The personality of the
unshaped hat suited the native man's own rigid straight backed appearance
and his unbending attitude. Usually, their choice of color was not the
tan the cowboys wore but was customarily, black.
Farmers from the area wore
straw hats. Those hats were of western style but this material caused them
to maintain one essential outline with no chance of reshaping it. This
made the hat set on top of their heads in what caused the worker of the
soil to look unconcerned about his head covering as he busily went
about his trading and dealing.
A large amount of food was
necessary to support the many people who were on the payroll at the ranch,
and although much of their own vegetables were self produced, there still
was a need for the special crops from the surrounding small farms. The
rich alluvial soil caused even these small farmers to have outstanding
Wagon loads of apples that
had been plucked off the trees from their great orchards were being
brought into the vicinity this morning. Watermelons too were stacked in
front of the store. Lizzie visualized the great gathering of neighbors in
the fall which was called a watermelon feast. The big green spheres of
melons would bob up and down in icy waters as they chilled in the huge
watering tanks. The watermelons needed to be as cold as possible in order
to enhance their crispness and sweetness. At these times the whole
community came together. It was a time for celebrating a bountiful
harvest before having to go into cold winter months. Even though the
coming coldness would be sharp in the air this was always a fun time.
This 101 Ranch was a ranch,
a business, a trading post, in short an entity. The circus it sponsored
traveled all about the nation giving shows of cowboy and Indian
sharpshooters. They even had circus animals including elephants and bears
to entertain their crowds.
Today Lizzie's mind was not
to be diverted by the goings on of this which was another world. Instead,
she kept to her narrow road leading her now to the crossing of the Salt
Fork River. The red colored waters of the river was slowly moving beneath
the bridge. At this moment it's turbulence was asleep. Other times the
boiling flood waters could come alive, sweeping over everything in its
path. This bridge was built for that happening though. It was heavy and
durable. As soon as she crossed the bridge she was ready to turn left to
the road going up over a hill close to the river. Following the winding
road in agreement with the snake like pattern of the river gave her the
opportunity to see how the water had cut its way through the land. The
banks on each side of if dropped sometimes as much as thirty feet. As the
road began to take on a straight path again, she knew she was coming
closer to her sister's place.
Edward looked up and asked,
"Mother, how much farther must we go before we get to Aunt Creth's house?"
"Not far, my son. Not far.
If you are tired you may get to the back of the buggy and rest on the
pallet there beside your sister. Edward, knowing the trip was almost over
decided to stay beside his mother. Besides, he wanted to see what his
mother always called, "The Buffalo Park." It was just a group of trees.
If he asked her about it, he knew, she would tell him about how, when
she was a little girl, the buffalo came from miles around to gather at
this place. Their sharp hooves and huge bodies gouged out the earth until
it was a depression allowing rain water to collect and form a low place.
This hole made a place for them to roll in the mud and that mud gave
them a protection from pesky flies. He knew the story, but he always
enjoyed hearing it again. To this day the place is known as the Buffalo
Park, even though the buffalo have many years since been gone.
"We are here, Son!" Lizzie
was turning the buggy onto the road leading up to her sister's house. The
neat looking little house set a distance off the road. Flat level farm
land around the house always made it appear very small in comparison to
the terrain. Edward could see the children rushing out, ready to greet
them as they drove up to the house over the long drive.
Creth was standing on the
tiny porch of the house. "Why Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay! What brings you here?
And, you are alone, too?" Her sister greeted her. Creth was busy
helping Lizzie and her children from the buggy. This older sister was
hurrying her children along to help, also.
"Come! Come into the
house, Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay." Creth was anxious about her sister's sudden
appearance. She knew something must be amiss. "My! What a dusty ride for
you, Edward. Come on in to the wash basin. Let Auntie wash away some of
that dust from your face."
As she bathed the boy's
face the light sandy dust was easily washed away and he was unprotesting
because he was fully acquainted with his mother's own similar style of
face washing. "I'll bet you are hungry too," Creth followed the ancient
custom of seeing to a guest having food, first of all.
Edward simply shook his
head in agreement. He was busy looking about him and at the children
sitting on a bench across the room. It was as if some silent command had
ordered them to do so. Children of this culture were drilled in instant
obedience even without words. Just a look from their mother brought them
to obedience. This followed back to a time not so long ago when a need for
this could save their life even from a wild animal or a marauding enemy.
The boy too, was observing
the furnishings of the house. His Auntie had not been pushed to the same
education in white schools as his mother, but she followed more the
customs of her native people. Here was a scrubbed cleanliness. There was
no unnecessary decoration. The former nomadic people did not need extras
to carry on their treks when they moved. Now that they were permanently
settled they still held in their minds the old ways.
The room held the necessary
stove, a table, benches around the table, a water bucket, a wash basin,
and a wooden door cabinet that also was a work place holding a bin for
flour. This was the complete furnishing of the room. The floors were
wooden boards polished by scrubbing and wear. Maybe the walls had been
painted at one time, but the use of the wood stove darkened the plaster
until there was no particular color. Through the door he could see another
room but it didn't appear to get much use. Everyone was obviously in this
Creth busied herself with
the stove. This was not a tiny affair like Edward's mother's stove. This
one was gigantic it seemed to him. There was a large top part of it Creth
was opening up. This was the warming oven where she kept left over food,
biscuits and such. As if by signal one of the bigger boys walked over to
the water bucket Slowly and easily he pulled it away from its perch and he
headed toward the door, without being asked.
"You want to come with me
to get some water to fill the basin on top of the stove?" The boy looked
at Edward and the little boy was quick to follow him out the door. The
ultra conservative nature was so built in their culture that they even
looked to the use of heating water for the house with the stove while they
were cooking. The hot water was always welcome for washing, bathing or for
whatever else it might be needed.
Lizzie and Creth visited
easily while they worked together preparing the meal and before not too
long everyone of the children had finished their meal. They were off and
about their play leaving the sisters to visit over their coffee. Lizzie
slowly stirred her coffee as she sipped it from the granite cup her folks
loved so well. Something about the granite dished made Lizzie feel they
were camping out. "Maybe this is why they use them,” she thought to
The sisters always laughed
and joked about what a "white" woman Lizzie was with her China dishes and
clothes styled to the day. The other girls wore a typical Ponca dress they
had made themselves. This consisted of a soft cotton fabric gathered on a
belt at their waist. The over blouse they wore over the skirt was of a
matching fabric and also was sewn to a belt dropped a little below their
waist. The dresses were comfortable and practical, easy to make and to
wash. There was no ironing necessary since the softness of the fabric
didn't lend itself to wrinkles.
"It is time you tell me the
reason you have come." Creth had a finality in her voice. "I know your
chores aren't going to allow you just to take off for a visit." She let
her sister know she understood.
"I guess it is time to tell
you that Narcisse is gone." Lizzie was direct as she knew her people to
be. No time wasted anymore than anything else was wasted.
"Gone?" Creth was wide
eyed. "What do you mean?" The older sister really didn't know what was
wrong. This was unexpected, and she thought maybe he had simply left for a
visit to his folks, over around Shawnee.
"I mean he is gone, for
good. He won't be coming back, I ran him off." Lizzie admitted.
Creth sat still, not
moving, making herself placid that she might not rush in to say the wrong
thing. It was common knowledge he had been "running around," as the slang
term was used to mean, he was seeing other women. She knew he had been
drinking pretty heavily.
What could Creth say?
Lizzie, her sister, was educated in the white schools and she very
definitely had Christian ideas about such conduct. Probably, one of her
native sisters would have whipped her man good. One clout from her big
fist would have straightened him up. The strength they developed from hard
work enabled them to act as roughly and quickly as that. Lizzie was
different. She was delicate, created from her sheltered lifestyle at the
Aloud Creth said, "You run
him off?" The one word inserted, run for ran, made the Native personality
"Yes, I whipped his horses
while he was in the buggy, and I whipped him with the buggy whip. He was
drunk but he was plenty mad."
Creth wanted to laugh or
even to smile. Here was this little sister, well-educated, tiny in
stature going back to her Native quick actions. She knew how serious
Lizzie was about the matter so she didn't.
"Oh, I think he'll be
back." Creth wanted to reassure her sister.
"No, I'm sure he won't. He
is a proud person. He will not be back. He is Shawnee, they are different
from Poncas, proud and not reasonable about our ways. They are more like
the whites, and he probably will never forgive my rash ways. He won't
forget and he won't be back.
"Well then, how are you
going to stay alone without a man's protection? These rough people around
here are dangerous. They tell me that besides the ranch hands, they are
moving in Mexican men to work on the railroad out of Marland."
"Mr. Story Teller and his
wife have already been very good to check in and he did harness up the
horses for me today. I think, little by little, I will be able to do it.
Really, there just is no other way. I have the children now and I must see
There are enough of us. One
of us will come every day to help you. Do not worry we will be able to
Creth stood waving to her
sister as she was leaving. The bond between them was still as strong as in
the old days.