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Chief
By Donna Flood
Chapter 15 - A Family United To Save Their Own


Suddenly the family was like an unstoppable wheel, rolling,  and committed to the saving of their own. As quietly as a Michelin tire  rolls along,  so did this event.  Nothing was said about my walking away from home, but certainly there must have been discussion. My family was like an army rushing in to block an attack.  Their  move was quiet, well organized, quick and effective. One of the first plans involved my cousin.

Mariah acted as one of the spokes on this wheel of a united family. She was expecting her third child and Dean told his daughter he wanted her in Ponca, away from the outbacks of the ranch. The hospital on the hill was a short distance compared to what the long stretches of roads could be through pastures and prairie land. She moved into the tiny house and our family moved out, all but me. This was where I became the protected, as well as the protector. I stayed with my cousin. Her other two girls were not there and little did I care. Once again, we again were, as we were, not so long ago.

This tiny dwelling inclosed by a circle of love,  was like a doll house,  but patterned after the home, where family waited for Mariah’s  return. She cut lilacs from the large bushes in the yard and they made the house fragrant with their perfume.  Every inch of the inside space was scrubbed until it, literally,  was shining.  The lace curtains blew, gently away from the windows  as softly as those did at her prairie home.  Bubbling pots of this and that wonderful concoction cooked on the stove in the tiny kitchen.  Somewhere,  she had found the smallest of drop leaf tables and it rested on one wall across from the sink with  tablecloth and centerpiece, to continually imply a meal would be forthcoming on it. It was easily seen from the living room and gave the illusion that a roomy kitchen was available, but,  in actuality this was far from being so. 

Mariah loved watercolor and she entertained me as she did when I was a child by drawing this or that subject. By adding lovely hues she brought some story to life.  Once she picked up colors from the pallette and dripped them onto the wet surface of the paper to create little puddles of bright, delightful forms.

“What is that?”  I rudely asked?

“Does it have to be something?”  She looked at me as she did when I was a child, something as if to say,

 “Your impertinence has been  noted!”

There was a memorable thing to happen for us.  How bold to use the word “us,” when the memory was hers.  I suppose this is how close we were, whatever happened to her, I felt was part of my life, too.

Dano had been her beau when I was only four.  At that age, I fell in love with him,  but for some reason or another, Mariah did not. In my mind no one could ever equal him. He was her suitor and courted her,  as gently and lovingly as any man could have.  Now, suddenly, he had shown up on the small covered porch outside the front door. 

“Here was perfection!”  I felt my story book romance (actually hers) had just come.  The precious little house was all tied up with  trappings of a small kingdom and now here was the prince with a small gift to welcome  the coming baby,  in his hand.

“Well!  Dano!  How lovely, how really lovely to see you.”  Mariah greeted him as I remembered her doing,  when I was a child.  The place where  she was now, became  a toy in comparison to her other home, but he didn’t seem to mind at all.  There was the same quiet longing for the woman in his eyes.  Her pregnancy didn’t seem to bother him in the least.  The only thing noticeable was her attention to dress and she was taking this time of waiting as an opportunity dress in the most delicate of ruffled and feminine apparel she could manage. The modesty and respect for life were somehow put forth,  and would have made anyone love her.  How like a princess  she was, too.

Mariah invited Dano inside and it was as if the pages of time had been turned backward.  He rested comfortably, but a little on the edge of the same big, old overstuffed sofa I remembered.  It always seemed he was beside her, almost  ready to get on his knees, so enthralled with her beauty was he. How he managed to embrace the child beside her, me,  without allowing his focus on Mariah to be dropped, made me feel special, even as a child.

Today, he showed less interest in my presence. He seemed to feel and express through his actions that this time with Mariah was golden and he must give her his total attention. Briefly, he lingered, and then, just as suddenly as he came, he was gone.

Mariah did not express herself, easily, and I always had to pry in order to get her thoughts and this is what I did now.

“Why didn’t you marry Dano?”  How bold and unmannered I was, to be asking a personal question,  like this.

True to my cousin’s patience she answered.

“Didn’t you see how fine and delicate his hands and fingers are? Can you imagine him roping or branding a calf?  He’s an artist, you know.”

Indeed, I did know.  I remembered the sweet little pin up girls he had painted for Mariah and had grown up walking past them,  where they hung on her wall leading to the hallway.

So it was, the loss of my family in the Osage  was made history by Mariah skillful,  intervention.  No longer was I sad and lonely. Once again we were at unity. Years later I wondered if this was the way Bertha had worked with her children.

Mariah’s understanding of people’s abilities,   or lack thereof,  were to be used to direct me away from making the mistakes that would have caused me to be miserable in life.

“He’s so silly?  How could you get anything serious out of him, or “He’s a big sissy!  Does he know what to do with a horse?”  One by one she torpedoed   my puppy love designs on this or that boy.

There was a flaw in her philosophy though, and that was: “Physical strength without mental commitment has little value, and visa versa.”  But then, neither she nor I was knowledgeable enough to know that.

Mariah had her baby,  and I was her confidant as she  told me,

“It is a very good thing I didn’t try to drive from the Osage over here, we barely made it from this house to the top of the hill.  In fact,  I was having the baby as they met us at the curb.  Dad wasn’t worrying about stop lights or anything else.”

In my mind I could see Uncle Dean as Mariah related the story of how he was, with his usual stickler for law and order, abandoned, as he sped toward the hospital. I could see how he quickly moved from the driver’s seat, out of the car and over to Mariah’s door.  His Stetson Hat was pushed over to one side as he was quietly and tactfully directing the staff. The way she told the story was funny.  Mariah and I laughed together at her description of Uncle Dean’s leadership-like-ways.  Seldom did he let himself be put in the position of having to do the actual directing.  He was a master at sitting in the background,  while delegating authority,  and this was what made the situation all the more worthy of our laughter. For once,  he was caught with having to do the actual chore of giving orders.

“Don’t ever tell him we laughed!”  Mariah was happy now that having her baby  was all over.

“I’m not that careless!”  I responded. “He couldn’t get out of being called, the boss  this time.” And we laughed again.


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