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My visit to Crybaby Hill, the closest Oklahoma’s ever come to Mardi Gras

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My view from Crybaby Hill for most of Tulsa Tough's Sunday afternoon. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK
My view from Crybaby Hill for most of Tulsa Tough's Sunday afternoon. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK

For better and worse, repression, I submit, is part of the Oklahoman character.

It shows in our overwhelmingly conservative political and religious demographics, becoming codified in our restrictive and often preventive laws. Want that strong beer cold? You gotta take it home and put it in your fridge first.

Partly, I think it’s also a byproduct of Midwestern politeness. You don’t call on your neighbor to talk about yourself, that’s just rude. In that way we inhibit ourselves for the comfort of others, that they might be uninhibited.

So what is that we’re repressing? Recently I found out, when I went to Tulsa for Tulsa Tough, its homegrown international cycling event.

On Friday and Saturday circuit bike races take over downtown, drawing thousands of spectators, most very normal. Locals looking for an excuse to party, families with children who gawk at how fast the cyclists can go, out-of-towners doing some urban exploring. About every minute and a half or so the racers zoom by, like this:

But Sunday takes on a much different vibe. Part of that day’s course snakes through a north Tulsa neighborhood off Riverside Drive that’s secluded by hills and tall shade trees, and that is where the repression stops and the closest thing that Oklahoma has to Mardi Gras begins.

This was my third year in a row to see the bacchanal at Crybaby Hill, as it’s known, and I think this year’s tone was pretty similar to that of both years previous, no more malicious or out-of-hand than I’ve ever seen. There was some weird stuff, though! Here’s what I saw:

A Viking enjoying a cold can of suds

One very chill Viking. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK
One very chill Viking. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK

This gentleman and his pool were situated on the way into Crybaby Hill, on what the sign above his head proclaimed as “Climax Corner.” I don’t think that’s the street’s municipal name.

A man riding a cooler lashed to a longboard skateboard
He had both feet kicked up in the air in front of him, gleefully, like some berserk cowboy. I’m sorry I didn’t capture him on pixels, he was riding too fast down the hill and I was carrying a very heavy cooler. 

Creepy baby doll stick

Creepy baby doll stick. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK
Creepy baby doll stick. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK

Baby dolls are a tradition of Crybaby Hill that go back, as I understand it, to the race’s inception. It isn’t uncommon to see them incorporated into attendees’ fashion as necklaces or headgear or whatever. (More on that in a bit.) Also popular are these big sticks covered in baby dolls which are  useful for keeping large groups together during a chaotic day on the hill. Here’s a less creepy, more tasteful example of crybaby décor, in this case, on a rider. 

A nun with a can of strawberry Modelo?
Since returning from Tulsa to my desk I’ve used Google to ascertain that strawberry Modelo does not exist in any official capacity, so I’m willing to concede that it was perhaps some strain of canned michelada or perhaps an awful energy drink. But the woman drinking it was definitely dressed in a habit. 

Guy cosplaying as a war boy from “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Just a lonely war boy, looking for his Immortan Joe. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK
Just a lonely war boy, looking for his Immortan Joe. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK

Can’t think of another reason why my dude here would powder himself up like that and strap on a pair of goggles. It was an especially perplexing move considering that the local bar that puts on the Crybaby Hill festivities chose “Summer of Love” as this year’s theme. See you in Valhalla, my man.

This very good dog.  (Check out photo #23)

An actual baby
It’s not uncommon to see baby dolls in chest-carriers on Crybaby Hill (like so):

They serve as something of a Crybaby Hill sigil, but they also work as a joke: “Hey! How silly would it be if this baby were real! I'd be the world's worst parent!” It’s funny for the same reason that Zach Galifianakis bumbling through that one “Hangover” movie with the kid strapped to his chest was funny.

But I swear to God, this baby was alive and squirming and it was the most shocking thing I saw all that afternoon. Who in their right mind brings their flesh-and-blood child to a pile of chaos like Crybaby Hill? 

A marriage proposal
She said yes! Kudos to the Tulsa World photographer who captured the moment. (Check photo #39)

A mysterious masked man

I didn't get his name. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK
I didn't get his name. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK

Went home not long after this.

For more, definitely check out the Tulsa World’s gallery of photos from all three days’ worth of races. 

Related Photos
Creepy baby doll stick. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK

Creepy baby doll stick. Photo by Matt Carney / NewsOK

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Matt Carney

Matt Carney is the night editor of NewsOK.com and a 2011 graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. He was born in Tulsa, lives in Oklahoma City and misses QuikTrip every day. Read more ›

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