Dano Keys lived in the area
of Shidler, Oklahoma. He was a young man around the year of 1941. Probably,
he was about eighteen. How he had developed his very polished artwork was a
mystery. Certainly at that time in the Osage there were not any schools of
art. In reflection I wonder if maybe some kindly teacher of art from some
other place had settled there and had taken Dano under their wing.
For a four year old child to
have the opportunity to become acquainted and to watch an artist work was an
uncommon thing. Now, if it was someone working with cattle, repairing
machinery, cooking for hired hands, sewing up clothing or any of those
trades there would have been plenty of opportunity for these. To watch an
artist work, well, this was very rare, indeed.
Dano had a commission from my
family to paint a series of the little pin-ups popular to the day. While he
worked he stayed with us. It was true he was young. However, to a
four-year-old he was an adult as was my cousin, who modeled for him. She was
probably around sixteen.
The tubes of paint he carried
in a case along with turpentine, brushes, and other tools of his trade.
These pliable metal tubular containers holding such wonderful colors were
just impossible to leave alone even at the risk of banishment from the
scene. I decided I would just have to wait for the opportune moment to
actually get the feel of these paints. Finally, during one of their breaks,
I was left alone with this curios cache. How slippery the oil paint felt
and how intense were the colors. Just as interesting were the painting
knives with their flexible blades. Turpentine and linseed oil in these small
bottles were the ultimate of neatness for storage in their special place in
this wooden case sploched and marked with too many colors to name.
During the on going years
Dano's work could be seen making him a working artist. On Cherokee Strip
days at Ponca City his illustrations of cowboys and Indian were lined up on
the windows of the various stores in town. There was a cowboy in a soft
Stetson hat, worn blue jeans and spurs. He was lounging on a expensive
chair. The illustration of the man painted on the window at the Paris's
store was to be scraped away after the celebration. The Indian lady in a
blanket admiring a diamond ring on her finger at Spray's jewelry store too,
would disappear. However, their image was to stay in the mind of the girl
Once a real estate person
showed us a house Dano had formerly owned. One of the children's rooms was
decorated with sweet cowboy children, girls and boys. Those were the times
of innocense when a little girl with chaps and a bare bottom wasn't
considered to be suggestive. They were just cute little kids dressed up in
cowboy clothes. For me it was a memory of how thoughtful he had been with me
when I was a child.
I don't think it was Dano's
skill as an artist, to totally hold my attention. I think that it was more
about his personality. He was totally immersed in his work, but he didn't
mind stopping to show a child something about a tool, or to explain
something new and breathtaking about the world around them.
For those who do not believe
in the sharp thinking of a four year old let me leave you with this. I
actually tested the people to come on the scene around our home. I remember
asking Dano why he used kitchen matches to loosen the lids on the tubes of
paint. “Gopher matches are better, Dad says.”
Dano in his patience
explained to me, “These kitchen matches are heavier. They will burn longer,
allowing the lid to become thoroughly heated.”
I remember once asking my
cousin why she did not marry Dano. She said, “Oh he was only an artist. He
wouldn't have amounted to much.
Recently I read that Dano
lived and worked around the Tulsa area and that he is buried in the I.O.O.F.
Cemetery here in Ponca City.
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