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Donna Flood
Writing Assignment, How  my life is Different Than I Expected it to Be


The year my daughter was born my husband and I walked away from my family's ranch home. It was our intentions for him to attend school at the agricultural school in Stillwater, Oklahoma and then return to the ranch. When we left we didn't know our baby would never walk. We were not aware her speech was to be halting and difficult to understand. Blissfully ignorant of the sorrows of Cerebral Palsy made us go forward with no backward looks.  Something in my heart made me feel a deep sadness to have to live in inferior housing when much of our furnishings still remained at the ranch. At the time I didn't know why I felt remorse. I thought my feelings were  just foolish since we were going back there.

Today, when I walk through the house destroyed by vandals I see the soft yellow dresser still sitting in what was my daughter's room and it brings tears to my eyes. It is the only thing left that hasn't been smashed. The agreement I had with my cousin to protect and see to the ranch home's survival weighs heavily on my conscience. My cousin no longer is living and her son's live far away and have no loyalty to their ancestor's goals. I feel like I've been unfaithful to my cousin's, my father's, and  my grandfather's dreams.

Our search for a treatment for my daughter took us to Oklahoma City, then on to Dallas. From there we came back to Ponca City but traveled distances to see other doctors. One at Amarillo, another at San Antonio and even on to New York City. It was all a wasted effort. There was no help, nothing that could be done. Her quadriplegic limbs were forever a part of her life.

If there was some way I could have seen into the future to know of the uselessness of all the therapies certainly my other children's lives might have been different. We lost a generation of ranching acumen by being this separated from that family who could have helped us continue what my grandfather, father and uncle started.

My son is now desperately fighting to build his own ranch. It is a very hard thing to do from scratch without the background of family to teach him. I daily pray he will grasp some of his ancestor's will and continue. As I listened to my father and my Uncle and my grandfather it is my wish to share these things  with my son. Delicate footsteps are necessary since I am,  after all,  a woman who has never been a rancher's wife,  myself. However, I realize a rancher,  like a farmer, must always keep his spirit aligned with the signs,  of first of all the economy,  and then,  tie it back into the climate of the land. Many times I find it my place to be on my knees in prayer because I've seen great men in this area throw in the towel. They finally  gave up their own battle to hold lands left to them by their ancestors to develop those ranching lands.

We drive toward the grasslands and I see things that have happened to make me sad. Trash invasive grasses are allowed to grow along the road ways, something that did not happen with the older ranchers. Many of the pastures are grown up with cedars.  The watersheds are not being maintained. In order to control the shrub oak pastures are sprayed to kill these trees. There they  remain for years,  dead and scraggly looking. And then, all at once, new younger trees spring up under them. In a few years these are again sprayed. Never is there a clean pasture for the cattle.

My Dad, who loved the land,  cleared the rocks off eighty acres of meadow building a stone wall one hundred feet long with these stones. This meadow has provided great amounts of hay easily baled without damage to equipment from the boulders jutting up. This is one of the very few virgin meadows in the whole of Osage county. With powerful equipment at men's disposal I wonder about this. There seems to be a strange lethargic feeling as to the maintenance of the grasslands.

The German people from whom my father learned this are very few and are elderly or gone from the area. These are the changes I see in my lifetime. The sons of men who once were the caretakers of the land have been educated to an easier lifestyle or have taken other jobs to provide them with an immediate gratification of their daily needs.

The schools who came into our area in order to raise the level of the people's lives did just that. Somehow,  they did not see or choose to teach these children how  to pick up and use the knowledge of their own legacies. Why were children not taught to respect their father's knowledge as to caring for the land upon which they stood?

However, the schools cannot be held totally responsible. Our own family's failure to instill the Christian principles of their ancestors, which were close to the Puritan's values,  weakened them.  Jealousy, rivalry, competition learned at school,  became a part within the sacred confines of hearth and home. The destruction of cooperation within the family unit made failure inevitable. Like the merchants in the Bible who look at what happened to their peers  and shake their head, “too bad, too bad,” we find ourselves like them, feeling helpless and unable to change the outcome.


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