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Great State: Backroads Reveal Treasure for Oklahoma Story Collector

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NORMAN, OKLAHOMA -- Sun on his face, wind in his hair.

Sam Cross and his Harley Fatboy glide along Oklahoma's two-lane roads un-hurried.

He still works as an oil field mechanic, but on those off days when he doesn't have to hurry anywhere, he doesn't.

The biker known as 'Papa Smurf' follows the headlight on his bike to nowhere in particular.

"Every chance I get," he says. "These old back roads and highways are really something to look at."

He's been doing this for several years.

After raising 6 kids, Sam took off from his empty nest.

He perches in places like an old bait shop east of Norman, Oklahoma.

He rests there and waits for someone to come up and say hello.

"It takes a few minutes, sometimes 30 minutes," he says. "Usually somebody sees you and waves. That's when it all starts."

There are days when no one bothers to say more than 'hello'.

But there are other days when someone with an interesting story sits down to share it.

Cross says, "Sometimes just getting lost, for me, is where the adventure begins."

Sam collects those stories like rare coins.

"Kinda like this morning. I came out here and sat for a while and that gentleman who was just here was telling me about his Marine days."

He would re-tell those stories to his family.

Then Sam started to write them down so he wouldn't forget.

His wife, children, and grandchildren liked the best ones as much as he did.

Eventually there were enough to bind up and send off.

They came back as a book titled, 'Papa's Back Road Short Stories'.

Cross says, "There's always someone out there who will talk more to a perfect stranger than they will to their own kin."

Sam is still writing, still gathering.

Like other back road story travelers and story collectors, he knows there are many more out there, stories that only reveal themselves to the listeners who turn off and slow down.

Sam Cross's book is available through Dorrance Publishing.