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Chief
By Donna Flood
Chapter 4 - Down Sunflower Lane


Down Sunflower Lane to the south of the house there was a deep water hole in Elm Creek. Years of run off water from the prairie had dropped down  and swirled with strength,  so that,  this place was cut out from the rocky terrain. When the water was running over the rocks that had beeen used to dam up the creek,  it was a wonderful place to swim. The trouble was, when  summer came,  and there was only stagnant,  standing water,  the stream became a breeding place for Leonches, malaria, and typhoid. 

Mariah and Weldon knew they were not to swim in the murky waters at that time but, of course, kids will often do what they want.  If there was an opportunity, when the adults were busy, they would slip off to their favorite pass time.  The two weren’t even bothered by the nasty, slug like parasites, or  Leonches, to be pulled from their skin, when they climbed out of the water.  Diving deep and splashing in the cool waters was worth the misery of the Leonches, they felt. 

Too late, the adults became aware of what the children were doing on the sly and Mariah became deathly ill with typhoid.  The best medical care  was of little help to her. She languished for weeks with that fever.  The girl lost her hair.  A nurse stayed in their home and tended the girl, continually.  Bertha and Leon, her Uncle, took turns along with the nurse to bathe the girl with  cloths dipped in cool water,  when her fever was so high.  Finally, she began to make some progress toward being well, but her recovery was slow.  Even after they felt she was going to live,  it was as if the illness had taken something away from her.  Never again was she the same as she had been.  Just as Bertha had treated her son with the  Osage cultural teachings of making the children  central to their lives, she now became even  more concerned with her daughter’s survival.  Mariah’s every  whim was now met.  Dean and Bertha were in agreement over this and he was totally,  the doting father.

Weldon’s  sister’s illness made an imprint on his mind.  Maybe, in his childlike way, he felt responsible in some  way.  Forever after that he and his sister became  close.  They were never too far apart at any time. If you saw one, sooner or later, the other would be around and there for each other.

 Mariah’s illness  was probably the reason for the whole family’s moving to Ponca City, a small oil town, approximately sixty miles from the ranch.  There were clean swimming pools of great beauty, Olympic size and in the most elegant settings in that oil rich community.  The schools were excellent and offered more than the school at Foraker, in one way, but, in another way, they didn’t.  In Ponca there was a different attitude  toward the races. If Bertha had been one of the more slender, beautiful Osage girls with money,  she might have been accepted.   At any rate, she was miserable.  Neither was Mariah the pampered girl living in a beautiful home in a rancher’s paradise.  She was just another girl among many.  Weldon was cooped  up in the small area of his yard, only.  Gone  was his freedom for being able to roam the acreage of the meadow, hunting and fishing with his grandfather in the pastures, or learning to drive on the long dirt roads;   child that he was.

Bertha saw to it they had the toys they wanted.  He wasn’t able to have an actual gun in town, so she replaced this with a toy gun.  A neighbor boy filched the gun from Weldon one day, probably, just to torment him, as boys will do.

“I’ll just go get it.”  He was heard to say, and that is what he did.

If it was this event,  or so many other painful happenings on Bertha’s part, or Dean’s selling of businesses he was sick to death of working, will never be known.  But, the  whole family did return to the ranch lands,  and for a while, peace and satisfaction reigned.

Bertha was once again seen tending her garden in her comfortable dresses and big hat.  Weldon and his now aging grandfather Joe were not the companions they had been, but there were others, with  whom  he was able to buddy. Mariah was happy to shop the towns for lovely clothes with her mother once again, instead of being confined to just the shops in Ponca City.  Dean seemed to have the desire to own a business, for the time, out of his system.  His role was never one of the rancher and; although,  he could throw a rope with grace and skill, ride as easily as any of the ranch hands, and knew how to instruct the

cowboys, he just wasn’t that interested in ranch life.  He loved the socializing and mixing with the many clubs he joined.  There were: The Masons, Knight’s Templar, International Organization of Odd Fellows, and other groups he joined.  He was on the school board,  a Game Warden, and held other positions for law enforcement, all of which he rarely practiced.  There wasn’t any need. The Rangers had taken care of that and the whole area was,  one of law-abiding ranchers and citizens. But, all of these activities were keeping him away from his family and only years later would he pay the price for his absence from his son’s formative years,  so that Weldon didn’t bond with his father, well enough.

At the time when Weldon, the man, would need him the most, Dean wasn’t there for him, even though he should have been.

Winters were spent in Brownsville, Texas, by the family,  far away from the freezing,  screeching, tearing winds of the prairie.  Dean and Bertha owned a home in those warm lands which were rich in farm produce.  To be able to pick oranges and grapefruit from trees in their backyard was the ultimate experience, they believed.

   Weldon Curtis Jones was born May 15, 1929. Here were some of the events to happen that year:

The Federal Reserved announced a ban on bank loans for margin (speculative) trading, in February.

“Black Thursday” was on October 24th

The market rallied, briefly on October 25th

On “Black Tuesday” industrial stocks dropped  nearly forty points, the worst drop in Wall Street history.

Regardless of the Nations woes, the Joneses were living well. Joe had carefully invested the money of his sold property into building the ranch. It was a well-equipped place for ranching with underground plumbing to stock tanks, housing for tenants to work as caretakers and ranch hands. A dairy barn that had cement runways for cleanliness, and, of course, the planned grounds for home and daily living made the place a study in modern living.  Joe’s son, Leon, had a gift with inventions and these brought wind power for electricity, an almost unheard of thing for outback places.  Their frugality caused them to can and dry the foods from the Valley of Brownsville, and to bring it home with them.  Some of the produce remains now, some 70 years later,  in the cool cellar behind the old home place. The contents are dried and nothing but mush but is the evidence of having been put there by the loving hands of Weldon’s mother, Bertha and his grandmother, Bell.

The most hilarious part of that life style was the goat they took with them, on a board attached to the side of their car. Nanny stood, feet planted squarely, where she was tied. She chewed her cud placidly and braved the trip as well, or better, than the people.

The goat seemed to say, “I’m of most importance!” 

This was definitely true.  Dean had learned a hard lesson by the way they lost Dempsey, their first child,  because of his allergies to cows’ milk.  Nanny was certainly needed.  Leon had the job of milking the goat every day and Weldon thrived on her provisions. If she thought about Sunflower Lane and the prairie, it wasn’t evident.  Her playfulness,  when free and after they reached their destination,  where it was warm made her the happiest and most privileged of all goats.


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