Tag: Oklahoma Territory

FAMILY HISTORY–DO YOU USE IT IN YOUR WRITING? by CHERYL PIERSON


My mother was the oldest of eleven children. In her younger days when I was growing up, and on into my early adulthood, she reminded me of Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind—not in looks or mannerisms, but in the way that she knew the relationships between people–and not just in our family! Growing up in a small Oklahoma town, Mom knew the ins and outs of most every other family in that small community—but so did everyone else. That old saying about everyone knowing your business in a small town was so true…but what a legacy of stories she provided me with to write about!

 

A relative who hung his pocket watch up on the wall to “give it a rest” overnight. Another relative who, shunned by his prominent businessman father, (we don’t know why) rode a bicycle all over town selling condoms. What better way to embarrass him?

Then there were the sadder tales…the little boy who crawled under the porch and drank tree poison and died. All those many years later, my mother would get teary remembering how she and her 12-year-old best friend, Mary, attended the funeral.

The family who lost five of their six children—they’d gone out to pick berries and taken shelter under a big tree when a storm hit. Lightning struck the tree and killed many of them, but the oldest brother crawled to a farmhouse for help. In the end, he was the only survivor.

MY MOM, EL WANDA STALLINGS MOSS, AND MY DAD, FREDERIC MOSS (NEWLYWEDS–1944)

 

Another story that, in this time would be almost unbelievable is that of a little girl, six years old, who had appendicitis. The doctor would not operate unless the money was paid before the surgery. The girl’s father stood on the corner and begged for money – this would have been in the mid -1930’s, in Dustbowl Oklahoma…during the Depression. No one had any money to spare. I have a picture of that little girl with my aunt who was the same age—they were second cousins. It was the last picture made of her before she died.

 

So many stories my mom told about—with such description of the people, the places, the events…maybe that’s why I’m a writer now. But I know the happenings she told me about were a true-life depiction of actual events, and she had a great memory for detail most of her life.

 

Being the eldest of eleven siblings, she was all ears when the adults talked, of course. And she was old enough to remember many of the happenings herself. She told of watching them rush her grandfather into the house and put him on the kitchen table when he collapsed in the field—she and Mary were watching through a nearby window—they saw it all.

 

Going to Blue River was sometimes a Sunday social event in the summers—the men cooled off in the water while the women set out the food for a picnic. The children—none of whom could swim—were the older kids’ charges. Mom told of a time when one of her young cousins, Warren, went missing as they were all playing in the shallow water of a nearby clear creek running into the river. She felt something brush her leg and looked down—it was Warren, drifting by, his eyes open sightlessly as he stared up. She automatically reached down and grabbed him up out of the swift-moving current and yelled for help—and remembered nothing else about the rest of that day. Yes, he lived. But…why would so many parents think it was okay for their kids to play in water when none of them could swim?

 

It hit me after listening to her talk about her life and growing up in that small town that the older siblings seemed to have had no childhood of their own. Her earliest memory was of standing on a stool, washing dishes in a pan of water. She said she was about 3 or 4.  By then, there were two younger sisters and another on the way.


SOME DRAWINGS MY MOTHER DID WHEN SHE WAS 17 (1939)–SELF TAUGHT

 

I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it at the time, but Mom and Dad, having grown up together, knew all of the same people. They’d talk about who was related to whom, and who this one or that one had married, and what had become of them. I remember once in a great while, my dad would sit back and look at her with an odd look of appreciation on his face and a little half-smile and say, “Doris Lynn had an illegitimate baby? I never knew that!”  Or some other “morsel” he’d somehow never heard.

Mom knew all the stories of the past, too. The tales of the relatives who had gone before and what they’d done—her great grandfather who had been “stolen” from his Indian village and given to a white Presbyterian minister to raise as part of the “assimilation efforts”…and how that had forever affected our family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER, JOSIE WALLS MCLAIN MARTIN. SHE IS THE DAUGHTER OF MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER WHO WAS STOLEN FROM HIS HOME. SHE MARRIED AT 13. THIS PICTURE WAS MADE WHEN SHE WAS ABOUT 25–SHE ALREADY WAS GETTING GRAY HAIR.

 

 

 

Even the stories of my dad’s family—of his grandmother and grandfather coming “up from Texas” and stopping under the shade of a tree by a creek in Indian Territory long enough for her to give birth, then moving on after one day’s time.
MY DAD’S MOTHER, MARY, ON THE LEFT, WITH OLDER SISTERS MAUDE, GRACE AND BYRD                        THIS WAS PROBABLY TAKEN AROUND 1905 OR SO.

 

Mom knew so much—untimely deaths of family members, “early” births, family dreams and goals that came to fruition, changed, or never happened at all. Games played, meals cooked, weddings held…so much that I would have given anything to have written down—but was too young to realize how much it meant, at the time.

 

But to whom? Those things are important to the families and friends of the principal players, but now…there are few left who would remember or care. The small-town cemetery is filled with those who lived together, worshipped together and worked together. Friends and family who lived, laughed, loved, and made their way through life—leaning on one another in a way that is rare in today’s world.

 

So…I use those memories in the best way I can. In my writing. There is a piece of my mom’s remembrances in my own stories—probably every single one of them, in some way or another.

 

Authors, do you use long-ago memories from relatives in your tales? Readers, do these books and short stories we weave jog your own memories of things you’ve heard in the past from older relatives?  What are some of the stories you recall?

 

Here’s an excerpt from an “oldie but goodie”, ONE MAGIC NIGHT. After learning the story of my gr gr grandfather and how he was kidnapped, I just had to give him a happy ending. In real life, his adoptive parents changed his name to David Walls. They sent him to medical school in Missouri–I don’t know if he ever finished or not, but he came back to Indian Territory to practice medicine. Of course, he never fit in, either in the white world or the Indian. But in my make believe world, he did find happiness…

EXCERPT: FROM ONE MAGIC NIGHT:
As Whitworth’s hand started its descent, Katrina turned away.  But Shay’s arm shot out, grasping Whitworth’s hand and holding it immobile.

“You will not.”

Three words, quietly spoken, but with a heat that could have melted iron, a force that could have toppled mountains.

Katrina’s father’s face contorted, his teeth bared, finally, as he tried to jerk away. He didn’t utter a word.  He stared up into Shay Logan’s eyes that promised retribution, as the seconds ticked by.  Finally, he lunged once more, trying to pull free, but Shay still held him locked in a grip of steel.  Only when he released that grip was Whitworth freed.

“You presume too much, Doctor Logan, unless you are assuming the care and responsibility of my daughter.”

“Papa! Oh, please!” Katrina felt herself dissolving into a puddle of less than nothing beneath stares of the townspeople of Talihina.  What had started as an exciting, beautiful evening had become an embarrassing nightmare.  It was torture to think that she was the cause of it all.  How she wished she had stayed home with Jeremy as she’d first planned, before Mrs. Howard had volunteered to keep him company.

Now, Papa was saying these things that she knew he would regret later.  It was always this way when he drank too much.  These accusations had gone beyond the pale of anything he’d ever said before.  But Shay Logan wouldn’t realize that.  He wouldn’t know that Papa would be sorry tomorrow.

Evidently, there was one thing Shay did recognize, though.  She saw the very slight flare of his nostrils as he drew in the scent of alcohol on her father’s breath, and in that instant, there was a flash of understanding in his eyes.

“You’ve had too much to drink, Mr. Whitworth,” he said in an even tone.  “I will overlook your behavior toward me because of that, but not toward your daughter.  She has done nothing, yet you would strike her, and cause her shame.”

“She’s my daughter,” Whitworth replied sullenly.

“But not your property, Whitworth.  Never that.  You owe her an apology.”

“No, Shay, really—” Katrina began, then as her father whirled to look at her, she broke off, realizing her mistake.  ‘Shay,’ she had called him.  As if she had known him forever.  As if she was entitled to use his given name freely.  As if she were his betrothed.

“‘Shay’ is it, daughter?  Not, ‘Dr. Logan’?  Shay.”  He spat the words out bitterly.  He drew himself up, looking Shay in the face.  “I’ll not be apologizing to her—or to you.  And I’ll expect nothing less than a wedding before this week’s end.  Do you understand me, Doctor?”

Shay had lost any patience he might have harbored.  “You understand me, Whitworth.  You will not dictate to me, or to your daughter on such matters of the heart.  As I say, the alcohol has got you saying things you’re going to regret, and—”

“Threatening me, are you?  Threatening me?”

“Truman.”  Jack Thompson stepped out of the crowd and smoothly came to stand beside Katrina.  “Let’s put this…unfortunate incident…behind us, shall we?”  He confidently tucked Katrina’s hand around his arm.  “I can see that the church auxiliary ladies have almost got everything set up for this wonderful Independence Day meal—” he frowned at Mrs. Beal, nodding at the picnic tables behind her.  She jumped, motioning the other ladies to resume the preparation.

He gave a sweeping glance around the group of onlookers.  “I, for one, am ready to eat! How about you all?”
Katrina was swept along at his side as he walked toward the tables, speaking to acquaintances and friends, laughing and…and seething with tense anger the entire time.  She could feel it in his body, with every step he took and the tightness of his grip as he covered her hand with his. Katrina glanced back over her shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shay, but the crowd blocked her view.

“Smile, my dear,” Jack gritted into her ear.  “I’m hoping we can still salvage your virtue, no matter what happened, really, between you and the good doctor.  If I see him near you again, I’ll kill him.”

GET IT HERE:
https://www.amazon.com/One-Magic-Night-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00I1MINT4/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1501215944&sr=8-8&keywords=one+magic+night&tag=pettpist-20

FOR INDIANS ONLY–INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLS by Cheryl Pierson

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It’s interesting to me to read the different viewpoints on old Indian boarding schools and orphanages—and even hospitals—that were in operation to accommodate Indians, and assimilate them into white society. Living here in Oklahoma, we have a few of the now-defunct facilities scattered around our state—one, Concho Indian School, not more than about an hour’s drive from my house. Let’s take a look at the beginnings of these schools and how they came into existence.

 

 

Richard Henry Pratt was the man who came up with the idea of boarding schools for Indian children. These schools would remove children from the reservations when they were very young, send them to a place run by whites, and immerse them in white culture. This would obliterate their “Indian-ness” and encourage them to cope with and join into the world as it had become—white.

BLOGGeneral_Pratt_and_student

 

Mr. Pratt founded Carlisle Indian Industrial School in1879 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and compared to genocide—which was a much-discussed option—seemed to be the only “reasonable” alternative in those days to annihilation of the Indians that remained after the Indian wars were over.

 

 

The above is a picture of General Pratt with one of his young students.

Some Indian parents willingly sent their children, but many (I would venture to say most) were threatened with imprisonment and loss of their food rations. Eventually, they understood there was no choice, and said tearful goodbyes to their children as they were shipped off. The boarding schools at that time were hundreds of miles away—Carlisle being the flagship school, located in Pennsylvania. One of Oklahoma’s most celebrated Indian athletes, Olympian Jim Thorpe of the Sac and Fox Nation, was sent there.

BLOGIndian_school_students_at_Carlisle_Institute-300x173

Once the children arrived, everything was taken from them. Their clothing was burned, in many cases, and they were provided uniforms. Their hair was cut short. Even their names were changed. And, they were forbidden to speak their native tongue—for most of them, the only language they knew.

 

In many boarding schools, everything was done by bells. No talking was allowed among the children—even among brothers and sisters. Punishment for doing so was beating or confinement.

By 1902, twenty-five federally funded boarding schools in fifteen states and territories had been built, with more being planned. Over 6,000 students were enrolled in these institutions. But only seven years later the system was coming under fire. Though graduates had been trained for factory or farm work, neither could be found on the reservations they returned to. No jobs for these young adults waited once their schooling was finished, and so returning to the reservations meant dependence on the U.S. Indian Agency rather than taking jobs that allowed them to provide for themselves.

Boarding schools were there to stay, though, and remained open for over 100 years, into the 1980’s.

The Concho Indian School I mentioned earlier, opened in Darlington, Indian Territory, in 1887. It was replaced in 1932, and again in 1969, until its doors were closed for good in 1981due to budget cuts and defunding.

BLOGOriginal_Concho_OK_Indian_School-300x209

According to many, it was a horrible place—and it wasn’t the only one. Stories of abuse of all kinds—physical, sexual, and emotional—run rampant. In fact, there is a psychological condition called CSDT or Constructionist Self Development Theory that has been identified for survivors of these schools, wherein they develop their own theories as to why this kind of upbringing was “good” for them—it made them stronger; it made them a “fighter”, and so on.

Survivors’ descendants tell of some of the horrifying experiences their relatives endured, and the abandoned Concho Indian School building is said to be haunted by the spirits of some of the young victims, hoping for justice after all these years.

One woman writes: “I’m an Indian and my grandmother told me bad stories of this place…many children from my tribe were taken and some were never heard from again. I hate the thought of this place.”

This post barely scratches the surface, and I will continue next month with more about orphanages and hospitals “for Indians only.”

In my novel, GABRIEL’S LAW, Brandon Gabriel and Allison Taylor first meet in an orphanage run by a ruthless headmaster. Though it was not a place strictly for Indians, the unhappy circumstances Brandon and Allie are faced with here forges the beginnings of trust, with love to come in the future.

PRPGabriels Law Web

I will be giving away a signed print copy of GABRIEL’S LAW today to one lucky commenter!

Here’s the blurb!

When Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, he doesn’t suspect a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob. When Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, nobody expects to hear the click of a gun in the hands of an angel bent on justice. Life is full of surprises. Brandon and Allie reconnect instantly, though it’s been ten years since their last encounter. She’s protected him before. As Brandon recovers at Allie’s ranch, the memories flood back, and his heart is lost to her. He also knows staying with her will ruin everything. She’s made a life for herself and her son. She’s respectable. She has plans * plans that don’t include him. But could they? Trouble is never far away, and someone else wants Allison Taylor and her ranch. Danger looms large when a fire is set and a friend is abducted. Allie and Brandon discover they are battling someone they never suspected; someone who will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who stands in his way. As Brandon faces down the man who threatens to steal everything from him, he realizes he is desperately in love with Allie and this new life they are making for themselves. Has Brandon finally found everything he’s ever wanted only to lose it all? Can Brandon and Allie confront the past, face down their demons, and forge their dreams into a future?

 

If you just can’t wait to see if you won, here’s the Amazon link!

http://www.amazon.com/Gabriels-Law-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00K2I2JRM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416097511&sr=8-1&keywords=Gabriel%27s+Law

 

 

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