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Tonkawa’s Attention-Trapping Truck



 

If There Was A Roadside Americana Hall Of Fame, The Vertical Vehicle Would Hold A Place Of Honor.

The most famous entry would be Cadillac Ranch, the row of 10 Caddies planted grills down, fins up in a field west of Amarillo. The most elaborate inductee might be Carhenge, the circle of upended cars painted a somber gray in a Nebraskan tribute to the ancient monument of Stonehenge. And the tallest entry would be from Oklahoma: the topsy-turvy truck of Tonkawa, a travelers’ totem on the Great Plains.

The nose-down semi is off I-35, the state’s main north-south artery, which slices dead through the center of Oklahoma on its 1,568-mile run from Lake Superior south to the Rio Grande. On an average day, 17,500 vehicles pass the site off Exit 211, south of Tonkawa. More than 6 million each year. Hundreds of thousands of them are long-haul truckers.

Clint Wilkins used to be one of them. In 1987, after nearly 25 years on the road, he and his son set up a truck parts and repair shop off the interstate. To promote the venture, they bought space on billboards, facing north and south. Cost: $22,000 a year.

But before long, they had a better idea. Why not make their own sign? Wilkins has worked by the motto: “You got to be different. That’s what Elvis Presley said.”

So he took an eight-ton ’72 Kenworth and rented a crane to dangle it upside down. He anchored the truck’s hood in 11 feet of concrete, running three 20-inch pipes, each 40 feet long, up through the cab and the length of the rig. The pipes were welded to a 2-inch plate, which was bolted to the concrete bed set deep into the Oklahoma clay.

The lettering on the side, once a bright red, declares: GOT PROBLEMS? OKLAHOMA TRUCK SUPPLY. The top of the trailer reads WE FIX TRUCKS. Total cost for the materials and installation: $8,000.

“We didn’t know if it’d last the first storm,” said his son, Brett Wilkins.

Twenty-eight years later, it’s still standing.

The five-story-tall rig – which has now spent far more time in the ground than it did on the road – stands solid in the open field north of the shop. For 10,000 dawns, the truck has served as a giant sundial, its shadow extending long across the lanes of traffic to the west, contracting as the sun climbs, and then reaching to the eastern horizon as the sun sets. Its fading lettering takes care of business, posing its existential question to travelers speeding across the prairie.

A tornado has come within a mile of the site, which has been battered by straight-line winds that crumpled road signs on the interstate. 

“Two or three years ago, there were winds over 100 miles per hour. They blew in the doors of the shop, peeled back the eaves from the roof, sandblasted vehicles in the parking,” Brett said. In the end, the truck was still standing, undamaged, trailer end jutted 50 feet into the sky. And there it remains.


Textbooks Cite Tonkawa Installation​

In the modern storm of self-promoting retweets and hashtags and inflatable apes, the GOT PROBLEMS? truck enjoys its own kind of viral popularity with postcards, photo ops and salutes from the experts. The Wilkinses and their installation are featured on page 345 of the 700-page college textbook Effective Small Business Management, and on page 440 of the even-longer classroom textbook Basic Marketing: A Marketing Strategy Planning Approach. The New York-based Inc. magazine featured the idea as one of its top buzz-worthy examples of small-business savvy.

The business has grown into a truckers’ toy store, hosting an annual Busted Knuckle Truck Show in September and offering chrome accessories, diesel maintenance and repair, a tow truck and expert advice.  “It’s the best marketing we could’ve done,” Brett Wilkins said. “Even when we’re out of state, when people ask where our shop is, we say we’re in Oklahoma on 35, the place with the truck, and they say, ‘I know where you’re at!’”


Editor’s Note: This installment is part of author M.J. Alexander’s “77 Counties” series, chronicling her travels across Oklahoma. The full series is available at sliceok.com/travel/




 

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Calendar

January 2019

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

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Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
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1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
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Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
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Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

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ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

You weren't going to keep them anyway. Break your resolutions in style with your girlfriends: check out The Melting Pot's special Resolution Buster Ladies’ Night Out. The evening will...

Cost: $29.95 per person

Where:
The Melting Pot
4 E. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Telephone: 405.235.1000
Contact Name: Rob Fazle
Website »

More information

Find your new fave on 1/17! The COOP Showcase brings local artists together for a live concert experience you won't find anywhere else. 

Cost: $10

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: Tower Theatre
Telephone: 405.708.6937
Website »

More information

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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Tickets are now on sale for the the first must-attend party of 2019 - featuring signature cocktails, tastemakers and live art-making! ArtNow is your opportunity to party with a purpose and purchase...

Cost: $75-$150

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Celebrate during MLK weekend with fun! From Saturday 1/19 through Monday 1/21, experience our Winter Fun Pass for just $19.95! This pass includes unlimited laser tag, bumper cars, frog hopper, kidz...

Cost: 19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
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Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
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America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

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