One cannot say Tahlequah,
Oklahoma without everyone immediately thinking, Cherokees. This is where
their offices are located. More than that, the very dramatic scenery
speaks of a backdrop vibrating with indistinct shadows. The feeling is one
of mystery wound about and around the timbered hills. One knows great
respect must be given the locale simply because of its history which is
involved with the Cherokee. Settled in a valley the town makes anyone
wonder what very old tales could be told as to the settling of the town.
The buildings are good
looking, well kept, but are of another era. It is almost like looking at
a historical presentation of how shops were put up in early day Oklahoma.
Some of the very small places were not much bigger than a storage shed.
They were setting side by side behind a sidewalk and looked to have served
one or another renter for many years. At this time those antique looking
places were vacant.
It was striking to see how
healthy the people looked. There was an easy pace. It was apparent the
same society existed as we all know in America. The fast food places,
photo developing services, dry cleaners, and so on, were all there. For
some reason there seemed to be a different attitude. We were reminded a
bit of hill people who are pleasant but do not go out of their way to
approach a stranger. Once an effort is made to become acquainted they are
very friendly and out standing in their hospitality.
It was all so pleasantly
different. This aura was upon us as we walked into the Cherokee Tribal
Offices. At the front desk sat an elderly woman who was beautiful. There
was a delicate way to make one believe she was actually in her own home,
maybe sending off a note to someone rather than working here at the
receptionist's desk. Her white hair and tanned complexion was so striking.
The sweet pleasant way she had immediately put us at ease.
“The fountain and eternal
flame at the front entrance is so lovely.” I honestly commented. As I
spoke I was looking over her shoulder to the mural sized painting of such
great beauty it was breathtaking.
“Oh thank you.” Her sweet
smile could be coming from a grandmother or a beloved aunt.
We were there on business
though and without any hesitation the genealogy department was opened up.
Here a receptionist asked to assist us. Fumbling through name after name
becomes an almost unending chore, but finally a possible ancestor who had
the same location as ours was found. The age, the time period, the name
all seemed to agree.
One of the women working
stepped to a computer and within a moment had all the information on the
woman there in front of us. Apparently, the age did not match so nothing
there. Without being too inquisitive it was noticed the woman lived with a
family by the name of Murray. This was intrigue too, since I have seen
the Murray name on some family records. But then, it is all a mystery
We stayed too long and
missed being able to get into the genealogy library at North Eastern State
College and that was very disappointing. The woman with me had little
actual documentation on her ancestors and I was hoping to get information
there for her. It was a pleasure to go into and to see the very nice large
library the college had.
As we left town we took the
same highway out, “51.” Turns out it was the old fifty one and dead ended
after quite a drive. Turn right to Tahlequah it said. Well, we knew we
didn't want to go back to Tahlequah so naturally we turned left.
We drove what was beginning
to seem like forever and were now into deep woods. I was so nervous
because of the fear of a deer darting in front of the car as they like to
do. Also, the sun was setting and neither of us wanted to be in dark
woods driving at night.
“I'm going to stop here.”
I told my friend. The miniature house was so close to the road it was a
little difficult to get the car off the road.
A very beautiful young girl
opened the door. Her hair was a brownish red, more brown than red. She
smiled and asked me if she could help me.
“I am so lost.” I told
“And where do you need to
go?” She smiled a more winning grin than any striking model on a
televison commercial could have had. As she did she reached down to the
bottom of her blouse pulling it around her. I saw then that she was
“Honey.” She turned to one
side and looked over toward someone. “Come tell this nice lady how to get
back to the highway.” This southern way a woman has with her husband was
like ointment on my spirit and pulled at my heartstings. I had not heard
it in so long.
As the young man came to
the door it was obvious he wasn't much older than the girl and had the
same pleasant way these people seemed to have. He was more reserved
though and was looking out toward my car. I turned around too, and while
looking saw the name on the mailbox. Clearly was neatly printed with the
I think it was the deep
woods or, maybe it was the strangeness of the terrain to give me the
unsettled feeling. I so wanted to ask him all sorts of questions. Of
course, as he explained to me we were just a short distance from the
interstate in spite of the looks of our wooden surroundings, I was very
ready to get back on the road.
Of the Cherokee
superstitions I know nothing. About the Ponca's sayings I do know. I could
only think of what Mother would say, “Wah nohn' hays-led you there.” It
was a thing they said meaning, “You were led there by a spirit who wanted
you to see something.” It was then I thought about how much the girl
looked like the pictures I had seen of my own grandmother.
For only a flicker of a
heartbeat I had looked back to the past and had an encounter with my own
grandmother it seemed. Her hair, her stature, her direct commanding eyes
holding my own gaze was the exact personality. Even her turning to her
husband to allow him the dignity of headship was so like grandmother. For
the whole trip filled with lasting impression this one is the one to leave
me with the most wonderful awe of how little we understand about life and