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
“What is that?” I rudely
“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
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.
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
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
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
“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
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.