Those were the days of
protective living for the children in the year, 1947. As much as
possible, the world of children, was not to be disturbed with
horrifying, terrible things. The war though, brought newsreels, and
more than one person remembers being frightened when
an airplane flew overhead. There were pictures in
the newspapers, and books showed awful scenes of war. All this was
inevitable. The adults, still didn’t allow events they could
control to come in on the children. Not one, ever spoke of Bertha’s
death and it wasn’t until I was a teenager was the event told.. It
was a gentle time for us, albeit, there was a raging World War to
have just passed. Today’s children are bombarded with so much on
the television. The parents try to ride herd, on that distribution
of sadness, but it still is domineering. Still, we as children,
were aware of some things, especially in the small community of
Weldon came through
the door in the early morning. This was uncharacteristic of him. He
worked hard with his animals and his grades, so wasn’t one to
carouse at night. This morning he was surly and that was rare, too.
A lighthearted and pleasant mannerism seemed to always be his way.
“You’ve been out?”
Gramma Bell was quick to catch him up short.
“To a necktie party,”
Chief, a nickname he had picked up, answered.
Mother was quick to
look around to see if we were listening and, of course, we were. We
had no idea, what a necktie party was.
“Come on, kids.
Breakfast is ready at home.” Mother was busy ushering out of the
house through the backdoor, but not before we heard.
“He did it in the
barn. Wasn’t easy to get him down, either.”
Again, nothing more
was said, but when I was older Mariah told me Chief had been
called, because he was tall and strong to help take the man down
from where he was swinging from an act of suicide with a rope.
It was like the whole
area worked at taking the joy out of Chief’s life. I could never
understand why. Was it a challenge to destroy his happy-go-lucky
ways? How were his dark Indian looks involved, or were they?
Mostly there was no discrimination against the Osages at the time.
Not to my knowledge, but I couldn’t determine that, because I was a
child. Had some of the people still remained, who Joe had worked
against at Whiz-Bang?
The next day Chief
kicked a football and bounced it off the three story school’s,
chimney all through the lunch hour. Every time he kicked the ball
it hit in the same place, so good was his co-ordination. No one
said anything about what he was doing, over and over, but finally,
the principal came out and tossed the ball back and forth with
Chief. When lunch-hour was over the man, could be seen talking to
Weldon. His head was down and he had his arm around the giant of a
boy, while they both walked, together, into the building. The
principal was no small man. He was tall, good looking and had the
same curly hair Chief had, but his was a lighter brown. Weldon’s
hair was coal black. This was the time when that principal was a
father to Chief, as well as his teacher.
Chief graduated from
Foraker as Valedictorian. For days he practiced his speech, using
gestures and silently mouthing the words in front of a mirror. The
family was there that night, in the sizable auditorium, all except
Joe and Bell. The air was electric with anticipation. He started
his speech with so much dignity and such an attitude we were so
proud of him.
Without warning, the
words he said were of the greatest shock. I remember it well.
Countrymen, Mrs. Whipkey (his English teacher) and the rest of you
worms out there; Good night!”
As easily as he had
walked up to the podium, he too, left it.
Again, we as children
were shielded from the shame of what he had done. It wouldn’t have
mattered to us though, he was our hero. Whatever he did, our
acceptance came through in our unconditional love for him. It was,
as if, suddenly we, the children, were his only allies. Even,
Mariah was not in approval of his rudeness. Grampa Joe, as usual,
said nothing. Who knew what he was thinking? Bell spoke of the
incident as she had been told about it, with a non-committal
observance. She was a woman of great determination and worked
tirelessly to see her family progress. A poem she kept among her
things said, “She would have died for her sons!” Velma agreed years
later, when the poem was read.
“Yes, Gramma Bell, would
have died for her sons.” It might have been noted, “Grandsons, as
well.” Bell might not have approved but,
in her heart, she weighed the happening with the
tragedy the boy had endured. In this way she could not judge him for his
For some reason all the
years, sorrow, tragedy and anger were taken out on the little community
that night. No matter how wrong Chief was, he never offered an
apology. Without a doubt, Dean would have demanded that, this was for
what he would have stood. That apology never came and certainly told of
the bend Chief’s life was taking.