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Lizzie
Page 16


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 crops.

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 room.

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 herself.

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 boarding school.

Aloud Creth said, "You run him off?" The one word inserted, run for ran, made the Native personality come through.

"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 after them.

There are enough of us. One of us will come every day to help you. Do not worry we will be able to manage.

Creth stood waving to her sister as she was leaving. The bond between them was still as strong as in the old days.


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