GAGE, OKLAHOMA — You can blame property owner C.J. Minton for thinking he might find oil under his patch of dry ground east of town.
He didn’t strike oil or gas.
He struck water and lots of it.
“It was free flowing,” says Pat Jacoby, “Going everywhere.”
From Memorial weekend to Labor Day, every day, for the past 20 years, Jacoby, who is the Gage Artesian Beach Manager, has shown up to unlock the gates and open up Oklahoma’s largest outdoor swimming pool.
“We usually make it out here by 10:30AM,” she says (for a 1PM opening).
“I was wishing we could jump in there right quick but we’re too busy,” she continues. “We have to walk around and make sure there’s nothing in the water, clean the drain.”
The water here gushes clear and cold from the same hole in the ground that was supposed to gush oil.
“It’s definitely unique,” she says.
Back in 1918 spring water mixed with sand made this lake.
Two years later Minton and other town leaders shored up the sides at one end with railroad ties and this public swimming hole was born.
“It’s lovely out here,” Jacoby gushes. “When we close of an evening, if we don’t have a private party, we just sit out here. It’s so relaxing.”
It still comes out of the ground, straight into the pool, and out the other side.
No chlorine treatments needed.
It’s all mineral water cold enough to make a grown man scream.
“The men are the worst,” she claims. “You just have to go in all at once.”
“Pull the bandaid off,” suggests her guest.
“Yes,” she laughs.
Pat hasn’t ever worried much about preparing fancy food to lure summer crowds.
Her chili is straight from the can just like her cheese.
She’s been manager at the Artesian Beach for long enough to know it’s the water that brings them here, this year more than any other, partly due to Covid-19.
Jacoby says, “I think we had more people because a lot of city pools weren’t open this year.”
Pat and her new business partner Walter Wagnon have a pretty good time running the beach.
She jokes about how she never wants to leave.
“I told them the day I die I want them to throw my ashes out here,” she chuckles. “I don’t think they will, but….”
That’s why the last weekend of the season is so bitter sweet.
A well that might have produced a few barrels of oil has, instead, produced a century of clear, cool, pure fun for Ellis County and the town that continues to drink it in every single year.
The Gage Artesian Beach will open back up Memorial weekend in 2021.
Entrance is about $2.00.
For more information you can head to their Facebook page here.
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