By:  Pat Austin

MIAMI, OK:  As I mentioned last week, we are on the road this week and as of this writing find ourselves on Route 66 in Miami, OK.

One of our travel stops today was pretty fabulous and worth sharing with you. It may never have crossed your mind that a 311 foot, Balao class submarine could be found in the middle of Oklahoma, but sure enough, that’s where you can find the USS Batfish at the War Memorial Park in Muskogee.

The sub is open to the public and is lovingly tended and kept in tip-top shape through private donations; the state of Oklahoma doesn’t fund the project (and therefore there is no sign on the turnpike or highways alerting tourists to the park).

The Batfish was commissioned in 1942 and was in service for 26 years and is known primarily “for the remarkable feat of sinking three Imperial Japanese Navy submarines in a 76-hour period, in February 1945.”

The sub sits now in a depressed area of a large field at the War Memorial Park in a shallow basin of water. After touring the museum, visitors then can walk outside and go aboard the sub. The first thing that hits you is the smell of the oil and machinery of the sub, but once you descend the ladder into the Batfish, you can see the torpedo holds, banks of brass gauges, dials, and levers; you can see the bunks where the crew rotated sleep shifts, the officer and the enlisted mess, a couple of office areas, and all along the tour are either guides or video monitors with information.

If I lived closer to Muskogee, I’d take part in some of the cool events that the park offers like Bands on the Batfish, or the overnight stays that they do to raise funds to support this fascinating piece of history.

What impressed my husband almost as much as the USS Batfish was the large section of the mast of the USS Oklahoma which was destroyed at Pearl Harbor.  It was sobering to stand next to that mast and realize its role in history.

Read more about the USS Batfish here, and about the park that has given her a home here. And if you find yourself in Oklahoma, go by and see it. If you want to donate to the upkeep and maintenance of the sub, go here. The park goes beyond just preserving the submarine, but also works to educate young people and to bring history alive.

For me, it was fascinating to walk through the submarine and think about the masterful engineering involved in putting so much equipment in such a small space.  It is well worth the trip.

When you think of American Success stories in Hamilton Missouri it’s quite natural for the first thoughts in your minds to be either JC Penny who was born here, or Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt company who we wrote about here.

But at the very end of the street, just beyond the last quilt shop, there is a very small building. It doesn’t look like much and only sits about 20 people but it’s an American success story all the same.

This is Hank and Tank’s barbeque and you should know about it.

DaWife DaYoungestSon and I stopped there in the midst of her Missouri Star Quilt experience to have some lunch. Tank took our order and gave me a few minutes of his time.

I recorded this interview after we ordered but before we got our food. Believe me it was worth the wait.

Yes the scarf comes off when eating DaRibs

The Ribs I had were the best ribs I’d ever tasted and it wasn’t even close, they were not served sauced but sauce was provided i we wanted but I found that the ribs were so good that I didn’t want to dilute the flavor the slighted bit (this was in contrast to the pork and pickle at the airport whose ribs which needed bbq sauce to give them flavor). My wife who had the Brisket said it was “melt in your mouth tender” and not only did my son love his pulled pork sandwich but while he never cared for ribs absolutely loved the ones I shared with him as did DaWife, both of who gave me a taste of their food as well.

I spoke to both to Tank’s father and Tank as we ate, he starts preparing his meat for the smoker at 4:30 AM and prepares his mix of hickory and cherry wood before feeding the smokers at 5:30 AM. He was very humble concerning his praise of his food still very much the man who told his family when the idea of opening a restaurant was presented to him “Who’s going to pay money for my barbecue”” even as he sells 800lbs of meat a day on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday that they are open. He was constantly in and out with his brother and son Hank serving the customers who came from all over the world for the jewel of the crown of the quilting world and discovered another gem right beside them.

Without a doubt the food here is spectacular and if you are anywhere near Hamilton Missouri it’s worth coming down for some of the Best BBQ you will ever eat, but what I love most about this story is how American it is. Think about it, a family deciding they have to get their hard-working father and husband out of a corrections job that was killing him, going all in to make their tiny restaurant a success and being rewarded not with glowing reviews from all over who have eaten their food, but more importantly with the improved health of the person they love, which is what they really wanted above all else.

That’s the quintessential American success story.

I don’t know if they’ll eventually decide to open a fourth day or a fifth, or expand into a bigger restaurant and I can’t tell you if you will someday see a Hank and Tank’s chain serving great food all over the country, but that doesn’t matter because that’s not the measure of what success is. If they simply remain a family able to support themselves by working hard and providing customers with great food three days a week that makes it no less an example of the American Dream that Tank’s great grandfather came from Sicily to pursue.


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