By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Former Caddo County farm boy Ken Aldridge found a way to keep busy by turning his northwest Muskogee acreage into a place to raise quail, grow vegetables and help people.
Aldridge grew up in Caddo County, between the towns of Fort Cobb and Apache.
“We had about 40 to 50 head of cattle, mostly milk cows,” he said. “We raised corn, cotton, wheat, maize, sugar cane. Back then we had to raise and make our own feed. We would grind it at our own farm. There was a lot less waste. This was before they had all the weed killers. We had to do all the work by hand with a hoe. We called it a hammer mill.”
The feed was a mixture of corn, maize, even sugar cane. Yes, sugar cane, Aldridge said.
“They still feed with sweet feed now. They put molasses in the mix.”
He recalled how hard it was to pick cotton in southwest Oklahoma.
“You had to go out there with your back bent till you get so tired you get on your knees and crawl,” he said.
Aldridge attended Cameron University, then joined the U.S. Air Force.
“I just wanted to be in the service,” he said. “I took ROTC in college and I decided I wanted to be in the Air Force instead of the Army.”
“I started at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, just out of Washington, D.C., and transferred to a radar site in Alaska, 250 miles north of Fairbanks,” he said. He recalled staying in insulated pup-tents when it got to 30 degrees below zero.
He said he was fortunate to have served when he did — between the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“It was peace time,” he said. “A lot of boys didn’t have the luxury.”
After getting out of the Air Force, Aldridge held various jobs. At Brown Manufacturing in Oklahoma City, he made vertical window louvers. He worked at Muskogee Iron Works, then at Whitehorn Cove Marina before retiring in 1999.
Hatching his hobby
Ken Aldridge is a newcomer to raising quail.
He said he started a few weeks ago with seven birds.
“I also ordered 10 dozen eggs, then I’m going to have them going to an incubator,” he said. “I’m guessing half of them will be males and the other half will be able to lay eggs in about seven or eight weeks.”
Aldridge said he does not have enough room at his one-acre home to raise chickens, so he began to investigate raising quail. He said he obtained a lot of information from the Internet.
“These eggs are very nutritious,” he said. “They’re supposed to have no LDL cholesterol.”
The American Heart Association says LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is the “bad” cholesterol which could build up in the inner walls of the arteries and clog them. This could result in heart attacks or strokes, the Heart Association’s website said.
Within a few months, Aldridge and his wife, Beth, expect to enjoy cooking with the eggs.
He said he doesn’t plan on selling any eggs.
“I have too many things going on now to start a new business,” he said.
Aldridge keeps the quail in a small cage, but he’s setting up a row of cages where the quail can lay their eggs.
“It’s not been a challenge at all,” he said. “They’re really nice birds.”
Drip irrigation helps
make his garden grow
Aldridge has plenty of farm expertise to raise a vegetable garden.
He just has to make do with the space he has.
He said the garden he had last year “wasn’t very big, just 25 feet by 25 feet.”
But the garden yielded corn, collard greens, onions, tomatoes, squash, beans and “quite a bit of okra,” he said.
Aldridge said this year’s garden ought to be bigger.
“It will probably be mid-April before I plant, have it be the first frost-free day,” he said. “Almost everything I do, I do from seed, except tomatoes. I buy tomato plants.”
He said a drip irrigation system has helped the garden survive drought.
“I have a main line of tubing that connects with a little tube with little slits in it,” he said. “I have a well for my garden, so drip irrigation uses very little water.”
Aldridge laid the irrigation line under the soil to keep the foliage from getting too wet.
“If you get the foliage too wet, you could have problems with diseases,” he said. “Last year, my drip line was underneath the soil, at the root zone.”
This helped the water reach the roots better, he said. “And it cuts down on evaporation because it’s not exposed to the hot wind.”
He said drip irrigation is a gardening method “that can be done anywhere.”
A little pressure in the right
places does wonders
In 1999, Aldridge retired from his job at Whitehorn Cove Marina. The retirement didn’t last too long.
In 2004, his life veered in another direction, and he says he’s busier than ever.
He said his wife, who had been doing massage therapy, was having health problems.
“She was having pain in her shoulder radiating through her arm,” he said. “She had gone to several doctors.”
Aldridge said his wife was going to a continuing education class about reflexology in 2004.
“She was tired of me sitting out in the van and said, ‘Come in and join us,’” he said.
“Reflexology is based on the science that there are reflex points in the feet and hands for every organ and part of the body,” he said. “By working these reflex properties, you stimulate blood flow to help improve nerve function. It’s very relaxing.”
Aldridge said he began working on his wife’s feet during the class, applying pressure where needed.
“She said that all of a sudden, her arm didn’t hurt anymore,” he said.
He said he continued going to the class and eventually learned enough to open a business.
Aldridge said the business keeps him extra busy.
“From 9:30 in the morning to 8 at night, I’m just booked solid,” he said.
Meet Ken Aldridge
HOMETOWN: Fort Cobb.
CAREER: Massage therapist, reflexology.
EDUCATION: Fort Cobb High School, attended Cameron University and night classes at University of Central Oklahoma.
FAMILY: Wife, Beth; one son.
CHURCH: Oldham Memorial Baptist Church.
HOBBIES: Gardening, fishing, hunting.
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“I was transferred here with my job in 1972. I was working for an oil company at the time. I love this part of the state — Green Country. I love the water, the lakes, the people.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“The people, I like to work with people. There are some wonderful people around here.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“Clean up the access to Honor Heights Park.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
Massage therapy and reflexology.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“I garden. We go to Branson two or three times a year. I love to do woodworking.”
WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?
“Many people. We have a good pastor, Glen Little. He’s dedicated. He’s sincere. He’s very concerned about his congregation.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“Definitely my present occupation.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“There are so many things to do here, like the Azalea Festival. The country is so different here.”