We of the Chilocco Alumni
Chapter here in Ponca City were a bit like an ant carrying a huge load. It
seems like that student union patio was a mile long instead of the 130x20
feet it actually is. It looks longer and wider every time we see it. I could
only afford a small grouping of framed old Chilocco pictures. My husband was
able to borrow a generator and thanks to the gentlemen who owns Mitchco,
“Mitch” Garrity for loaning it to us.
The heavy emotional down from
folks seeing their ruined school campus for the first time was lightened
with the music the generator allowed us to have. Charmaine Billy found a
copy of the fight song for Chilocco (and Notre Dame). That brought some
great memories back.
Garland Kent, president of
the chapter was there early. He had called several people who assured him
they would mow which didn't happen and that was a disappointment but
understandable since the chairman's mother suddenly went into the hospital.
It would have been nice to have some of the poison ivy sprayed before hand
so folks didn't have to walk through it. Most everyone stayed on the patio
and I was glad of that. We could have mown around the patio if we knew no
one was going to do it.
Charmaine brought a lovely,
large cake with “Welcome Chilocco Alumni” printed across the top. Everyone
already had a huge meal so they only took small portions of it.
What happened to the very
heavy picnic tables that were on the patio? It took six men to carry each
one of them there but evidently someone was able to abscond with them. We
had a small table and with a table cloth it worked well for the cake.
Charmaine brought a wrought iron, scroll work, vase and the flowers turned
out, by accident, to be the exact color of the icing on the cake so that was
a happy accident.
Long stemmed roses out of my
yard along with big Yucca blooms in a large basket made a big enough
arrangement. I needed more greenery but my husband would not allow me to get
off the patio because of the ivy. I did sneak a couple low hanging branches,
which filled in the spaces.
The Kaws had given the Alumni
ten dollars each, to play the machines in the casino so that cut into the
two hours we had for visiting. There was hardly enough time for everyone to
introduce themselves. Alaska to Arizona and many more states were
represented. As far as I could understand 1940 was the oldest year of one of
the graduates. It would have been wonderful for each person to tell
something about their lives and families but that wasn't possible.
I happened to look up to see
my daughter in the wheel chair joyfully laughing with a girl who was leaning
down to speak to her.Rhonda was on the very edge of her chair and she looked
so happy, like she wanted to stand and hug the girl. The girl was beautiful
with long black hair that hung in a soft way around her face. I was too
curious not to go over to meet her.
“You don't remember me, do
you?” She smiled easily.
“Well, no, I must admit I do
not.” I was very interested now to know who she was.
“Do you remember the kid's
playground?” She turned to look across the road and seemed to be seeing it
in her mind as she motioned toward the empty space that was there now.
As soon as she said that I
knew who she was. In 1971 Rhonda was about twelve years old. This girl and
her sister were probably eight years old. They would come to my aunt's
apartment where we were visiting and ask, “Can your girl come out and play?”
In my life time I had never known of children to actually ask to play with
Play they did. They would
spend hours with Rhonda on the swing or pushing her wheelchair around the
many long sidewalks on the grounds around the oval. The sweet loving memory
of those days flashed back into my mind so clear and strong it was uncanny.
The girl went on to say,
“Rhonda loved to watch us jump out of the swings. Sometimes we felt sad that
she couldn't jump, too. But she seemed to have so much fun watching us. She
would laugh so hard. We knew Rhonda was different but it didn't matter to
us, we were Indians and we were different, too.”
So for those of us who picked
up our tracks as we Native American must do, today was a gift for that.