DALLAS — Glorious Western art and various Ronald Reagan memorabilia adorn the walls and tables of the BP Capital lobby on the second floor of the Preston Commons Center.
But paintings and presidents share the stage with OSU football.
Two hundred sixty-six miles south of Stillwater, sits a tribute to Boone Pickens' impact on his alma mater's ball team.
A Christmas ornament with a hand-drawn “I love OSU Game Day.”
A replica 2011 Big 12 championship trophy, a gift from OSU president Burns Hargis.
A 2011 Bedlam game ball.
Aerial photos of Boone Pickens Stadium, including one signed by Hargis, Mike Holder and Mike Gundy.
Also in the lobby is the book cover of Leslie Haines' “100 most influential people of the petroleum century.” Boone shares the cover with, among others, Winston Churchill.
Write a similar book for college football at the turn of the next century, and Boone just might be on that list, too.
Heck, he might even be alive to enjoy it.
On May 22, Boone Pickens turned 85. Sounds old until you're around him. Sounds old until you learn a personal trainer arrives at Boone's home most mornings at 6:30 a.m. to lead a workout. Sounds old until you learn Boone's family genes.
Boone's father lived to be 90. His mother died of a brain aneurysm at age 77, when she was in better health than her sister, who lived to be 95.
Boone's retirement plan is the same as his burial plan. Take him away in a box.
Boone has made a few concessions to age. He no longer golfs, because while he can still hit a shot 200 yards, “I can't hit two shots in a row.” And he no longer hunts quail on his beloved Mesta Vista Ranch in the Texas Panhandle, because his peripheral vision has lessened, and hunting is no fun when you have to look down while walking.
Boone doesn't like looking down. That's why he gave all that money to OSU football in the first place. Too many Homecoming games, traipsing back to his car after a defeat.
“I'm very competitive,” Boone said. “I guess I got tired of getting beat. I hate to go to a game, lose, walk back to the car looking down at my feet.”
Boone recalls a game from decades ago, when the Cowboys lost late, maybe 21-20 to Kansas State in 1983.
Boone was in Lewis Field's VIP section, in those days long before luxury suites in Stillwater. He was sitting around other donors and stood up at game's end.
“Let me say something,” Boone said he pronounced. “We all love this school. If we're going to get competitive, we're going to have to raise some money.”
Someone asked, how much? Boone suggested $100,000 each. “I didn't get much response,” he said.
Boone says he gave the $100,000 then but still was tired of losing more than two decades later, when he donated $165 million, which resulted in the glittering stadium that bears his name.
Boone's message then was clear. Get competitive. Over the years, the message has changed. Win.
And the Cowboys have.
“I think I got my money's worth,” Boone said of his $500 million donations to his alma mater, half of which has gone to athletics. “I have no regrets at all.”
OSU football has given Boone some muscle in the braggadocio talks of Dallas board rooms, where for decades he's run into Aggies and Longhorns and Razorbacks and Sooners.
“They all know who we are,” Boone said. “They know we did it over a short period of time.”
Boone takes pride in telling the story of big-time Texas A&M booster J.L. Huffines, who before he died attended an OSU-A&M game in Stillwater and told Boone that the Aggies had to have something as nice as Boone Pickens Stadium.
OSU football also has warmed Boone's heart as he's heard stories of renewed pride in the old school.
Boone knew one of two things would happen when he gave all that money. Either OSU's wealthy alums would say “Let Boone do it,” or they would join him in the cause.
The latter has happened, from Sherman Smith's $20 million donation for an indoor facility to Hargis' recently completed Branding Success campaign, which brought in more than $1 billion, a year ahead of schedule.
Boone says he gets a charge even from meeting the non-wealthy alums thankful that Cowboy football has played a part in raising the school's profile.
You think football is the only big change in Stillwater? Boone says the geology school is no less different.
Boone spent three years at then-Oklahoma A&M, after transferring from Texas A&M.
His last two years he was a nontraditional student, with a wife and soon a daughter and a job grading in the geology school.
After graduation, Boone famously started working on that first billion dollars, and didn't have much contact with his school.
“I graduated in '51,” Boone said. “We'd bump into each other, but nobody ever brought us back together. Now, that's exactly what's going on.”
Boone often talks about his grandmother, Nellie Molonson, who taught him to never forget where you came from.
That's why, Boone says, he reached out to OSU in the 1970s about become a donor, even if the massive millions didn't reach Stillwater until 30 years later.
Because of Boone's and other grads' generosity, “our geology school has done so much better,” he said. “Better than it's ever been.”
Boone says oil men from Chesapeake, Devon and Sandridge laud the work ethic of OSU's geology graduates.
“If you look at where our students come from, sure, there are some from Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Dallas, Houston,” Boone said. “But a great number of 'em come from small towns and schools that breed good work ethic.”
Work ethic matters to Boone, who at 85 takes few days off and takes few nonbusiness trips other than to Mesta Vista. Boone still wants to make money, even if part of his motivation is to give it away.
He's proud of his football team's rise. He's also proud of the family that long has worked his ranch; between two brothers, Boone has sent nine of their children to college, mostly at OSU.
Boone also knows a bunch of Texans who now send their kids to OSU. A&M and the University of Texas admit only the top 10 percent from a particular high school. That leaves a lot of good students looking for a college.
“Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, they picked up a lot of kids out of Texas,” Boone said. “A lot of those kids now come to OSU.
“They look at us. I hear from families that are going to OSU now. Very complimentary of the school.”
And a good football team doesn't hurt the college experience.
Boone doesn't spend much time with current or even former players.
“I'm not big on wanting to know players,” Boone said. “I just like to win. I like to see our team do well.”
Boone wasn't tight with Les Miles and isn't tight with Gundy.
“I don't have much contact with Mike,” Boone said. “I have closer contact with Travis Ford. Travis is going to get there. Travis is a very personable guy.”
Time was, another basketball coach, Eddie Sutton, was the big man on campus. The guy who was indispensable to a school craving an athletic identity.
Now, because Nellie Molonson taught her grandson well, football is king in Stillwater.
Boone likes to tell the story of a third-grade class in Holdenville. Boone was headed back to his hometown for a dedication, and the teacher was preparing her class for the event.
She asked the students if they knew who Boone Pickens was.
A little boy raised his hand. Said Boone Pickens was from Holdenville and was a big deal at OSU. And had a big head.
So far so good. But then the boy said Boone Pickens had a big hat. And a six-shooter.
Sorry, kid. Boone Pickens is not Pistol Pete. But we can understand the confusion. Boone is just as orange. Just as symbolically huge in Stillwater. Just as much of an OSU icon as the tradition-rich mascot.
In the twilight of his life, Boone has become as known for funding the Cowboy football renaissance as he was for oil moguling and corporate raiding in yesteryear.
And that twilight might have a long shelf life.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.