Rooster Cogburn, free books and women with grit highlighted in first week of library's ´True Grit' series

(STILLWATER, OKLA. / Feb. 24, 2015) –– “One Book, One Community: Stillwater Reads True Grit” begins next week with a Kick-off event and performance showcasing courageous and inspirational Oklahoma women. The programs are part of the seven week series sponsored by the Stillwater Public Library, the OSU Library and the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History.

“We are excited to get this community-wide reading event started,” said Lynda Reynolds, Stillwater Public Library director. “And I think the community is excited to get started too. I don’t think we have ever had so many people ask about getting the book before the series even started.”

According to Reynolds, much of the public excitement is due to the popularity of Charles Portis’ book. “True Grit” was published in 1968 and was quickly made into the classic Western movie featuring John Wayne as Portis’ lead character, a rough and tough U.S. Marshal named “Rooster Cogburn.”

Event coordinators are capitalizing on the unforgettable character by featuring him at the Kick-off event on Monday, March 2, at 6:30 p.m.

Dr. Clarance Benes, a veteran of recreating fascinating characters for events, will portray Cogburn that night at the Stillwater Public Library.  “Rooster” will introduce the audience to “True Grit” with a book talk and highlights of the novel.

In a letter from Charles Portis to the Fort Smith National Historic Site in 2000, the author revealed that Cogburn was not based on any particular person in history as rumors have long insisted. Instead Cogburn was just “a representative figure of those hardy deputy marshals who worked for Judge Parker’s court.”

Portis chose the name “Rooster” because it is one given to “belligerent little fellows in the South.” It was one of the ways that Portis gave depth and vulnerability to the big, hardened Civil War veteran turned marshal.

Dr. Benes, who earned a PhD. in Education, has developed and hosted numerous murder mystery parties and has portrayed U.S. marshals at many of the events. Benes’ Cogburn was a fixture across Oklahoma over the past year as he traveled from library to library during the “Oklahoma Reads True Grit” series.

Before and after Benes performance, participants will have a chance to register for the “True Grit” series and get a free copy of the novel. Copies will be distributed to anyone who signs up for one of the eleven book discussions to be held at different locations throughout town.

People who need large print or audio copies of the book may request to borrow copies for free through the library’s Interlibrary Loan service. In addition, three copies of the book in eBook format are available through the Oklahoma Virtual Library. For assistance in making any of these special requests, contact the Help Desk at (405) 372-3633 x8106 or email

The next event takes place on Saturday, March 7, at 3 p.m. at the OSU Postal Plaza Gallery. Dr. Julie Pearson-Little Thunder’s original play, “Oklahoma Women with True Grit” will be performed in a Readers’ Theatre style. The play features six Oklahoma women who have challenged traditional limits.

“Each of featured women is a stand-out in her field, said Reynolds. “They exemplify the courage and grit shown by Mattie Ross, the fourteen year old protagonist of the novel.”

Pearson-Little Thunder, a Visiting Assistant Professor at the OSU Library, based the play on interviews from the OSU’s Oral History Research Program.

Pearson-Little Thunder had many strong Oklahoma women from which to choose, but her selections illustrate the vast array of areas where women have had an impact on the state.

Featured Oklahoma women include Rita Aragon, the first woman to hold the rank of Brigadier General in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and the first female commander of the Air National Guard; Wilma McDaniel, the “Okie Poet,” who published over 50 books of poetry and short stories; and Vicki Miles LaGrange, one of the two first African American women to serve in the Oklahoma Senate. Other women featured in the production include activists Dana Tiger and Jacqulyn Longacre and tribal leader Della Warrior.

“Oklahoma Women with True Grit” will be performed on two additional days including

Monday, March 9, at 4 p.m. at the OSU Edmon Low Library and Tuesday, March 10, at 1 p.m. during the Osher Life Long Learning Town Hall held at Stillwater Public Library.

“One Book, One Community: Stillwater Reads True Grit” is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Other funding partners include Stillwater Public Library Trust, Friends of Stillwater Public Library and Friends of OSU Library.

For more information on all of the events, visit the Stillwater Public Library’s “True Grit” page at

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. (the corner of Duck and 12th Ave.).  Visit the library online at