The prairie is a wondrous place. There are
massive building thunder head clouds. The expanse makes anyone feel free
and alive. Nothing presses in on a person as to spaces. People are
isolated and always are joyous and ready for visitors. The warmth of
their homes both literal and symbolic makes for happy, well adjusted
If there was a shortage of anything Mary
Louise never knew of it. Except for one thing. There was an absence of
standing water. Well, of course, there were the tanks and ponds to
provide drinking water for the cattle. These were hardly considered to
be a places for recreation. Usually, the hooves of the cattle kept the
muddy edges of the water pock marked with their tracks they left there
which made the water inaccessible to humans. The water itself was
covered with an algae type moss growing on the surface. This was hardly
conducive to swimming. Water Moccasins, a slithering black snake, which
has a deadly poison venom, inhabited the depths as well as the shallows.
Crystal sparkling water was only available in one location called the
Kansas Trap, and it was owned by a great ranch. Occasionally, they would
drive the distance to go to that place, but only rarely.
For this reason, among others, Mary
Louise loved to visit her grandmother in the small town of Ponca City,
Oklahoma. The town was graced and blessed by wealthy oil barons who saw
to the establishment of the most beautiful swimming facilities, at the
time in 1941, to be found. The leaders of the community seemed to have
thought about what could be provided for the people so as to offer the
most enjoyment. Following these thoughts they set an elegant fountain in
front of the civic center building. Even for the well traveled folks in
that day and time, the fountain was outstanding. The water splashing, a
sweet falling rain sound, reached high into the sky and with changing
patterns it was given different heights and shapes. The most enthralling
part of the fountain for a four year old child was the fact that
different colored lights from below made the water appear to be of
different colors. The colors were vibrant and rich being cranberry red
for seconds, changing to azure blues, going on to stunning pinks, then
again to bright yellow.
Her grandmother's love for the child
focused on keeping Mary Louise entertained. The elderly woman's young
unmarried son was her driver since the older woman did not drive. She
kept the little girl happy in the evenings by imposing on her son to
drive them to the main street of town. Dutifully, the young man
patiently escorted the unlikely pair with him in his car.
The little girl was his niece and he was
fond of her from the time she was a tiny baby. His wood working skills
had seen to the child having her toys built by hand. Tricycles, doll
cribs, her own crib he built for her in his wood working class at the
high school he attended. These were the days when there wasn't the term
"teen-ager." One was either a youth in school, or they were an
adult. At this point in time he was out of school and he was an adult.
Mary Louise thought of him just as she would have any of the many adults
in her life. She knew he put a front up as to being strict. This was the
understanding they had between them.
On main street Mary Louise was allowed to
walk up and down the block in front of the parked car, peering into the
lighted store windows to see the many articles of wonderment there.
Sometimes she was held by the manikins who were children wearing bright
sharp looking clothing. Since she was the first grandchild she had been
lavished with too many garments and she was not interested in the
dresses. But the manikin, now this was something else. Certainly, here
was a fascination. The little models had eyes focused on something out
past where she was. Sometimes, she would turn to look behind her to see
if there really was something they saw that she did not.
After she tired of window shopping her
Uncle would drive her to the little, tiny, concession stand beside the
post office for a soft drink. More than the drink she enjoyed standing
listening to the disabled man visit with her care giver. Once, the man
confessed to putting sliced onions on the grill a little before meal
times in order to build the passing folks awareness of his hamburgers.
"It works every time!" The man grinned.
When they were again in the car Mary
Louise was not willing to give up this delightful evening.
"Uncle Frank!" "Uncle
Frank!" "Please, please, may we stop to see the
For now, dear reader, lest you have
forgotten the year, it is my wish to remind you, these were the days
before televison, VCR's, video games, CD's or the many modes of
electronic entertainment we now have for our children. The cool splash
of the fountain's waters on one's face, the sparkling colors, the rising
and falling of the water was all close to magic to a child who lived on
the prairie, removed from fresh water being so free and available.
For a young man who had gone the whole
distance to entertain this child her uncle's patience was fast coming to
a stopping place. However, he never denied her the pleasure of this one
last gift for the evening.
"Don't you ever get tired of this
fountain?" He was just a little more than ready to call it a day
"Nope!" Came her quick reply.
She did not give him any trouble when he was ready to go though. After
all, there was tomorrow evening.
Years later when she was a grown woman
she reminded her Uncle Frank of their trips through the town and her
imposing wish to always visit the fountain.
His reply was, "Oh yessssss, the
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