can be a pyramid scheme in disguise.

One famous case of a multi-level marketing business that is currently being sued by the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is LuLaRoe. A lawsuit that is bringing a bad name to multi-level marketing.

“I think that the investigation of LuLaRoe is definitely a big part of the negative perception of multi-level marketing” Thibodeau said “In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was one of the factors that is causing social media platforms like Instagram to crack down on people who make their money through social media.”

The crack downs Thibodeau is referring to are Instagram proposing to take away the feature that allows users to view how many likes a picture receives and the feature that allows users to see who is viewing their stories.

The initial lawsuit against LuLaRoe was filed in January 2019 and Instagram began testing out removing likes and views in April 2019. 

For social media influencers and sellers this proposed change is extremely worrying, because seeing who is engaging in the content they are promoting allows sellers to know who is interested in their products and who they should reach out to. 

“It feels like a shot at people who influence and sell products over social media,” McCoy said. “It takes away the primary tool for showing that people like and use our products and our tool for measuring interest in our products.”

According to McCoy, around 90 percent of her sales come from Instagram. From that 90 percent, about 40 percent of those sales comes from her reaching out to her follows because she has seen that they have interacted with her content.

“If I can’t see who is interested and engaging in my content, I won’t know who to reach out to and I won’t make that sale” said McCoy“This is the income I have lived off of in college, and if a large portion of it goes away next semester I don’t know what I would do.”

What it Takes to Be a Wolf

By Gwyneth Easley

University of Oklahoma sophomore Lucy Dismore was pacing the Weitzenhoffer Theatre. Near where Dismore was pacing there was a cardboard box filled with soccer balls, and on the outside of the box was a joke written that said, “Careful, wolves inside.”

For Dismore this joke represented her ultimate goal: to be one of the wolves.

It was callbacks for the members of the theatre department at the University of Oklahoma. Dismore was called back for the role #00 in “The Wolves” by Sarah Delappe, which according to the PR statement released by the department is about “portrait of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for an indoor soccer team as they take on challenges on and off the field.

Director Doctor Judith Midyett Pender had stepped out to take a break for a few moments, which gave Dismore time to get to know the space. On the floor she saw a tape line left over from the last show she had been apart of in the Weitzenhoffer Theatre “Twelfth Night.” This line reassured Dismore that she could do this. 

Dr. Pender returned to her seat and told Dismore “whenever you’re ready, take as much time as you need.” Dismore took a deep breath then delivered a monologue titled “Time Out” from the show, which features character #00 having an emotional breakdown. 

“So I did it,” Dismore said. “ I was crying, with snot all over the place and try to kick soccer balls out of the door.” She also ripped her shirt off at a hole in the collar, she smiled remembering it was one of her favorites. “But it was all worth it,” Dismore said.

Indeed it was worth it, because two days later when the cast list came out she was excited to learn that she had landed the role of #00. She was going to be one of the wolves. 

The rehearsal process began shortly after the cast list was posted, and the girls were ready to start the process. There was just one problem. “None of us knew how to play soccer. Were all starting from the ground up,” said Dismore.

According to Dismore the girls in this all female show had soccer balls put in their hands, or under their feet, from day one. The goal was twofold: to rough up the soccer balls and make them seem used or “well loved” as Dismore put it, but also to make the feeling of the ball second nature to the girls so that when performance time came they could act and emote while knowing where the ball was underneath them. 

Rehearsals were also a little different from the typical rehearsal that members of the cast had experienced in previous shows. According to Dismore, there were cones set up in the space and the girls had to run drills around the cones with scripts in hand. She laughed remembering how important it was to “get off book” as fast as possible. 

For the members of the cast learning to play soccer was the biggest physical challenge of being in the show. Dismore said that cast member, Alexis Pudvan got hit in the face with a soccer ball, cast member Alexandra Swanbeck hurt her ankle at the beginning of the process, Dismore herself got kicked in the chest and most of the cast got very used to having shin splints.

“We were bad at soccer!” Dismore said while laughing. “But it was fun, and it’s definitely part of the versatile process that I think is under valued because it was bonding us together as a team.” 

Having the cast act and feel like a team was very important to the overall feeling of the show. University of Oklahoma sophomore and understudy for the role of the Soccer Mom Melanie Baxter realized this as she watched the girls grow closer through the rehearsal process.

“Usually you have to have an emotional trust in a normal play, but in this one you had to have an actual physical trust,” said Baxter. “They’re doing these different exercises and they’re trusting each other to stay in their spot.”

Emotional trust was established after the cast was comfortable with their footwork. 

The role Baxter was understudying was a mother whose daughter was on the team and passed away.  “She lost her daughter,” said Baxter. “It’s really difficult to put yourself in the headspace of something you’ve never gone through yourself.”

According to playwright Sarah Delappe, the show is about more than just a soccer team. Delappe says that her script shares many themes with war movies, and tales of war often have heightened emotions.  

Dismore also found herself struggling with the emotional aspects of her character. She said that Dr. Pender did not make her run through her emotional monologue in the script more than twice a day. 

“It’s taxing in the moment,” said Dismore. “And she was very appreciative of that.” Dismore said that she also found that she could use her breathing as a mechanism to safely convey the depth of emotion her character would experience. She found the rhythms of her breath from playing soccer. 

Though Dismore’s emotions during the show came from her breathing, she said there was still a nervous, excited buzz in the room the cast was preparing in before opening night.

Dismore was in the makeup room. It was opening night, tt was hot, and the smell of stage foundation makeup was distinct. The cast finished their make up then went to the movement room to run sprints and do their usual warm ups before the show.

She said they dedicated the show to “people who have a drive as strong as we do, but who did not have the ability to follow them.” Then places were called. 

Backstage was cold but also humid, and Dismore had already begun to sweat before the show had even started. Stadium lights had been chosen to light the theatre not only for the effect but for the sound that stadium lights make when they light each section of a field.

Dismore heard each light turn on individually making that familiar popping sound, and she knew it was time to go onstage. She knew it was time for the wolves to play their game. 

Rebecca Nagle

By Gwyneth Easley


A link to the podcast website.

https://crooked.com/podcast-series/this-land/

In 2000 Patrick Murphy was convicted of murder by the state of Oklahoma and was sentenced to death. Now that decision is being heard by the Supreme Court, and its decision will impact five tribes of Oklahoma and nearly half the land in Oklahoma. This is the basis for Rebecca Nagle’s podcast “This Land.”

Nagle did not go to school for journalism. She went to art school in Philadelphia studying textiles and then moved to Tahlequah to be closer to home where she started writing. In November of 2018, when the 10th Circuit ruled in favor of Murphy, she submitted a story to the Washington Post about the Patrick Murphy case. Then Crooked Media reached out to her to do a podcast. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/11/28/half-land-oklahoma-could-be-returned-native-americans-it-should-be/

Writing a podcast was difficult for Nagle. She was used to writing online stories and writing for the ear is different than writing for the eyes. She said it was also different to write with a team than it had been to freelance, because there were more people reading and providing feedback to her script.

The story for “This Land” was also very personal to Nagle. Her tribe, the Cherokee Nation, is one of the tribes that will be affected by the outcome of the Supreme Court decision. The argument is that the decision that sentenced Murphy to death was not the jurisdiction of the State of Oklahoma, because only tribes and the federal government can prosecute on Indian land. If the Supreme Court agrees it will be the largest return of tribal land in US history. This is an issue that is very personal for Nagle.

In 1839 a Cherokee leader named John Ridge was pulled from his bed and was stabbed 89 times in his front yard while his family watched. He was killed because he signed the Cherokee Nation’s removal treaty which traded the Cherokee Nation’s ancestral lands for uninterrupted sovereignty in Oklahoma. A promise which was not kept. Ridge was Nagle’s great great great grandfather.

According to Nagle, through allotment the Cherokee Nation lost 74 percent of their land in Oklahoma, and land continues to be lost when it is sold to a non-indigenous person, inherited to someone who is less than half blood quantum or when the land owner lifts the restrictions so that they can qualify for a mortgage. The overarching question that the Supreme Court will answer is whether or not the land that the Patrick Murphy murder was committed on still tribal land. 

Nagle discovered the Murphy case while reading about it on Facebook. It was from there that she began researching the case on a Supreme Court blog called Turtle Talk. Another challenge that Nagle faces was making the legal vernacular understandably and compelling for an audience.

Some of the advice that Nagle gave for aspiring journalists: is to pitch stories as frequently as they can and write and submit stories to as many publications as they can. She got her start writing for the unpaid Huffington Post blogs and by freelancing. 

Wendy Weitzel

By Gwyneth Easley

Wendy, you are a third year journalism major at the University of Oklahoma, a reporter for Gaylord News and the president of OU figure skating. How did you get where you are today?

That’s a good question. I’ve never thought about where I am in present, just where I am trying to go in the future. I have a lot of goals that I am trying to achieve, so I view everything I have right now as a stepping stone to achieving my goals.

What are some of those goals?

I think that my biggest goal is to be a journalist and travel to produce multimedia video content. I want to go back to the Middle East, and I want to graduate with a three point nine GPA. 

Tell me about a significant event in your life that has shaped who you are today.

My mother’’s stroke. It moved me halfway across the world from Bahrain to the United States for American health care and to be close to family. My mother is also disabled now, which was different from the normal when I was growing up.

Where were you when you found out your mother had had a stroke?

I was downstairs watching cartoons with my little brother. My dad was in the room and Shandra, our au pair, came downstairs and said “excuse me sir can you come upstairs it’s an emergency.”  We heard some weird noises so we went upstairs to investigate and we saw my dad and Shandra carrying my mom downstairs. It looked like she was having a seizure. They got in the car, drove to the hospital. It was the middle of Arab Spring so all the health care professionals were downtown and there weren’t ambulances. 

What happened next?

I didn’t see my dad for a week and I didn’t see my mom until we medivaced her to Dubai for better medical care. People had told me my mom had a stroke, but I didn’t understand what that meant. I had thought it was a heat stroke. We went to visit her in Dubai, and that’s where I learned the severity of the situation. She was lying in a chair and she was completely emotionless and out of it, she couldn’t speak at all and she couldn’t understand what people were saying to her. I tried to have a conversation with her but she couldn’t understand me. My little brother and I started to cry and that evoked some emotion in her and she tried to speak but couldn’t. 

Is that when you all moved to the United States?

Yes. My brother and I were taken care of by family friends. As soon as my mother was stable she was transported in an air ambulance to St. David’s in Austin. My brother and I stayed with our grandparents in Austin while my father got everything settled in Houston. The understanding was that we would be back in Bahrain by the end of the year, but we never left the states. 

If your mother hadn’t had a stroke, would you have moved to the United States?

No. If my mother hadn’t had a stroke we would have moved from Bahrain to Qatar. I would have stayed in the british school system and would be attending college in the UK. My dream was to go to King’s College in London.  I actually applied there when I was a senior in high school, but british college applications are very different from American. I also would have been two years behind my classmates, because in british schools you specialize in your desired career at age 16.

What was the biggest culture shock you encountered when you moved to the United States?

My first day of sixth grade I walked into my classroom. My teacher introduced me as Wendy who had just moved to the United States from Bahrain, and my classmates were asking where that was. Then the Pledge of Allegiance played over the intercom and all the students stood up and recited it. No one had prepared me for the pledge and I had no idea what it was or why it was happening. I was standing at the front of the classroom wondering what was going on. It scared the living daylights out of me because it was creepy experience to have twenty sixth graders stand up and face you with deadpan faces and monotone voices expecting you to pledge your allegiance to a country you just moved to. I ended up just turning around and mouthing watermelon until it was over.  

The Albino Squirrel

Gwyneth Easley

I was visiting my grandmother in memory care on an early June afternoon. The sun was beating aggressively through the tiny windows of the facility, bouncing off the sterile white walls. There was a pervasive chemical smell in the air, and the sound of residents chattering underscored the scene. My mother and I had come to fix up her closet and make sure that she was being seen to properly. I walked up to my grandmother to hug her hello, and she stared at me with a blank smile. “I’m sorry, who are you again?” My heart sank as I considered how I was going to respond.

Ten years ago, an albino squirrel climbed a wooden fence and leaped into a concrete bird bath. My grandmother, Janice Muller, sat down and watched the squirrel, intrigued by its curiosity and adventurous nature. The squirrel returned to her backyard, and everytime she would pour a cup of coffee and watch the squirrel, whom she eventually called Harvey,  play in the backyard. 

Around the same time, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Slowly, the disease began to steal the details of her life: what she liked, places she’d been and people she’d known. Eventually the larger details became fuzzy too: her memory of her parents, her son who lives far away and her former occupation. And with her question to me in June, her memories of her grandchildren had faded as well. 

“I’m Gwynne, your youngest granddaughter.” I told my grandmother.

“I have an older brother and sister who are also your grandchildren.”

Then she  asked, “is everyone doing OK?”

“Yes, they graduated from college and have jobs. I have two more years of college, then I’ll get a job.”

“OK  good, it sounds like everyone is taken care of.” 

For a moment my grandmother had a look of relief on her face, comforted in knowing that her grandchildren were grown up and successful. I was also comforted that even though she couldn’t remember who I was, she still wanted to know about my life and make sure that I was taken care of. 

I was  8 years old when my grandmother was diagnosed with the disease that would erase me from her mind. Though I tried to imagine the feeling of slowly losing everything that was once familiar to you, my young mind couldn’t comprehend the devastating news. One thing I could comprehend was the utter despair my mother was experiencing. I was helping her organize her classroom when she had gotten the phone call from my grandfather. She got off the phone and broke down crying, and one of her colleagues took me out of the room. This is a mirror image of when my great grandparents’ lives were taken by Alzhiemer’s.

When my mother was young, my grandmother got a phone call that changed her life just as the one my mother got in school changed hers decades later. Her parents had been driving back to the United States from Onterio, and there had been an accident that had flipped their car and killed them all. My mother couldn’t comprehend her mother’s grief, just as I couldn’t comprehend my mother’s.  

From the day she was diagnosed, my grandmother decided she didn’t want to waste the rest of her time mourning memories she was going to lose. She wanted to live her life to the fullest, knowing and accepting that her disease was going to progress. 

With every memory erased came a new opportunity for rediscovery. When she forgot that she was an avid gardener, she got to re-experience the joy she felt when gardening and gain a new appreciation for the simplicity of it. When she forgot that she lived in memory care, she stood up at lunchtime and yelled “Where’s my wallet? I’m buying lunch for everyone!” 

It’s in these moments that I begin to appreciate my grandmother for her relentlessly positive attitude. Having dealt with my own share of mental fog, due to a severe concussion at a young age and untreated attention deficit disorder, I find that I understand a little bit of the confusion she deals with on a daily basis. I become angry and frustrated with myself when mental fog prevents me from articulating what I want. I doubt my ability to reliably remember information, deadlines and important people. Worst of all, I resent myself for not doing better. 

Seeing my grandmother take each day in stride puts my struggle back in perspective. It reminds me that I either can lose myself in the information I have lost, or I can accept the fact that I will make mistakes and move forward. 

As I reflect, I begin to remember my grandmother before her diagnosis. She used to take my sister and me to lunch at the art museum, shopping at the mall and to children’s shows at the theatre. Even though she can no longer remember these moments, I can. Memories are finicky in this way. They can be altered, they can be fuzzy, they can fade with time or they can be stolen by a slowly progressing disease. However, a memory is given meaning by the emotions they elicit. These are not sad memories for me. These memories bring me joy because they are the remnants of the time I spent with my grandmother when I was a child.

The odds of seeing an albino squirrel are about one in 100,000. Even though Harvey the squirrel had no idea that my grandmother watched him every day, named him and cared about him doesn’t diminish the fact that those memories held meaning for my grandmother. Just like my grandmother not remembering me, doesn’t diminish the impact the memories I have of my grandmother and the impact of her influence on my life.

Seeing the strength and resolve for positivity my grandmother carries with her everyday inspires me to embrace my problems rather than fight them. She has also inspired me to look out for the albino squirrels in life–those rare moments of joy in seemingly commonplace things.