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By Donna Flood
Chapter 3 -
To Live by the Gun

Dean hired a photograph to come to the ranch lands so they would always remember,  when Weldon was gifted with his first horse. The scenes were filmed on one of the early reels of a movie camera.

The photographer looked about him only to believe he could not catch the true beauty of this home on the prairie. What was it?  What is this feeling about these lands?  There was no way it could be shown at the time.  The breezes always, were  forever moving. They  seemed  like a woman,  who might brush against him and even lightly kiss his cheek. How could he catch that emotional sensation on film?  Neither could the camera  perceive the strength of the Osage woman,  who was standing at the top of the rock steps of the porch.  He knew she would come across simply as a female,  who was a bit  too large,  dressed in a very plain house dress.  He was wrong through. Her bearing of dignity he captured even though the severity of the hairstyle and dress made no attempt to portray only shallow style. The man searched for a way to make the record one that didn’t look to be just  any place on a barren prairie.  And then, there was the purity of the environment.  Even strangers said they wished the air could be bottled and taken home with them. No wonder this family felt no loneliness out here on these expanses. The pulling and tugging of the wind behaved  like a friend, or at other times, a playmate, and again,  a tormentor.  As the light changed while shining through clouds, there were painted  shadows  upon  the grreen of the ground,  which was a mighty expression of the sky’s part to play upon a stage of bluestem grass. The reel was in a brown tone with none of the ravishing colors actually there.  The photographer felt helpless because he couldn’t capture the blue haze, or the color of azure, hanging over the meadow. What he should have known  was that the eyes of love through the beholder made the film a success and was totally acceptable to the family.

Weldon rode his pony, endlessly,  round and about the acre of enclosed, chainlink fenced yard, down the long entry way, but was warned not to go on the road. The rocked surface of that road wasn’t a good place  to ride, he was told.  Eighty acres of prairie around the place provided enough room for the boy to enjoy his Shetland.

            He learned about taking care of the leather with saddle soap, and after it was cleaned to hang it on a rack in the hay barn. Over the  years, a collection of saddles would be added, even an English saddle was hung there so, Mariah could practice her jumps on her thoroughbred.

Bertha watched and stayed with her son’s activities and finally gave in to the realization that Weldon would, indeed,  learn the ways of the cowboys. It was inevitable,  especially since, he doggedly followed the steps of this one or the other while he watched  them as they worked the cattle. Just as his ancestors before him were ranching people so was Weldon being groomed,  simply through association and observation.

One night after everyone else was asLeonp Bell heard the front door slam in a loud way which was an uncustomary thing for Joe to do, when he returned home from his night in Whiz Bang. Even his step was different as he noisily bumped into furniture.  Instantly, Bell was awake as  was Bertha.  The way of the Osage and Ponca tribes was exemplary in how they treated their elders. Bertha carefully practiced this part of her teachings.

“Is Dad all right?”  Bertha asked.

Bell switched on the light just in time to see Joe hastily  making it to the bathroom. They could hear him retching with deep gasping breaths. The women looked at each other.

“What on earth?”  Bell was shocked.  Joe was never sick and was now a tee-totaler.  He couldn’t be drinking.

When he came out of the bathroom, he had a ghastly pale look to his skin coloring.  He staggered like a drunk man before he collapsed into his leather chair.

“Joe!  What is wrong?  What has happened?” Bell was anxious to know why her husband was in such bad shape.

Instead of replying,  the man who seemed to be in shock,  simply stood  up and began to pace  back and forth over the long dining and living room.

“There was a killing at one of the bars tonight,  where I was with the Rangers.  I’m tellin’ you right now, this is it.  I’m through with the law business.  I’m too old.  A terrible, terrible thing.  Let the Rangers do it, that’s their job,  anyway.  It all happened so fast and was over in minutes.  I threw down my gun and vowed never to pick it up.”  True  to his word, Joe never worked with the Rangers again.  No matter, those men went on to do their job and the little town of Whiz Bang was soon to become history.  The infection of the place was not allowed to spread to other towns nearby. 

 Joe  stayed close to home after that. He took a grandfather’s time with Weldon Curtis, teaching him to hunt rabbits, fish the main streams around the area and to practice his marksmanship.  Like all the Jones men who had been hunters Weldon was an apt pupil and learned, maybe too well, how to live by the gun.

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