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Sweeter Than Elderberry Wine
Just Runnin’ With the Crowd


April 22, 1889 was the date. At noon on this day a crowd lined up for the Oklahoma Cherokee Land Run and John was astride his best horse. She was well bred, an extension of the man’s knowledge of horse flesh and his equestrian skills. With saddle soap he had cleaned and polished the leather of his saddle until it squeaked and complained as though it was alive when the man shifted his weight.

Zona carried her two Mrs. Potts, Sadd irons that were an elliptical shape no bigger than her hand. A handle that disconnected from them allowed the metal iron which was filled with plaster of Paris to heat up easily. By turning a large skillet over on the open fire grate she had been able to heat them and these she used to press John’s white shirt and suit. He had spent part of his morning polishing his boots. This was the way of that family. John had uncles and cousins that could be picked out of the crowd by their same dapper way of dressing and people often commented on it even for years afterward when heirs and acquaintances discussed any knowledge of them.

“Say Jonesey! Are you headed in any particular direction? “ The folks in line had nothing to do but stand and wait and were filling in their time with conversation.

“Nah. Just runnin’ with the crowd.” And this was not totally true. As a matter of fact John was one they called a legal Sooner. His father worked for the federal government and so had he. He was given some special treatment in that the man had been allowed to roam the state freely. This is what gave them the opportunity to pick and chose what land they wished to claim. It wasn’t as if he was totally ignorant of what was ahead of him but he wasn’t going to tell this man. The illegal Sooners already brazenly came in before the soldiers and troops. They illegally established their camps out ahead of the starting line at the risk of losing their lives. But the thirst for free land was too strong and these were not gamblers. This sort wanted a sure thing.

“Ah can’t believe some of them would run on ahead of the crowd.

Sooners, they call ‘em.” The talkative man expressed himself.

“Yeah! Well! It’s a dangerous game.” John said no more. He walked a careful line as far as the law was concerned. His uncles, cousins and some married family members were all in law enforcement and one careless word might bring them grief even to a place where they could lose their life.

“Beats me how so many folks will work harder for 500 dollars worth of land than they wuld for 10,000 dollars. Wal ah cain’t complain. Here I am in the same boat.” John temporary acquaintance rambled on.

John didn’t respond. He pulled his hat down lower over his eyes and did not speak. His eyes fell on what had been tall prairie grass now trampled beneath the feet of men, women and hooves of horses until it was all but ground into the earth. The incorrectness of the scene agreed with the man who spoke so easily of the civilization coming upon this area and so suddenly at that.

‘For John it wasn’t just the hope for free land. It was more than that. The Civil War pushed many of their families out of the south until they settled in Arkansas. This third generation who had tasted the sweet wine of pioneering was now ready to find a legitimate, legal lifestyle where they could stand on their own ground. Anyway, this was John’s feeling’s about the matter.’


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