Had life gone the way she planned it, Ree Drummond would’ve turned out to be the Ally McBeal of senior advocacy.
She was a college graduate with a degree in gerontology who planned to go to law school in Chicago. But life happened, and today, rather than advocating senior rights in a courtroom, she lives on a ranch and is a blogosphere sensation known as The Pioneer Woman. To her fans, Drummond and her husband, Ladd, are Oklahoma royalty.
Because royalty in Oklahoma is as rare as forestry in the Panhandle, we know it when we see it.
When the Osage County resident arrived at a book signing at Full Circle Bookstore in 50 Penn Place recently for her new book, the evidence was more than statistics and anonymous well-wishes. It was tangible.
The Pioneer Woman confessor, whose blog is viewed daily by tens of thousands of people, was there to promote her first book, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks,” which arrived in stores last month.
"We’re just so proud of her,” said fan and follower Vivian Boroff, who was one of the hundreds who showed up, helped those in line take photos and organized an after-party at Rococo for fellow fans. "She’s just such a real person, and she’s so funny. I love her.”
Ree Drummond aspired to none of this. She left her hometown of Bartlesville to pursue big-city life by way of the University of Southern California, and after four years of enjoying the sushi and nightlife there, she planned to stay a city girl by moving to Chicago.
But then, on a brief stop home en route to Chicago, she met Ladd Drummond, a member of one of northeastern Oklahoma’s most established families. And just as Charles found Diana, Arthur met Guinevere, and Donnie Duncan found Barry Switzer, Ladd found Ree.
But unlike other real-life fairy tales, their happily ever after is ongoing; their Camelot is a 20,000-acre ranch near Pawhuska. Besides the four children they homeschool, their subjects are mostly horse and cattle. But thanks to Ree’s blog, the Drummond reach went virtual. Thanks to her cookbook, the digitally deficient are now invited to the party.
The line to see her for the book signing began on the store’s north side, filed out into the mall, stretched to west to Belle Isle Brewery then toward the north exit where it curled back south into the mall, doubling back like a shoelace on the verge of a knot.
So, why did people start arriving about 3:45 p.m. on a Thursday to form a line that didn’t start moving until book signing started at 6:30 p.m. and wasn’t exhausted until 12:30 a.m. Friday?
"I’ll tell you why,” said fellow blogger Shannon Snow, who goes by the Coupon Princess. "If you homeschool, you read it. If you cook, she’s got recipes. If you like photography, covered — and she’s really, really funny.”
Drumond’s award-winning blog also covers gardening, home improvement and anyone looking to laugh at someone else’s foibles so they can better accept their own.
Drummond has a conversational, self-deprecating style that doesn’t try to be more than your favorite virtual neighbor. And she’s a polite neighbor. She doesn’t post political signs in the virtual yard or paint the virtual house aquamarine, nor would her virtual dogs wake you with their barking if they existed. If she could send you a cup of sugar through the Internet, she would.
While you’re not invited to a real cookout on the ranch, she lets you know how to create your own and why those that she’s hosted have been filled with initial panic, obstacles created by innocent, adorable children and ultimately ended successfully. All of this happens online, so your lingering not only will be welcome but preferred. You’ll leave with some nice recipes, home-improvement tips and a lot of new friends.
Drummond — whether intended or not — might be the finest Internet hostess in the world, and she has the hardware to prove it. In 2009, she won Bloggies — sort of the Oscars for bloggers — for Weblog of the Year, Best Photography and Best Designed.