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
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.