Customs of the Ponca tribe
dictated one call their cousin, brother. Warren was everything as to being
a brother to Donetta. He was gentle. He was rough. He was tolerant. He was
removed and aloof. Sometimes, some small act spoke worlds as to his
affection for her and other times he was in a world of his own.
Donetta was only a little girl
aged seven. Her speech was filled with inaccurate mispronounced words and
she knew it. How did she know? The laughter at some of her statements made
her know. In that way the family around was not being cruel, they just
loved the thoughts of a child's reasoning. No one seemed to be concerned
about her being accurate in her pronunciation of words.
Not so with Warren. He was a
grown boy, in high school. For the sake of the reader's observation. How
many young, mostly grown boys would take the time to teach a child to
speak correctly? Well, Warren did so, in Donetta's case.
They sat together on the back
steps of her home. It was a rare moment because, usually, Warren was about
his own business with friends, his animals, or whatever activities a young
man was doing. Here he was, that, even then, hulk of a person with his
whole interest centered on the child.
"Feather?" He would ask.
"Fellow." Donetta responded.
"Smile at me and pretend to
blow a feather while you say the letter "f."
After she had managed the
proper sound for "f." He would then tell her to roll up her tongue and
blow through it for the "ther" part of the word. With practice she managed
to speak the word "feather," properly.
He would just help her with a
few words at a time. Vinegar for Binger and so on. With his interest in
her, she became more conscious of the way words were spoken properly and,
from this time forward, there became fewer and fewer times he worked with
her. She still made mistakes in pronunciation, but evidently, he had
alerted his sister to this weakness and she, as well, helped her. The
older girl had not the same kind, careful way about her and, sometimes,
her's was an impatience for the little girl's mistakes. The older girl
would sometimes ridicule her in the way a young person can do a child.
Warren was never guilty of this. How he had learned his gentle ways were,
probably, from his own loving Mother, who he himself found in her bedroom
after she had committed suicide. All these things had been kept away from
her as a child. These were the times when the strong belief was upon the
family as to the protection of the child especially as to the development
of the mind. Carnal discussion, lewd works, illicit conduct was not even
brought up and discussed. Therefore, Donetta truly had no knowledge of the
boy's loss. This lack of discussion must have given him strength too,
because he was a happy, genuinely outgoing person, who in high school,
everyone admired and loved.
In retrospect one cannot help
but wonder how much did the eight-year-old child know about the
circumstances around his mother's death? As to that question, on a ranch
there are always accidents with animals causing a need to put them to
sleep. Sometimes, a severe injury, or an unfixable birth defect is a
necessary kindness to them. Of course, too, the slaughter of animals for
food was practiced. Warren was the oldest strong young man in the family
and often this responsibility fell upon him. This saved this unpleasant
duty from any of the hired hands, protecting them from the smaller but
necessary problems. Warren simply went about the task, removing himself
and the animal from around and where the children were. But, as all
children are given the knowledge and understanding their parents so
innocently believe they don't have, they were always aware of what had
transpired if they had not themselves seen it.
One Thanksgiving; however,
Donetta did actually see Warren kill the old goose for their dinner. The
chain of events stuck in her mind throughout her life. Warren sauntered
down the back path, axe resting on his shoulder. When he walked up to the
goose, which was on the ground, the thing simply extended its long neck
out and quick as anything, Warren lopped its head off.
Donetta had quietly observed
the whole thing from her position at the window. When Warren came in to
tell the family the deed was done and to say, "that old goose just stuck
his neck out as if he knew it was time for him to go."
His statement brought side
glances from her mother and their grandmother in Warren's direction and he
quickly said no more.
Only Donetta could testify to
the fact that he was simply relating an event surrounding what had
actually gone down.