WOOLAROC RANCH, Okla. — Nestled in tight with the western art, the Colt firearms collection, and oilman Frank Phillips rags to riches story rests an interesting set of pictures and artifacts that lies awfully close to the blurred lines of lawful and unlawful in the Wild West of Oklahoma.
“He felt like that was an incredible time,” says current Woolaroc CEO Brob Fraser.
Fraser himself likes to linger here at least once a year to pore over one of the big group pictures taken in the first few years of the annual Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunions.
“This is a great view of the 1930 reunion,” he says referring to a panoramic still photograph, “with a full house as you can see.”
Phillips, or Uncle Frank, as people liked to call him, loved history especially the history of the West.
And he cultivated lots of friends like bank robber Henry Wells.
Fraser says, “He did a few stints in prison and when he got out he was always welcomed here by Frank.”
Fraser says Wells and other outlaws conducted some business with Frank in the early days of the Osage County oil boom which meant they left his bank alone.
“Frank’s bank never got robbed,” he smiles, “because that was their bank.”
There were only two rules for this unique gathering of cultures; no guns and a general amnesty for 24 hours which gave the outlaws the time they needed to slip away.
“The chase wasn’t allowed to begin again until the next day.”
Phillips kept the reunion going for a few years until it died out with the Depression.
It started up briefly in the 1970s, but Fraser resurrected it again about fifteen years ago.
The same rules apply but are seldom enforced.
Of the current reunion, Fraser says, “It’s viewed by everybody as a must-attend event.”
The history of the West is still alive, a little less wild, but no less colorful.
“To have a party where he could tap into all of that history was remarkable.”
To find out more about the 2019 Cow Thieves and Outlaw Reunion or the Woolaroc Ranch go to https://www.woolaroc.org/