Someone once made the observation that our family
played musical houses. After thinking about that maybe there was more
truth in that statement than not. At this time in 1950 after Gramma
Bell’s death it was more true than ever. Velma and Leon spent so much
time in Foraker, I suppose trying to help the family adjust to her
death, that the house where we lived on the three acres was simply
abandoned. To finish that residence O.G.&E. built a railroad track
across the small corner like strip and wanted to claim it completely.
The case went to court and the company had to pay a good price for it.
That was okay, but nothing was said about Leon’s dreams of having his
own place. He had leased waste land close to the river which was covered
with Johnson Grass. Leon kept a herd of pigs within the confines of that
area with an electric fence. In no time the hogs rooted the grass roots
out and in the process became ready for market. With the sale of the
hogs he leased a flat land area. That field was not productive because
being low and level it stayed for a long period under water when heavy
rains came, and in that time any crop standing in water would not
survive. Leon stopped one of the men on the large road graders one
day, and asked the operator to turn the machine’s blade at an angle to
cut a deep bar ditch around his leased land. The result of these
drainage ditches allowed a most productive crop and money was made. With
this money they leased more land. Weldon bought two jeeps and proceeded
to farm this land with those. The profit on that was excellent.
Whatever went on with business and such was never
known as far as the children were concerned. The money in the bank was
accessed by Dean and this was when the first real break between father
and son came to be.
“Take it, take the
money! I don’t care, Weldon was reported to have said. “Take it and
buy you another new car, and for me, paint it pink.” This was the
only time Weldon ever stated his real feeling about how his Dad left
the ranching lands. The implication being that Dean was too delicate
to take on the heavy work of raising cattle and range work in those
earlier days before modern conveniences make the work possible.
continued to be close around where our family was living. One summer
he worked on a large farm just across the river. We learned Chief
had built a bed for himself in their cellar, so that, he could
sLeonp without having to put up with the heat. We never suffered
that misery on the ranch lands. The air was of one big
air‑conditioner, especially at night and sometimes one had to pull
covers, because the coolness brought a chill. This was not so in the
farming community around Ponca City.
Over the years we
might not see Weldon for a long while. He would briefly show up for
just a short time and then was gone again. There seemed to be a
restlessness about him.
Mariah did return to
the ranch house with her family, but where did Weldon live? Who
knows how he lived and survived. There was the Strike Axe place,
still furnished, the houses in town were too. Maybe one of those
housed him. He had made friends with one of the hands, who had
worked at the ranch, possibly he stayed with him.
Once when I was
helping Mariah with her children, I stayed over at her home. That
morning I awoke before the family and was hungry. Mariah like her
Mother, Bertha, always kept a well‑stocked pantry. She and I both
liked Raisin Bran Flakes and I had it in my mind to slip into the
kitchen for a breakfast on my own. As quiet as a mouse I poured the
milk found in the refrigerator onto my bowl of flakes. Did I imagine
to have heard someone in Weldon’s old room? Mariah and her husband’s
bedroom was at the front of the house, so who would be in that room?
Still, as quiet as I could be. I stepped to the door between the
kitchen and the bedroom.
There on the stool before
a dressing table Mariah was sitting. I remembered how I loved that
place, when I was a child. The tall mirror in front of the table was
flanked by two smaller mirrors on hinges. It was possible to fold them
together so that one could feel you were surrounded with your own image.
Something about having people all around was comforting, even if it was
really, only your own image looking back. Weldon had a monkey hanging
from the center of the
light fixture and when the widows were open the ever
present wind turned the fun loving little monkey around and around. The
short, cylindrical, red cap on his head told he was the pet of an organ
I always felt it was a reminder of how Weldon enjoyed
a fun loving little creature like this.
This was where Mariah was
now. Her face was red and swollen from crying. From the time I was a
child, when she and Weldon were like my big sister and brother, we
always had a strange communication between us. Hardly ever did we need
words. This was the way it was now. I went over to her and put my arms
around her without asking why she was crying. I was around sixteen at
the time, but knew, she was unhappy. She had lost control of her weight,
hay fever plagued her, allergies and everything else in her world was
out of control, it seemed.
Where she had lived in so much of a charmed world as
a child and young, the woman was now living in what seemed to be a
different place. Without hired help, Leon to manage the property, Velma
to make life easier with her help everything had now fallen upon the
shoulders of this one woman. She had three daughters in rapid succession
and her health was now a looming problem. The mental strain of it all
was something she tried to cover and, in fact, did so for a while.
It was sad to me she had
chosen Weldon’s room to find a place to give way to tears, but then, not
so strange. Their Osage blood made them people who did not cry easily
and for this reason I was very touched at how deeply she must be grieved
and about why, she was crying.