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Some Kids I Have Known
Deficient in Oklahoma


      “I'm so glad to learn we ain't poor, we is jest deficient.”  Dad's usual humor with Okie ways were always fun even when the situations involved were sometimes fairly serious. Laughter about the most dire circumstances often pulled a family away from what could have been defeat.

        I watched the wretch of a tattered little boy dressed in wet, long, baggy shorts.

       His rubber shoes worn to wade on a rocky bottomed stream were saggy and soggy.  Standing in front of a small fire wrapped in a wet towel while his teeth were chattering made my heart melt for him.  The child with  bright sparkling blue eyes  was little more than seven. A short crew cut made his blond hair into almost a shaved head. Shivering with the cold but aware of every part of the world around him and the constant need to be alert was upon his expression as strong as an outdoors man might be using care while stalking through a new terrain.

       “Aren't you cold?”  I asked the drenched rat looking child. Playing in the water of the lake at the banks had left him muddy as well.

        No answer was given. However, the steely blue eyes narrowed as he looked closely at me.

      “You need to get in the shower and get some warm clothes on your body.”  I pressed the issue.

       One of the older women who was busily picking up and doing the chores around  the campground spoke to me.  “This is my son's wife's boy by her first husband. He sort of has an attitude. You know, Mama has a new life, my Daddy's gone, all that.”

       My mind was now all at once tied to this child's and he sensed it while we exchanged glances but used no words.

      “Are you ah..... Indian?”  Again he narrowed his eyes as he looked at me.

       “Aahh.....sure as the world.”  I answered him and then immediately took my own  grandson in tow. “You need to get into the shower and get some warm clothes on your body.”  Now,  the other grandmother pulled this boy by his arm while he fought against her protesting at every step.

        It wasn't but just minutes later when the little boy stepped out of the tent where he had been  dressing after his shower. The clean white muscle shirt, long silky blue shorts, clean socks and shoes made him a different looking child. The only tie to the boy before was the bold letters on the back of his shirt which read, TAZ. No doubt, Taz, short for Tasmanian Devil I am thinking as I chuckle out loud.

      The outdoor evening around the campfire and cement dinner table was pleasant as the banter of conversation flowed smoothly. The folks visiting from Missouri were hunters and fishermen who lived in a wooded area not  far from Branson. They maintained their love for living the old ways while working in the city during the day. Stories were told of their life in a different world from ours and that was pleasant fun. The men who evidently cooked  were ready to share recipes for wild game while they told of how their people traded different meats, foods and other material things.

      They listened politely when I told of how my Mother's people camped outdoors, all the time.  The observations made when I was a child as these close relatives easily managed outdoor living was always kept in my mind as a memory of a time now gone. Of course, this wasn't exactly what these folks were going to do. They loved the outdoors for a week-end or for a short vacation but that was the end of that. The return to the comforts of a home with all the amenities was more to their liking.

      “What happened to Nola?”  Someone noticed one of the visitor's disappearance.

       “Oh they went on home.”  Another volunteered information.

       “Did they say if they are coming back?  Didn't say anything to me.  Maybe they went after ice? There wasn't anything wrong was there?”  One of the women was concerned.

       I did not notice my new acquaintance had stationed himself on a bench back behind me. The flat top of the seat was long enough for him to stretch out. He was readily in ear shot of the conversation just below his higher place. The alert child was rather like an owl in a tree waiting for some tidbit below. In this case the morsel had nothing to do with food but was to build another block into his quickly developing and recording of knowledge gleaned from the conversation of the adults.

       All at once I realized why the nickname Taz.

       The little boy was alert to an advantage and opportunity for revenge. Even in his tender years he had developed a means for survival. Only my culture and understanding for human nature allowed me the same advantage as I chuckled at the boy's loud comment. The brief silence of the adult's voices gave him the perfect timing.

      “Yeah, they left all right.  It wuz thet Indian thet run 'em off.”


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