Jim and Naomi Sinclair



 watonga.com sat down with Jim and Naomi Sinclair to ask them about 'life in Watonga'. 
What a fun couple to talk to!   Following are a few of their stories.




We didn’t have store-bought bread as a child; my mother made the bread for our sandwiches that we took to school. Arlo Gose, my best friend, had store-bought bread in his lunch sack. His family was better off than mine. So I would trade my homemade bread sandwich for Arlo’s sandwich because I thought it was better. Arlo thought my sandwich was better.

Jim speaking:

I grew up on this 160 acre farm near Roman Nose State Park and attended Centralia school as a youngster. Teachers I remember are my 1st grade teacher, Cybil Shriner, and my 2nd grade teacher, Robert Boeman. My last teacher at Centralia was Mrs. Willis Hinkle.

I have two older brothers, Robert and Irvin and two younger siblings, Glen and Rosalee.


 We had a Shetland pony named, “Jimmy” that we three boys rode to school. Often he would lean too far while taking the curve and we would fall off. We didn’t have a saddle. He just went on without us. Jimmy was the only one who made it to school on time.


 Arlo’s home was just ¾ mile from mine. He and his brother would come over and play cards with us. We played a card game called ‘smut’. If you won, you got to put your finger in the smut from the cook stove and touch someone else’s face. Arlo wasn’t too good at playing cards, so he went home with black all over his face and you could hardly wash that stuff off. His mother would say to him, “You’re not going to go down there anymore if you keep coming home with black all over your face.”

I liked to go to Arlo’s place and I tried to go in the evening around milking time. Mrs. Gose would say,

“Jim, if you milk my cows, I’ll give you a nickel apiece.”

I said, “You betcha!” I made a whole dime!


Baby Jimmy posing with his mother and two older brothers, Irvin and Robert


   Picture Day at Centralia School

back row:
Richard Edsall
Arlo Gose
Jim Sinclair
Charles Payne

   front row:
Glen Sinclair
Jimmy Zeka
Arlo Payne
Robert Edsall
Robert Barnes



 There were a lot of chores to do on our farm. We sold wood, so every evening we sawed 2 ricks of wood with a buzz saw. We milked the cows and separated the milk and fed the hogs.

Before we got a windmill, we had to fill the cow tank with water from the hand pump. The tank was marked in thirds. Robert, my oldest brother would fill the first third, and then Irvin, my next oldest brother, would fill the second third. I suppose it was because I was the youngest of the three older boys that I had to fill the last third.

It wasn’t quite fair!

The cows had come up to the tank by then and were drinking. So it took a long time and a lot of muscle to fill the last third of the cow tank.


Glen and Jim

 Centralia School closed in 1947. I knew that I would be starting 8th grade at Watonga School. So one Saturday, when Arlo and I were in Watonga we walked down to the school building. Imagine how big that building looked to two farm boys.

 All that rock made it look something like a penitentiary;

a building that you would go into, but not come out.

 Our closest neighbors when I was growing up were Floyd and Raymond Flynn. We would go out hunting. One night we were out with the dogs and we heard this scream.

My dad had always told us that a panther sounds just like a woman screaming.

We witnessed our three dogs running toward the house as fast as they could with their tails between their legs. We heard the scream one more time and then we boys turned tail and ran also; but we didn't catch the dogs.

Lots of times we would be out hunting and we get to telling scary stories; so scary that we would decide to run on home. One time Floyd Flynn and I were out hunting and the dogs were barking at this hole in the ground. We pushed the dogs out of the way and I held the lantern for Floyd to look in the hole. He said it was full of possums. I said, “Let me look.” He held the lantern and I got down there and looked, but it wasn’t possums, it was skunks and one of them sprayed that scent into my face. About that time, they started coming out of the hole. I went over to the pond and washed my eyes out, but it really burned. I told Flynn that we needed to get them because we could get seventy-five cents a hide. We got all seven of them.

But I wasn’t allowed back on the school bus for some time.



 Family history on Jim's mother's side

Johann J. Grabow, Sr. received money from his father’s estate. That is what he used to bring his family to the United States. His passport read: Johann J. Grabow, Sr., occupation was Arbeiter. He was 50 years old. Maria was 48 years. Place of Origin: Kasselow/Meeklb; day of departure, Jan 10, 1867 on the ship Palmerston; destination New York. The family first settled along the Missouri River, but there was some trouble so they left and moved to Nebraska at Gretna, and settled down as farmers. Johann J. Grabow, Jr. married Anna Brandt on Dec. 18, 1879 at Gretna, Neb.

To this family 12 children were born (Hulda, Jim’s mother, was the youngest). They moved to Oklahoma in 1896 and settled in Alpha; later they moved to Kingfisher where Johann J. Grabow, Jr. bought the Gov. Seay Mansion. Hulda lived in the Seay Mansion as a young girl. Hulda’s parents had made a pledge with a couple in Germany that their youngest daughter would marry their son. Hulda had fallen in love with a man named ‘Joe Sinclair’ and much to her parents' disapproval, she sent the German suitor back across the ocean.

Jim's grandma, Anna Grabow
with daughter, Hulda, in the background


Joe Sinclair, Jim's father

 My mother was always happy. Yet, she was very superstitious. If a black cat crossed her path, she would pull off the side of the road and wait for another car to come by to break the spell. And if it took too long for another car to come by, she would turn the car around and go back the way she came. She never walked under a ladder or brought an axe in the house. And she warned people not to take their broom with them when they moved. In fact her nephew had marital problems and she remarked at the time that they must have taken their old broom with them when they moved.


Naomi speaking:

My first introduction to Mrs. Sinclair was preceded by a slap on my hand because I pointed at the beautiful rainbow. Jim drove me out to their house to meet his parents. They met us at the car like they did all visitors. They never let anyone knock on their door. They were just that hospitable! But when I pointed out the beautiful rainbow, she slapped my hand and said, “Never point at a rainbow. It is bad luck.” I wasn’t sure that I was going to like my mother-in-law or not. But I did. She was a wonderful person, always laughing and always giving.

 My mother was always so much fun to be with. Once when my older brother came home from California, we decided to go down to the North Canadian and do a little hand fishing. We walked along until we saw the fish running into this little shallow place. My mother said, “Well,

I’ll sit down here and scare the fish back to you

so you can catch them.” We start digging in the water for the fish and we hear mama roaring with laughter. We look over there and one fish had gone up her dress, got past the waist band and was in her bodice just flopping around. She got so tickled she fell over backwards, laughing. She had to unbutton her dress to finally get the fish out. We only caught one fish that day.

 When Gerald Weinmeister and I got out of high school in 1952, we decided we were going to go out to California and make our fortune. I was working at Southard and we got us a little bit of money, about $50 a piece. I didn’t have a spare or a jack. I only had a manifold heater in the car with no fan.

I applied for a job at the General Motors plant. I was surprised to get the job after seeing how many other applicants there were. Gerald also got a job at General Motors. We were there about three months working 10 hour days, 5 days a week, earning $1.80 an hour. We didn’t know how to spend that much money.

After three months, we were sitting in our apartment and all at once, everything started shaking; the dishes were rattling. We worried, too, because the landlord said that if we broke any dishes that we would have to pay for them. He looked at me and I looked at him. I said,

”I’m ready to go home.”

So we took off.

When we left, I had a spare tire, but no jack and still no heater. This was in March when we headed home; many roads were so snow-packed that we had to take different routes. We drove a 65-mile stretch through Arizona where we didn’t meet a single car.

Harold Pemberton and Jim

 In the summer of 1953, I helped remodel the Roman Nose pool. By 1954 I had a job in maintenance. I worked at Roman Nose State Park for several years off and on. And so did my brothers and my friends.

Don Taylor and Jerry Weinmeister
 Many times in the summer a group of us boys would sleep on top of the concession stand just to keep an eye on things. One morning about 1:00 o’clock, we heard voices so we crept down to the pool and could see people in there swimming. Their clothes were all right there where we had crawled up to, so we got their clothes and one of us went around to the chemical house where the lights were. We turned the lights on; they were skinny dipping. They all run out of the low end of the pool and took off going east. Because of their dark tans and naked behinds,

it looked like a bunch of whitetail deer scattering to the forest cover.

One night while sleeping on top of the concession stand, we decided to rig Don Jackson’s cot so that it would collapse when he laid down and we also had a possum tied to the cot with a rope that we hoped would run across him when he fell. Everything worked as planned! But I thought later, “What would have happened if Don would have landed on that possum!”

 We had a group of Rainbow Girls staying in the cabins once, so we started the rumor that there was a crazy Indian out there named ‘BoBo’.

One of us dressed up and hid in the hollow of the tree and screamed at the girls when they came by. We also had the job of cleaning the bathrooms at the pool, even the ladies room.

Sometimes swimsuits and caps were left behind. And many times, falsies were left in the girls’ bath house. We would get those falsies and when we saw a girl swimming that we thought lost them, we would dive in with the falsies in our hand and release them close to her. When she saw them, she would grab them quickly thinking she had just lost them.

Glen in a suit and cap he found in the girls' bath house

        Harlen                                                                    Hoppy
 At the Roman Nose Pool, there was a large sign with big letters beside the admission gate that read,


Joe McCrary, one of the lifeguards, had to call to someone’s attention once that we didn’t let people carry in bottles.

The offender was a big proud guy that strutted when he said, “When you talk to me, you say, ‘Sir’!” Joe shot back,

“I’m not going to call anybody ‘Sir’ that can’t read a sign THAT big.”

I wouldn’t have thought of such a quick response.

Roman Nose pool was always a popular place to be. I remember one 4th of July that we sold 1500 five cent bottles of pop at the pool concession stand. You could have walked across the pool on people’s heads.
That’s how crowded it was.

Naomi speaking:

 I first saw Jim when I was getting on the school bus one morning.  My sister and I stayed with grandma during the school week so we could go to Watonga schools. I remember Grandma waking us up on Monday morning by telling us to get up and strip the bed. Monday was sheet washing day and Monday was always bean cooking day.

My grandpa worked at the lumber yard. He was a fun grandpa. At the supper table, he would wait for Vera or I to butter our biscuits, then he would call our attention to something in the room or something out the window while he grabbed our buttered biscuit. He seemed to be able to trick us every time.

In high school, Jim and I dated. He was on the football team and I was on the cheerleading squad. I could jump high and nobody could whistle like I could. I had taught myself to whistle between my teeth when I was younger. I remember I was on our horse, Bob, when the air-filled whistles finally became a loud shrill. Bob reared up and ran back to the barn.

But my whistle has come in handy over the years. Besides cheering for the Watonga Football team, I could call my children home for supper when they were playing somewhere in the neighborhood.

 Jim was the football captain the same year that Barbara France was the football queen. She was my cheerleader buddy. I told her not to expect a kiss from him because we had had several dates and he still hadn’t kissed me. But to my surprise, he did kiss her and on our next date, he kissed me.

We broke up in high school and didn’t see each other again until several years later when he called me up one New Year’s Eve and asked, “You wouldn’t want to go out with me, would you?” I did want to go out with him. We went to the lodge for a New Year’s Eve dance and I decided then to keep him.

When we were dating, and we would walk down Main Street like everybody else did on Saturday night, girls would wave to Jim and exclaim happily, “Hello Jimmy!” Thinking her to be an old girlfriend, I would say, “Who was that?” He would always tell me that she was just his cousin. I didn’t believe him until I attended the first Sinclair reunion. What a lot of cousins!

 Jim speaking:

In 1956 I was drafted in the army and spent two years in Munich, Germany. After driving a tank for a few months, I was asked by a personnel officer if I could type.

I told him that it had been a while, but that I used to could type. The officer told me that that was something that you never forget He was right! I could type; but I had to work from 7 am till quarter till bed check every day for 3 months in order to get the hang of those 5 page travel vouchers.

 My inbox was usually three feet high while the outbox was empty.

Our unit was close to Dachau; the ovens were still there. In fact the U.S. Army used these prisons for their stockades.

Our unit was attached to the paratroopers. I would watch them parachute from the sky and think that I might like to transfer to that unit. One day, they were dropping jeeps and one tons. The parachute for the jeep failed to open and I didn’t see the jeep hit the ground, but I saw a huge dirt cloud that resulted from the failed parachute.

I decided then that I would stay
behind the desk and in
front of the typewriter.



One day our unit left a few of us at the concern and I had to pull guard duty. I was carrying my M1. The personnel officer came by and asked if I would like to carry his carbine. He said it was lighter; so he gave me this carbine.

A little later we had to line up for inspection. He grabbed that carbine and said, “It’s dirty, clean it before you go on duty!”

I didn’t see that coming!


 I started working at the Sheriff’s office in August of 1963 when C.P. Cunningham was the under sheriff and Hod Bates was the field deputy. The sheriff’s office was located then on the first floor of the courthouse. Sheriff Hugh Compton was a good boss. He would correct us when we messed up; but he never got on to us or embarrassed anybody.

I hadn’t had any training in law enforcement. When I worked the weekends, I would read the law books. I read the law books through twice. At this time there weren’t any schools for training.

Early day sheriffs in Blaine County, Oklahoma and
confiscated stills outside the courthouse.

 In 1974, I became the under sheriff. That’s the year I got shot. One Sunday afternoon, I decided to work on the disk brakes on my car. I didn’t have anything to squeeze the cylinder with to put it back together. So I had to go to work with the car the way it was; I could pump the brakes and get the car to stop if I could remember.

Late that night the alarm went off at O’Hare’s Drug Store. I decided to go down the alley to the back door. I put on my brakes to stop just short of the drug store’s back door; but, instead, I went sailing by alerting the robbers of my presence.

When I got stopped, I jumped out of the car and started toward the door. I heard the gun shot that sent me to my knees. I got back up shooting, but that shot hit Tyler’s air conditioning unit on their roof filling it with double ought buck shot.

Fred Espy came out into the alley a block down. I yelled to him to get more help. The robber shot at me again and I shot toward the flash hitting his hand. Now I’m thinking “I’m out of shells”, when I heard him say, “We give up!” I realize, “There’s more than one!” I yell, “Throw your guns down.”

By now, help has arrived to capture the robbers and Dewey takes me to the hospital. It was later revealed that one of these robbers was an escapee from Ft. Leavenworth.

 That’s the phone call that every sheriff’s wife dreads. “You’re husband has been shot.” When I finally got someone over to the house to stay with the kids, I rushed to the hospital to see him. As I entered the back door, I could hear him moaning and I imagined his belly just laid open and bleeding.

I lifted up the sheet to inspect his bullet wound and all I saw was a small entry wound. I said,

“Suck it up, Sinclair. That doesn’t look bad at all”.

But his back was hurting and he was afraid that the bullet had injured his back, also. The ambulance ride was painful for him. It was raining and the ambulance was having difficulty with the excess water on the road. In fact, the ambulance ride was painful for both of us and I wasn’t even shot.


 I ran for sheriff in 1976 and took office in January of 1977. I remember the first weekend; I was sitting behind my desk, when a married couple came in my office. They were fighting. The husband pulled up a chair next to me and the wife pulled up a chair on the other side of me and they continued their name calling and yelling and swinging their fists in the air with me in the middle. I slowly, inch by inch, slid my chair backwards until I was out of danger and I let them finish their battle without me.

There were a lot of learning experiences for me in those days.

Dealing with drunks is part of the job. I was driving down a street one night and thought I saw a child in the street; but as I got closer, I realized it was a man and he was duck walking. He was drunk. I picked him up and brought him to the jail. He said, “Jim, what you got me for?”  I said, “Rape!”. He yelled, “Rape! Jim I wouldn’t rape nobody!” “Well, then, would you settle for public intoxication?”

Another time, a drunk killed his cousin. We put him in the car and waited for the ambulance. When the ambulance arrived at his house, he said, “Oh! Who’s sick?” I guess he didn’t think that an ambulance should come for a dead man.

above: To raise money, the law enforcement of Blaine County agreed to play the Watonga High School teachers.  In time-outs, Jimmy Davis would pull his paddy wagon mid-court with sirens blaring in order to give the opposing team members speeding tickets.
Sometimes you have to catch your prisoner on foot. Lonnie and I were on chase one evening when I really didn’t think we had a chance of catching this young man. He kept looking back at me and not ever looking back at Lonnie. So I yelled, “Lonnie, don’t shoot!” At that point, the guy stops suddenly, puts his hands up in the air and Lonnie and I literally run over him because we can’t get ourselves stopped quick enough.

A group of Cheyennes called me Hokum all the time. I thought maybe it was a bad word until someone explained that their language doesn’t have any curse words. They told me it means, ‘little coyote’. They called me that because Hugh was 6’ and 250 pounds, C.P. was probably 6’4” and 235 pounds and Hod was 6’1 and 255 pounds. I was 5’11” and 158 pounds.


Naomi had to act as matron on several occasions when I had to transport a female. We were taking one lady to Ft. Supply when she insisted on stopping in Seiling to use the bathroom. Naomi didn’t want to, but I told her that she had to go in the bathroom with her. After sitting on the toilet studying Naomi for a few moments, she said to Naomi, “If you didn’t have all those freckles, you’d be real pretty.”

Another unsettling ride to Ft. Supply was with a very small woman who just stayed curled up in the corner of the back seat the whole trip. We thought that she would be little trouble and she was except for the one moment that she sat up and screamed, “Ha, yah, ha yah, ha yah”. This loud chant scared the unsuspecting Naomi so much that I thought she was going to jump out of the car.

Jim standing in a field of marijuana west of town that his office destroyed.  The seeds were probably inside hay bales that were transported from Kansas.
One day I had to transport a female to the jail at Kingfisher. Naomi didn’t have anyone to watch Deedra, our 2-year-old, so Deedra had to come along. All I had was the pickup truck so Deedra sat between me and Naomi with the female who was quite dirty and smelly by the door. Deedra wrinkled her nose and looked around for a time before asking her mom, “Daddy, potty?” That was a long trip.

In the day before cell phones, this was how it was done. I had to serve papers down around Geary. That day, you provided your own car, but I had no radio, no handcuffs; but I did have a pistol. I’m through serving the papers and I’m on my way back to Watonga when I see somebody standing in the road waving their arms. I stop and the gentleman tells me that Sheriff Compton called him and wanted him to tell me to stop inside Geary for an errand there before returning to Watonga. And that was how I got messages in those days.

I was under sheriff for 13 years and sheriff for 13 years. I worked in the sheriff’s office for 26 years and 26 days.


 Sometime in the 80’s, I decided that my daughters needed to learn how to crochet. My mother and my Aunt Letha crocheted, so I took the girls over to my mother’s house and had her teach the girls to crochet. They made a long chain before they lost interest and quit, but I decided it looked interesting.

So I let Naomi pick out a pattern and I took it over to Phoebe’s and asked her to help me get started. She tried to talk me out of the project to settle for something simpler; but I wanted to make this afghan for Naomi. It wasn’t really a crochet stitch. It was an afghan stitch with embroidery on top of that. I continued to make many afghans. It was good therapy for me. I could sit home in the evenings, watch television, crochet and forget about the office.

 I started carving bears in 1995. I made the first one for Deedra and while I was working on it, some lady came by the house and said,

“Oh, what a cute little pig.”

 I didn’t tell her it was supposed to be a bear; I just continued to work. I have probably given away 35 bears and sold some.


A bear peeking out from
behind the tree.

Jim's great-granddaughter asked for a wooden hat for school and of course, Jim made her a wooden hat!


Cottonwood stump, picked it up in Blue Mesa Lake in Colorado

left: Wood carving of a mountain man.  The blank was made out of basswood.


Jim makes canes out of sumac and aspen sticks.  He finds sticks that he thinks would make a good design.  The one he is holding has a foot at the bottom.

Decorated gourds that Jim had planted and grown.

Once a year Jim gets the opportunity to teach the students in Joan Hursch's art class at Canton Schools.   Sometimes he uses wood carving, sometimes gourds.

Popeye was carved a few years ago.  Everyone is asking, "When are you going to make "Olive Oil".  But Jim laughs and explains that he has just about run out of room in his sunroom.

Wood Burning - Jim took a class on wood burning one winter when they stayed in South Texas.
Deep Relief Carving of a covered bridge
Gyp Rock - Indian Head at Roman Nose entrance.  Jim has also sculpted a bear, an elephant, a dolphin riding the wave, a big horn sheep, a horse head, a scissor tail bird and a bust of an Indian.
Shallow Relief Carving and Stop Gap Painting
When Jim carved this sheriff, he used his own hands as a model for the sculptured hands.
Everyone in Watonga knows where the house is with all the bears out front.  And Jim is known to his friends as the 'bear man'.

  "We have really enjoyed living in Watonga. The friends you develop are yours for a lifetime and neighbors turn into friends quickly. When Jim was recuperating from his gunshot injuries, you could have papered this house with the cards and letters we received. The blessings of small town life far out weigh the drawbacks."

If you would like to comment on this interview, send your comments to woodruff@watonga.com

   What a wonderful story about two of the finest people I know. I thoroughly enjoyed the hilarious stories and awesome pictures. My brothers Brad, Cliff and I grew up on Noble Street with the Sinclair kids, Greg & Deedra. Thank you Jim & Naomi, for helping to raise us too! We love you!
Lorna Ice Beckloff


This is a wonderful story....I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Jim and Naomi are a wonderful couple...friends to be cherished and what a life. .........Thank you.............
Betty Chapman

 Jim and Naomi, I so enjoyed your stories. But I have to tell Jim – I really thought there was a real “BoBo” and that Jackie Tomlinson was that crazy Indian. Naomi, I remember bowling against your mother and guess what – I never could beat her. Again, what wonderful stories.
Ann (Bush) Prather



 My name is Cody Long. I am the grandson of Jim and Naomi Sinclair and the father of their great granddaughter that he made the wooden hat for. They have been the most amazing grandparents a boy could have. Jim "Pop" has been my idol and the best role model a boy could have. I have always told everyone that if I could grow up to be half the man that he is I would consider my life successful. I joined the Army in 1995 and became a Military Police Officer because I wanted to be in law enforcement like my Pop. Don't let him fool you though, Naomi "Nanny" runs the show in the Sinclair house.


Enjoyed the Sinclair story very much. My neighbor, Phyllis Humphreys, and I were discussing the story, and she mentioned to me that "Jim must have been a little "ornery" when he was in school."

Since I went to school with him his last four years, I said, "Oh, no. He wasn't a little 'onery,' he was a 'lot ornery." Every time our class of '52 gets together, I hear the "boys" laughing and slapping their knees, and Jim Sinclair seems to be the subject of the laughter.

Jerry W, Buster H, Delbert P, Don T,. George S, Arlo Gose and I'm sure there were others---they were quite a .......................I can't think of the word to use. But everyone of them grew up to be fine Christian remarkable men.

Jim and Naomi have suffered some very sad days during their life together, but their FAITH IN GOD got them through them all. I salute them for their love, faith, and longevity in their marriage. GOD BLESS YOU, Jim and Naomi!!

Doris Franks..............Watonga