Oklahoma. Mostly flat. Mostly dirt. Some pretty hills and lakes here and there, but really there isn't too much about Oklahoma that I ever found of interest growing up there. I was born in El Reno outside of Oklahoma City. I lived in Durant for a short time in 6th grade and in Jay for 7-9th grades. I had friends named Echo, Bear, Feather, Youngblood, Wolf, etc in junior high and the pow wow with fry bread was amazing every year. Still, going back for grandma's funeral has in some way that I can't quite explain made me proud to be an Okie.
Well, okay I'll try and explain it! First, my mom in an Okie. I mean Okie. Born and raised (Rocky and Tulsa). She has the accent (but she can turn it on and off pretty well). She was born there, raised there, moved away, but of course has come back. Currently she is in Wagoner, OK. But not too long ago she was living in Muskogee making her a true Okie from Muskogee! She can cook like an Okie. Beans, corn bread, real cream and real butter, biscuits. And she can make a meal from nothing. Nothing. I remember no food in the cabinet to eat and later-a full meal for a family of six. I don't know. She's just got it. Not to mention she is a die hard Sooner fan. (My dad by the way, was in the OU Marching Band). My mom and I recently went window shopping in downtown Tahlequah and enjoyed seeing Indian art, turquoise, dresses, feathers, instruments, etc. I should also note that my mom has remarried and her husband is Cherokee. She also has a broach that is the Oklahoma seal!
Then there is my grandma. Also born and raised in Oklahoma. She lived in Tahlequah, OK. Tahlequah is the Cherokee Nation Capital and has some really interesting places in it. My grandma always donated to the Cherokee Children's Services. She also collected beautiful Indian art and yes, there was Cherokee music at the funeral.
My sister Holly is an Okie as well. She is married to a Keetoowah. They are a branch of Cherokee with some pretty strict rules about getting in the tribe. Holly and Ben actually live on land given Ben's family years ago by the government when the tribes walked out there. Ben and some of his family will also be extras in a PBS special on the Trail of Tears to come out in April. Here is the link if you are interested. I've been out to their place and it is just Indian land with a few modest homes. Interesting history. They still get health care through the Indian Health Services.
But I think the real endearing thing to me was sitting around after grandmas funeral and hearing my great aunt talk about her mom, my great grandmother-Laudie Lorraine Bachlor. She was born the year Oklahoma became a state. I heard some good stories. Like this one: Granny got in to it with her parents when she was 17 or 18 about something (no one knows) and her parents told her to leave. So she took one bag and started walking. This is the 1920s. She had no where to go. A fellow drives up and it is a guy who helped paint their house a few months back. I guess she had written him a letter after he left their home. After finding out the situation he said, "well get in and we'll go get married." So they did.
I wish I could say it was happy ever after, but. .
He had lots of younger siblings and a mom with terrible scoliosis so she took care of his family for years. Later she had her own three children (one of which shared this story with me, one my grandma who we had just buried, and then a son who lives in New Mexico now). Oh ya, and he was an alcoholic.
I also heard about the dust bowl. I just can't imagine living through something like that. Granny had to actually put cloth over her face so that she could breathe. Can you imagine?
My mom lived with Granny when she was a child and she asked her, "Granny how did you survive all that?" According to mom, Granny just: Paused. Sighed. And replied, "we just never left. We just never left." I highly recommend this documentary.
So, these are my roots.
Generations of women from Oklahoma. Driving back to Ohio after hearing all the stories of hand washing clothes, selling corn, alcoholic husbands, farms that didn't produce, panties from flour sacks, seeing hand made quilts and dresses, looking at fine needle work, seeing the Indian bead work, hearing Amazing Grace in Cherokee, and yes driving along seeing flat dirt. . . well I just got this sense of pride for these hard working people in the heart of this country I love.