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Some Kids I Have Known
Dano Keys, Artist


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 forever.

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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