Terry Hood, News On 6
PAWHUSKA, Oklahoma -- Oklahoma's own Pioneer woman is out with a new book this week. In case you've missed it, the Pioneer woman, Ree Drummond, has become a national sensation.
Photojournalist Michael Woods and News On 6 Terry Hood traveled to Osage County to meet the woman behind the website.
Head west from Pawhuska out into the tall grass prairie and you'll find a spread that's been in the Drummond family for four generations.
Its wild, open country: 50 miles and a world away from the house where Ann Marie Smith grew up. You'll find it just off the seventh fairway of the Bartlesville Country Club. After graduating from Bartlesville High, the future pioneer woman headed west to L. A., convinced she'd shaken the Oklahoma red dirt off her high heels for good.
But when Ree Drummond met the cowboy known in the blogosphere as the Marlboro man, it was good-bye California and hello Osage County.
The transition didn't come easy.
"Fourteen-and-a-half years into my life in the country I still can't saddle a horse. And I'm not afraid to admit it," she said, laughing.
While wrangling has never been Ree's calling, she found an unexpected gift in the Oklahoma prairie.
"It sounds so crazy but I had really sort of found myself in the country," she said.
And when she sat down to write her first blog six years ago, she found her voice.
"I'd lived out in the country for ten years at that point and I had a lot to say to the world," Ree said.
Which isn't to say she expected the world to listen. Like most blogs, Ree's started as a way to stay in touch with family and friends. But her self-deprecating humor, her four adorable children and lots of down-home cooking quickly struck a chord.
Not to mention all those pictures of the Marlboro man in his chaps.
"Who would have thought I'd go to college so I could post photos of my husband's bottom online?" Ree said, laughing. "How far I've fallen."
By 2009, the website had been named one of the best in the country by Time Magazine. And readers kept coming back for more.
Ree doesn't like to talk numbers, but her publisher said today thepioneerwoman.com gets almost 22 million page views a month. Ree's cookbook hit number one on the New York Times best seller list, and last November, she took a star turn on the Food Network.
Today, the girl who couldn't wait to leave Oklahoma says it's a big part of her success.
"I love Oklahoma so much. I love the kindness and the openness," she said. I think people are drawn to that and I hope Oklahoma kind of comes forth on the screen from my website.
Now Ree is back on the road with a new book, this one chronicling her love story with the Marlboro man. Despite all those rear view shots, she says he has tremendous patience with her cyberspace shenanigans, with one notable exception.
"The only thing that ever upsets him is if I get an agricultural fact wrong," she said. "And he tosses and turns for days, ohh why'd you say that! That's not right!"
Terry Hood, News On 6: "Does it ever freak you out that all these people know so much about your life?"
Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman: "I've never had a moment where I felt uncomfortable. I've never had a moment where it's felt unnatural or strange. It's not like I'm a celebrity who has to worry about people professing their love for me or showing up on my doorstep."
Actually, that's not so farfetched. Hollywood has already bought the rights to her new book and Reese Witherspoon has expressed interest in playing the title role. Last year, Ree found herself on a plane back to California for a meeting with one of Hollywood's biggest stars.
"She was completely beautiful and lovely," Ree said. "I walked in and I was like this much taller than her. I was like "Hi Reese!"
But Ree says all of this can only go so far. Despite all the fuss, her pedicured toes are firmly planted in Osage County.
"There's a limit to how ambitious I can be. There's a limit to the opportunities I would want to pursue," she said. "Everything has to be put through the filter of my life as a homeschooler. as a wife and mother and as a resident of a remote cattle ranch."
A remote cattle ranch that's connected to the world through cyberspace. Millions of new friends without ever leaving home. Ree Drummond says she's found her place in the sun.
"I hear from people who read my site and cook my recipes and I love that. I enjoy it. I'm just having a blast," she said.