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Chief
By Donna Flood
Chapter 11 - Musical Houses


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.

Still Weldon 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 grinder.

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.


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