Mattie and Mick played all about the small
town of Foraker. Families who lived there had children and all went to
school together. Somewhere around the year 1946, Foraker was in decline.
Grocery stores had closed, the drugstores were gone, filling stations
closed. The bank they walked by daily on their way to the little grocery
store was now closed. When Mattie and Mick shuffled through the many
papers all about on the ground all at once Mick picked up a five-dollar
"Look! Look! I found five
dollars!" Mick could just as well have found a million dollars.
"I think we better tell Mom."
"Maybe, it doesn't belong to us!"
Grampa was whittling as in rocked in his
chair on the front porch. Their mother was sitting on the edge of the
porch watching the baby as the two children came upon the scene. Those
were the days when it was said, children were "seen and not
heard." In other words, one simply learned to quietly fit into the
scene while waiting for an opportunity to express themselves. It wasn't
true that they were not heard. Most positively they were, but they just
learned to discipline themselves to good manners as to not interrupting.
Mattie slid carefully into a sitting
position beside her grandfather's rocker in order to have a place so as
not to miss an opportunity to be involved with the little group. She
looked up to what her grandfather was whittling. "Are you making
"Oh, I don't know, Girl!"
"Maybe." "Maybe not."
Mick was kicking at the ground, jerking
his pants pockets up and down and was just generally in a state of
anxiety for having to wait to speak about the five dollars. Mattie
caught his eye and gave him a steely stare with the desired results. He
settled down on the other side of their grandfather's rocker.
"I don't know how we are going to
provide hay for the cattle this winter." Their mother was very
worried about something; Mattie could tell she was. "With the war
rationing, and shortages Leon can't find any baling wire,
anyplace." "Without baling wire we can't bale our hay to store
for the winter." "What do you think, Grampa?"
"If he can't find any after this
late in the season, he won't find any." "Should some come up
that big Chapman Barnard Ranch will get first shot at it."
"They are the real beef producers." " Them or the
Olifants, or the Drummonds, and there is A.W. Lohman." "Our
place is just a hobby ranch providing beef for us and what little he
sells for some extra." "Our acres are nothing compared to the
200,000 of the Chapman Barnard ranch." Joe was modest.
"Tell you what you do." Joe
advised. "You tell Leon to go ahead and cut the meadow."
"Take that cutting and stack it into hay stacks in different places
all over the pastures." "We won't have hay to sell, but the
cattle won't go hungry."
"Well! Grampa!" "That is
just what he will do!" Their mother was elated. "I just think
you are so clever." She was serious.
"Yeah, well, you have to do
something when everything in the world is going, "hay wire."
At this, the two of them laughed at his
choice of words, and Mattie took advantage of their relaxed attitude to
motion to Mick about the five dollars.
"Mom!" "I found five
dollars under all those papers at the Bank they closed out." At
last Mick was able to satisfy his need to talk about his money.
"Must I give it back?"
Their mother looked at their Grandfather,
then to their mother and those two both laughed again. "I really
don't know who you would give it to."
Grampa squinched his eyes down and looked
off to a distance as men who worked the wide areas often did. "Naw,
I reckin' whoever owned that money is long gone to greener
Mattie would remember this moment many
times over her life. She thought of it also, during that winter when
they drove past the hay stacks her Dad had made. True to her Grampa's
advice the cattle were eating the hay. It was strange to her as she
could actually see tunnels in the hay stacks where the cattle ate their
way through them.
"Will that hay fall in on the
cattle?" The curious child wanted to know but didn't ask. "I
wonder if they go inside the hay stack to get warm when it is so
cold?" She thought. Aloud she said, "Mom how did Grandsir know
the cattle would eat that hay from the stacks?"
"Grampa's Dad was a rancher."
"They know these things."
So went the winter around the year, 1946,
Foraker, Oklahoma. She never worried about baling wire, shortages, the
big ranches around and most assuredly not the Chapman Barnard Ranch, or
the Bank who closed their doors, other than it had profited her brother
by five dollars.