In our sit-down conversation with the award-winning country star and actress, we learned much about Reba McEntire’s childhood—she was the third of four children—growing up on her family’s 8,000-acre ranch in Chockie, Oklahoma. From her daddy's lessons in hard work to her favorite Christmas memories, it's obvious to anyone that hears her stories the redheaded firecracker is strongly connected to her roots. She may be a Westerner, but she’s a Southerner, too.
Q: What’s your favorite Christmas memory?
A: When we were kids, we always had to wait until everybody was in the living room to open gifts. [My brother] Pake was always the first up. I remember him running down the hall in his tighty whities towards the living room. (Laughs) I said, “You might as well not run, because you can’t open anything until we get there.” He hated that.
Q: What was Christmas like in your house?
A: Fun. Exciting. Suspenseful. Mama let us kids redecorate the tree as many times as we wanted to. Of course, a day or two later, she’d have to go in there and do it again. We really just decorated the tree and the mantle. Somebody gave us these real pretty stockings, so they hung on the fireplace, and we’d put straight pins through the Christmas cards, and hang them on the curtains.
Then if it snowed, which was very rare in southeastern Oklahoma, Daddy always made snow ice cream. He had a big ol’ dishpan, and he’d go out and make a big scoop, and then he’d pour vanilla flavoring and milk on top of it, and then we’d have snow ice cream.
Q: We hear you won a pretty prestigious award growing up. Tell us about being Miss Atoka County Ford.”
A: When I was 16 years old I entered the Miss Atoka County Ford contest. Our band, The Kiowa Cowboys High School Band, played for the Harmon Jones Ford dealership contest. I filled out my application and won the use of a Ford Torino for 6 months. I put 18,000 miles on the car going to basketball camp in Lindsay, Oklahoma, Colorado for one trip and Cheyenne, WY for the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo for another trip. I loved that car! My family always drove Ford trucks and cars.
Q: You talked about your favorite Christmas memory, but do you have an outstanding memory of growing up in Oklahoma?
A: Oh, tons of memories. Early in the morning, before daylight, Pake and I would go get the horses out of a 40-acre pasture. And then by the time we got back, Daddy had breakfast, which was eggs and bacon, and cowboy bread and gravy. That is absolutely my favorite breakfast. Biscuits and gravy anytime! This was in the fall, when we’d have to ship cattle. So we’d be up in the hills until daylight, and about get the cattle to the pens by that time. And then Mama and all us kids would pile in the car and go to school.
Now, the week before, we’d have to pull cattle closer to the pens, and then we’d be out ‘til dark. And Pake would run his horse, and then get off on the ground and take a nap. And we’d catch up, and then he’d get back on his horse and run as fast as he could going back to the house. You could see the sparks flying from the horse’s hooves hitting the rocks.
And then after we’d get through working cattle, Daddy’d take us on top of the hill where the ponds were, and we’d go swimming. Just fun stuff—take a watermelon, throw it in the creek, get it cold, and eat it later. Homemade ice cream. Lots of great memories.