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Donna Flood
Poverty


The grueling hard work followed through generations of handed down skills for the ranching family of the Joneses Out of the Southern states before the Civil War through Arkansas and then into Oklahoma the Jones's held their course. William Stephens Jones at Bartlesville, Oklahoma came into the state as an Indian agent before statehood and he ranched the verdant Caney Valley. The skills he passed down to his son Joseph Hubbard Jones. When it came to cattle and horse flesh they knew their business.

Joseph ran the strip and staked his claim for grassland around Guthrie and the 4-D fork. He sold out there, went to the Panhandle and during the drought came back to the Osage around Ralston, Oklahoma. His sons, Dennis and Lee settled between Foraker and Grainola, Oklahoma, where they were raising their families. Lee knew how to survive with cattle and a ranching community.

All at once there was a break between the two brothers who knows over what. Probably all the circumstances around the young people being educated to some other far away goal so foreign to the reality of their lifestyle there could be no unity and agreement between family members.

This is where Lee was now. He moved his family into the little oil town of Ponca City and they were all in a totally different setting. They had never known poverty. The range always provided in one way or another. There was wild game, fish in the streams, beef, mutton stored in the cold lockers. Fowl was plentiful in the way of stock and Quail, Pigeons, Wild Geese, and even Turtle Dove. A productive garden and orchards along with wild gathered berries were home preserved and stored on shelves.

Lee junior was remorseful as only a boy can be when he has to go into a relatively new surrounding with less than he needs to be on the ever important scale governing whether a child was of worth as to his material possessions and/or those or lack of these by his family. This boy was very intelligent and quick to pick up on what was needed to succeed. This knowledge was behind his request as he stood before his mother there in the kitchen while she was readying the children for school.

"Mother, my shoe strings are broken and I can't tie my shoes."

His mother was ever the servant of dealing with need when it came to her children.

Quickly she took his shoes and was working to tie knots in the shoe strings working at pulling the laces through so as to try to hide the tied places. When she had them so they could be worn she set them down and had her son slip back into his shoes.

If this had of been in the ranching community in those days Lee, the father, probably would have simply cut strips from leather and the boy would have worn those with no comment or notice from anyone. This was another world though. Things in this little town were different. It was largely operated by a different city like atmosphere maybe coming from as far away as the Marts of Dallas. As children are immediately aware of the nuances and credos of those around them so too was Lee Junior conscious of his, no doubt, being held up to ridicule for his knotted up shoe strings.

Years later as Lee was trying to explain the reason for his deep despair and depression, he blamed his mental blackness on this one incident.

"When Lee Junior left the kitchen and was going out the door with his books in his hand I was watching him." "I watched him from the windows as he walked by the house." "The tears in the boys eyes running down his face was more than I could accept." "That my son should be held up to this sort of trauma and heart ache over a pair of shoe strings was just the last straw on the camels back." "All the family quarreling, the dissension stopping all progress on the ranch, the suicide, and our struggling to get past that with those children grieving for their mother, it all just lumped up together like those knots in the worn out shoe strings my son was having to wear to school." "You know, I went a little mad." "It wasn't the shoe strings alone that did it." "I know there was no excuse for the things I did." Lee explained to his two daughters many years later. "I just wanted you girls to think with forgiveness for your father's rage."

There was no need for the admission. For as young as the girls were no one had to explain about the sorrow of the family's trials. However, they, unlike the adults, and the sons were more the opportunists. There was no loss on their part as to treasured ranching skills gone forever. Horseflesh and strains of cattle bred first in England and then to Osage County in Oklahoma meant nothing to them. How could they know that shoestrings had such a great impact on their economic condition?

Still in the mind and heart of the young man, Lee, there was that knowledge and from where did it come? Could it possibly be something in his genes of his being or of that from ancestors of old? Or maybe this is the differences between male and female. Did their father, for once, make a mistake for and to whom he explained?


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