“Get your glad rags on, I’m
going up to the ranch. You can drive for me.” The magic word Uncle Dean
knew to use on me. I always loved driving his new cars.
I had no appreciation for
what was there. No one told me about the suffering and work those
ancestors had endured in order to have the land and holdings. I had no
understanding or gratitude for anything. But now, the realities of what
I was seeing washed over me with a depth of a whisper of what life
really could bring.
Uncle Dean seemed to know
exactly what he was there to do. We went directly to the closet in the
bathroom which could be locked. He took a key and opened the door. There
on the floor was Weldon’s saddle. Uncle Dean picked it up, carried it
out of the room, and then set it down. I wondered why he suddenly
dropped it and then I saw the tears of a grown man crying. I learned
these are worse than those of a woman. His body shook all over as he
wept and it was with deep, wrenching, agony.
As quickly as I could
move I was beside him and put my arms around him.
“You can’t do this, Uncle
Dean. You can’t. We mustn’t give up. There’s too much you have to do.”
I had no idea what I was
saying and how it really agreed with his thinking. I only knew his
personality and how he thought. Something about the words hit home with
him, and then, like a man would do, he suddenly stopped his grieving. We
went on to the Strike Axe where Weldon had stayed to clean up his
clothing, and the Bible literature beside his bed. For some reason Uncle
Dean picked up the large old skillet of Mother’s his son had used and
took it back to his ranch house. It stayed for many years and is
probably there still, around and about the yard somewhere. Once when we
drove by and stopped a friend poured some ice cubes in it and gave them
to a horse that had raced up to check on the visitors of what was now
his domain. .
The Osage’s tribal law
allowed Dean to inherit his wife’s estate because it was in 1938, before
the new law was put into effect for not giving a non-Indian rights to
inherit. With this new law Dean would be cut out of Weldon’s estate. So
began the long, legal battle fought down to the last shred of Dean’s
holdings to pay the lawyer. Even some land was forfeited, a parcel
outside of Fairfax, Oklahoma. Some of that land was being used by the
town for a city dump and Dean didn’t want to be bothered with the
eventualities of that, so he signed this land over to the lawyer.
Piece by piece, the
furnishings out of the ranch house were sold. Even the fixtures for the
draperies would be purchased by strangers out of a junk shop. The player
piano went first. Mariah had already sold the roll top desk her mother
fell over when she died. Today many of the pieces show up in museums
around the area. Gramma Bell’s pump organ I can see daily, if I wish to
“I’ll need finances for a
trip to Washington, D.C., Dean.” The savvy little lawyer, was
methodically working through the issues involved with his client’s case.
“Your genealogy will be
there. From what I’m looking at the proof of Cherokee blood is with the
Howard family, Polly Ann Howard, your grandmother, wife of Jessie
Collins. If you have a drop of Cherokee blood, and I know you have, you
can inherited Weldon’s estate. Well, what you will share with Mariah.
The lawyer was wily and
he knew his business. His trips and research were financed by Dean
through the sale of whatever was still there on the place. Saddles,
tools, large grinding stones that were already antiques, the pianos,
lovely old furnishings. The stripping of the place didn’t seem to bother
Dean. He was so dedicated to winning the law suit against Weldon’s wife
and son. Mariah was sick over the loss but didn’t interfere. Probably,
in her heart, she was in agreement with what her father was doing.
I was married by this
time and, suddenly, caught in a pull between family I did not understand
at all. Looking back it makes me wonder how we were able to establish
our marriage. Without the beauty of the environment, the peace, grace
and loveliness of the home, probably we would not have. Uncle Dean and
Mariah were determined we should try to carry on the legacy of the
place, Mother was doing everything possible to stop that. Remember, her
name for the estate was, “Suicide Hill.”
What money Dean had left
over, he used for establishing the growth of Christianity. What a
miraculous time I lived through at such an early age. How oblivious I
was to the sacrifices my uncle was making and how little he was
appreciated for what he did. Was this when I learned to make lemonade
out of lemons? I like to think so. The teachings of the Bible have been
the most valuable, "more than silver and gold."
Probably none of the
tribe would see or know how he fought to keep the Osage land holdings
intact. Still there were those city fathers who saw and commented.
“There goes the old