Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

By Donna Flood
Chapter 26 - Weldon in his Classic Black Hat

Time was moving along for me.  I knew what Weldon was doing because Uncle Dean kept us informed. He was working, saving money, working at the ranch and, anyone could see he was planning to return to ranching and the land. The blood of his ancestors was too strong for him not to do that.

    “Weldon won the world champion calf roping contest for this year. That will bring him in some loose change.”  Uncle Dean was proud of his son. He had a snap shot of him enlarged  as he was hitting the dirt off his horse to go at a dead run toward the calf at the end of the rope. I could see him wrapping the short rope around the calf’s hooves and then throwing his gloved hands up high to tell the judges they could stop their time clocks.  The picture was on top of the colonnade with glass doors where other collectibles were kept and was just before the hallway.  It couldn’t be missed. I enjoyed seeing Weldon in his classic black hat that looked a little like the side kick,  “Froggie’s”  hat of one of the movie stars of the day. It was like Weldon to take on the laughable character as his role model rather than someone like Hop-A-Long Cassidy, a hero who always wore a white hat.

    “If I know Weldon he is stashing all that money.”  True to Uncle Dean’s word he was doing just that.  We were all so proud of what we believed to be our future, the person who would restore all that was being lost.

     For me, the job I took at Chilocco, my letters to my fiancé in California was simply a temporary life style before I could go back to a sweeter, more stable place,
back to the Osage.

    My fiancé was on leave from California and it was to be the last time I would see him for a while.  The embassy duty in the Philippines he had worked hard to earn and he was looking forward to that.  The weather was unusually cold and the roads were icy.  Driving back from a get-together with his family on the farm in Kansas was a tricky business. He was a level-headed person, always, and drove carefully. I always felt safe with him.  He reminded me of my Dad rather than Uncle Dean. Uncle Dean was known to be more into speed but Dad was always plodding and careful.  This is the way we made it back to Chilocco on that very cold night.

    “It’s late and I have to get to work in the morning.”  I muttered as we walked across the frozen ground toward my apartment.

    “No matter,” don’t try to rush on this slick sidewalk. He was holding my arm and I leaned on him for security.

    Out of the darkness of the night there was the very loud cry of an owl. It was so startling I almost slipped.

    “It’s only an old barn owl.  They are all noise, no reason to be afraid.

    “I knew this boy-man, had not a clue about our Native ways.  In fact,  the one pow-wow he had attended seemed to get on his nerves because of the very long prayer in Ponca before the ceremonies, but, nevertheless, I said.

    “Owls are hated by our people.  They bring news of death.”

    This young man, who was being trained in all the ways of death in the Marines by his own admission,  now said nothing.

    The next day when Mother called and told me Weldon  had been shot and killed at the very time the owl cried diverted me some,  from the awful realization of the horror of what she was saying. The ways of my folks of old must have been stamped into my character as strong as the color of my eyes, or the color of my skin. I never wept.  It would be 53 years later before I broke down and cried over the loss, so deep was the sorrow. As usual, I knew where my duty belonged and that was to my Uncle and to Mariah.  For many years I would stop for an instant and think, “I wonder why Weldon has not come by to see me?”  Only to stop and realize he was lost  to me in death.

    Nothing is as bleak and lonely as a iced over landscape in Oklahoma.  The bits of grass sticking up through the snow and icy themselves were covered   to make them look like shafts of crystal, stems. No cattle dotted the landscape, it was too cold for them to be left unprotected, apparently.

    Uncle Dean was driving that day and I was accepting of that.  Nothing could have forced me under the wheel.  We covered the long highway, slowly, to   the Pawhuska funeral home and then on to a small café in Shidler where we were to meet the family.

    The funeral home was obviously built for crowds with chairs lined up in front of Weldon’s casket. There were only a few people in the chairs and I knew none of them. Mother, for my whole life, did quiet battle with me because I never would go to view the body at the funerals of people we knew.  I took a seat in one of the chairs and she came up to me for bringing me up to the casket.  I think she half way believed I would not.  To her surprise I walked right up to my cousin’s body.  The expression she had stayed with me for a life time.  It was almost like she had a sick satisfaction and a kind of gloating for me to see my loved one there.  For that moment,  I was as Osage as either Mariah or Weldon. I remember looking over at her with a steely resolve to make her back away from me. I stood for a long time beside him, long enough to observe  how the funeral director had to work to try to conceal what the shotgun blast had done to his face on the right side.  He had his head turned toward me and he seemed to have the most placid, pleasant expression, like someone who was seeing a person they knew well and were glad to see.

I stayed so long at the casket Mother finally came and did lead me away. There were no tears for me.  My anger was too deeply sealed in my mind and heart to even cry.
    “They wouldn’t give me the whole day off for the funeral.”  I mentioned to Uncle Dean as we drove toward the Foraker cemetery.  “It is the way of the Bureau.  Experience has taught them  of the ceremonies involved with Native funerals and they will allow only one half day off work.”  In my mind I knew there was no way I could get back to the job by noon and Uncle Dean must have known, too, because he said nothing. Who cared about the shallow rules and ways of  those around us, we had lost our whole world, why should we care about anything, especially nothing as trite as someone’s game playing for power. When we parked in front of the small café at Shidler,  it was almost noon. The funeral was scheduled for two o’clock.

    There was a starkness about the room of the place where bare tables, linoleum floors and the complete lack of any decor  made the statement that the restaurant  was to serve a ranching community.  What decor could compare with the beauty of their skies, wild flowers, or new born calves, anyway?  One by one,  the family came through the door. The silence of the group was as icy as the weather outside.  The scene spoke to the emotions and event of the day with an agreement in grey, hard, surfaces.

    Something about Weldon’s personality seemed to be with us, and I felt he, while wearing his black felt hat, very much like Smiley Burnett’s, (Lester Alvin Burnett) the side kick of Gene Autry, would have laughed at how proper we all were for his funeral. The funeral that was just a beginning of the loss the family would feel over the years and in a temporal, spatial way the stories to make him a legend that would not let Chief die.

Return to Chief Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus