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Chief
By Donna Flood
Chapter 35 - Mariah Loves to Draw


Mariah, after roaming about Ponca City, here and there, and not finding any security with the divorce and loss of her children, moved to Bartlesville.  For a while she stayed in the hotel room Chief, her brother,  had rented.  It was a dark, hidden space at the top of wide steps and had an old spacious landing. The couch like bench,  resting on one end of the room  made this area a possible  place where visitors might wait for their host to receive them which had to be a throw back  to  elegance of a by-gone era.  Mariah didn't care about the age or impending shabbiness of the hotel room.  She was working as a cashier in a cafe, something she couldn't have done in Ponca City, without causing her family to look down on her. Little of her time was spent in the hotel.

“Well, come in this house, Mariah!”  Gwen welcomed her husband’s sister into her home.

“I know you don’t like the kids to have pop so I brought some chocolate milk and some fruit juice.  There is some fruit here, too.”  Mariah began unloading the contents of the paper sacks onto the table.

The children were busily looking to see what was there for them.  Katy stood close by Mariah and tugged at her sleeve.

“Are you going to draw for us today?”  The little girl asked.

“Go get your paper and pencil.  I have some water colors here in my purse.”

Mariah was famous for taking time with kids to teach them to draw. There never seemed to be any image she couldn't capture with her quick squiggly lines, whether it be a flower, a dog with changing ears, snout and tail, or whatever object a child might request.  It was almost as if she, herself, was a child again,  able to see intricate forms in a childlike way.

As Mariah entertained this newly adopted little family of  children she visited with her sister-in-law, too.  She was lonely and even though there was never a complaint about missing her own children anyone could see,  she did..  Weldon was on the road most of the time and with his renewed interest in rebuilding the ranch, she hardly ever saw the man.

“Will Weldon be home this week-end?”  She asked Gwen.

“He’s going up to the ranch to put on a new roof. I don’t think he has any help. I suppose   he will be working alone.  The job will take longer, that way.”

“Oh well!  He’s a work a holic, anyway.”  Mariah knew how he was.

“If you see my brother,”  and at this she chuckled, “tell him I'm getting married.”

“Married!  Oh my!   I'm sure he will be pleased though. You just don’t know how concerned he has been about you.”  Gwen told her sister-in-law.

That week-end and the following vacation time Weldon had,  he spent roofing the ranch house.  None of the family saw him working but everyone was totally impressed with his going ahead on his own and doing what needed to be done.  There was a kind of reprieve for them and they were relieved that, at last,  someone was settling down to the hard work it would take to rebuild and restore not only the house but the lands, as well. He already was putting up new barb-wire fence. This  ripple of joyful expectations gave them hope.

“Are you planning to live there?”  Mariah asked.

“Chief wants me to move.  How did you stand living so far out?”  The woman was a bit concerned about being alone and far out while he was driving on the road.

“You will get used to it.  It really isn't that apart from everything. The place is located five miles between Foraker and Grainola.  The isolation makes people bind together stronger and there are others who will be there for you.  I was never lonely. Seems like something was going on all the time, in fact, more so than when we lived in town. When the children start school,  their activities will keep you running.”  The voice of experience was placed at the feet of someone who had not the faintest idea for what was ahead of  her.

“Well then, ahem, look at what happened to your marriage.”  Gwen wasn't buying all that Mariah was telling her.

“That had nothing to do with the locale, nothing at all. We wouldn't have been married as long if we had not moved out there. I'm sure of it.”

Mariah wasn't at all convinced of the future of her brother but she wasn't going to make it her business.  She had found happiness and planned to start a new family.  This was her only interest.

“I’ll start all over with another family.”  She told anyone who asked.

She was interested in her brother’s alcohol problem, though,  and she point blank asked.

“How is Weldon doing with his drinking.”

“It’s a problem.  He does say he wants to be free of it by the time our child is born.”  Gwen seemed to be confident in her husband’s ability to quit drinking.

“I hope so,” was all Mariah said.

“Seems like Old Crow has his claw in him."  Mariah could always, like her Collins ancestors, make a comparison or use a metaphor to get her point across.


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