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Lizzie
Page 12


Lizzie sat up on the wagon seat with her parents Sam and Esther. She looked back towards the home she was now leaving. Her sisters, Creth, Annie and Fanny along with her brothers, David and Henry all were standing on the little porch. She and Henry were close in age. Maybe she loved Henry more than the  others. She was thinking of him now as she waved. Then, it wasn't known she would  be his shelter when he was blind before his death. How could the girl see this far into the future?

Lizzie waved and waved. She wanted to remember everything about them. They waved to her from the porch where the pitcher pump stood on its platform. The little square spout she wanted to remember.  How it always gushed cool water at only a push or two of the handle made it special.. It seemed to be talking to her too, saying, "I'll be here when you return.

Her brother's pony was tied to the gatepost and he whinnied to her while he tossed his mane. His strong supple muscles and shiny coat was beautiful to her. He raised his head and while he looked at her, she believed he knew she was leaving.

"I'll be back, I'll be back." She called trying to reassure her brothers and sisters as well as  herself. The wagon bumped down the hill and across the creek and she waved until she could no longer see them. Crying or tears were not encouraged by her people so she set her jaw and concentrated on the horses ahead of her. They were plodding along with their heads partially lowered and  they pulled Lizzie away from home. The rhythm of  the clop, clop sound of their hooves matched her heartbeat.  She studied the animals as they worked at their task. With this concentration she was able to control her emotions. She did not cry.

Sam never looked away from his task of driving the horses and Esther turned her head to the side to stare out toward the things they passed as the wagon moved slowly along. No words were spoken. Lizze was having   to deal with her feelings. Her parents approved and they would not speak for fear of breaking her concentration.

Their daughter was first to speak and she said, "Mother, when will I get to come home?"

"We will try to visit you while the weather is warm. I will get someone to write to you and let you know when we can come up. The school does not encourage having children come home because they want you to stay long enough to fit into their schedule. These are a part of their rules and remember how we have talked about how important it is to do as they say. It will mean how well you do there."

Lizzie sat contemplating this. She remembered the experiences she had as a smaller child in the boarding school at White Eagle. There were the pleasant times. They had been kind to her and she left with a good record on the books.

"I can do it, Mother. I know I can do it."

At this Esther put her arms around the girl and said to her.  "You will not be alone.  Always your father's heart and mine will be with you. Learn all you can. Don't forget the things I have taught you. Don't forget to bring your mind into the presence of Wah-Kahn-Dah. He will help you and you will be able to learn."

The school was twenty-six miles from Ponca City and another fourteen out to their farm. A forty miles trip in a wagon was a very long way to go. As they approached their destination this was to be only the first of many trips Lizzie would make down the long drive to the school. The Maple trees planted there were just beginning to grow. The area was still prairie lands with very few trees.

"My own precious daughter, I am not going to tire you with any more talk of our parting. I only have this to say, and I want you to think about it as you go through your school here. A man has sons and they are his arrows, swift and sure. If a man has a strong daughter she is like a bowstring made of heavy sinew. The bow will not shoot without the bowstring. If the bowstring  it is not strong it will break. The arrows, the bow all are useless with no bowstring. So, you see how important you are. Remember, always remember what I tell you.  Sam did not want to give up his youngest girl.

At six o'clock this first morning found Lizzie lined up with the other girls in the lobby of the dormitory. There were several classes and ages of girls in ranks according to the year and class. The girl's uniforms were fashioned after the floor length dresses of the day. As they stood waiting for inspection the captain walked up and down in front of them, giving them instructions for the day.

"Girls!"   The captain called out.  Our marching will be in competition with the home two girls on Saturday. I want every eye to be on the captain without fail. If your uniforms aren't just as they should be
there will be double demerits. See to it you don't let me down."  As if to back up the girl the matron stood behind her and she was poker stiff in her stance.

Moving forward in time to years ahead when Lizzie herself was captain of her group she took the head of the line. She had worked hard at every task and now as she called cadence to the girls they would soon begin this new skill of learning to march with their company  even to breakfast at another building.  Elizabeth, the captain, called to a new girl. Look sharp, you are out of step!"

These girls came from tribes from all over the United States. Their having to go from a reservation life to a military school seemed an impossibility. Lizzie knew this since she had experienced the same circumstances. Many were more like women than girls. They were large and mature. It was a challenge for Lizzie to maintain her authority and position since she was of a small stature. She never wavered in her control and it was a constant effort to maintain her position of respect. The girls followed her instructions to the letter, obediently and to the best of their ability.

Lizzie talked about these experience to a granddaughter, still years later, chuckling to herself and wondering  how she had ever been able to keep order and control. For anyone who knew Lizzie they knew of her quiet dignity.  Her pleasant personality was neither boisterous or capable of speaking without thought. These qualities made her a candidate for leadership. The working at her assigned tasks with diligence and honesty added to her positive personality. She accomplished her schooling at Chilocco with honors one of which was the winning of a trip to the St. Louis World Fair as a math contest winner. Lizzie  never forgot the trip and told of it first to her children and then to her grandchildren.

"Lizzie, you seem really to enjoy office work." An interested instructor had noticed her one day.

"Yes Mam, I truly do enjoy this work. I love figures, numbers and such, you know."   The girl agreed with her teacher.

"How would you like to pay me as a tutor? I could teach you shorthand, typing, and office skills." The woman asked and watched the girl to see how she would react.

"Oh, do you really think you could teach me?"  Lizzie was very excited at the thought of having special, added instructions.

"We have two years to do it, and I know you can, especially since you have such a strong desire to do so."   The teacher was sure of Lizzie's ability.

So this was the beginning for Lizzie to learn  secretarial skills. She loved every moment of it. At the end of two years when she was ready to graduate she had accomplished typing, shorthand and some bookkeeping. She worked two years at Chilocco after she graduated and drew a good salary for her time there. It was at this time she met Narcisse Pensoneau of the Shawnee tribe, her future husband.

Her father, Sam, had passed away while she was at Chilocco and her mother lived in one of the houses on the home place. The death of her father had  been a sorrow to her but the busy military school kept her active. At quiet moments did feel a sadness at his passing. One such times had been when she received a letter from her sister.

"Dear Sister," it began.  "Since Mother has lost our Father she has been very slow to overcome her mourning. The day of Father's funeral she came home and immediately ordered the orchard he had planted, cut to the ground.  She said she couldn't bear to see the trees that reminded her of him. She wants to know why they can live when he cannot. She says she kept seeing him out there working with the trees, pruning and caring for them. She had them cut and the wood carried off."

Lizzie read and re-read the letter and now she knew that sooner or later she would have to go home. She too, was sad because she did not want to leave her life she had started at Chilocco.

The young woman, Lizzie, walked across the campus she loved so much. She was thinking about the letter she just read. Her steps were measured and slowed as her mind was deep in thought. Glancing across the beauty of the well cared for campus she felt her eyes couldn't see enough or her mind couldn't hold enough of the things soon to be just memories for her. Students were strolling across the oval going here and there to meet what ever duty assigned to them. Things were moving in a quiet unhurried manner and Lizzie wanted to keep the aura of this peaceful existence in her heart and mind. There in a distance she saw Narcisse Pensoneau waving to her.  She picked up her pace and hurried toward him as he jogged casually along in that graceful motion typical of the strong boys of the day.

He was smiling and obviously pleased to see her. "Where is the path of my Ponca Princes leading her today? Narcisse flattered Lizzie.

"A path to cross the one of a good Shawnee boy." Lizzie was quick with a reply.

"Don't you Poncas ever plan ahead?" Narcisse joked with Lizzie,

"If I planned ahead why would it be to cross the path of a Shawnee boy when there are so many others from so great tribes?  Lizzie matched his challenge.  She smiled, thinking to herself what a really handsome boy he was. His cousin, Jim Thorpe, was more athletic but he wasn't as handsome as Narcisse in her mind.


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