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
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
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
"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
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
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
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