When Gary Linderman died last summer, I couldn’t help but think the town of Picher, or rather the former-town, was finally dead. Gary was the last holdout in Picher, a man who refused to leave as the town around him withered and died, staying long after tornadoes and lead poisoning had taken its toll on the meager little municipality in the northeast corner of Oklahoma.
Quietly, I watched Cassie Pearl Browning name each relative who lived within a couple of miles of her new home, the lease signed only two weeks before we visited her. She was in her element, surrounded – literally – by family members who had settled in Wyandotte generations ago.
I live on the corner of this mile section – I’m the only one on THIS mile section.
The mile section directly south of us – I have some distant cousins just on this corner across from me.
And the mile section directly east of us, on the corner, the 40 acres was owned by my great-great grandparents.
And, the corner – my great-aunt had built her and her husband’s house whenever they got married – they moved in there. We sold it when she passed away, and it went to another family member, which happens to be my landlord’s mother.
And then on the back side of that 40 acres is my aunt…my mother’s sister…and then half-way down that road is my second cousins from Dallas – they moved up here in 98 and built a house, and if you go travel north on that same mile section – you go half a mile and my parents live down there.
But before you get there, my other aunt and uncle live down here.
And, if you go on the mile section that’s cattycornered from us – my brother lives on the opposite side of it – south side of it – facing that section…and, uh,..that’s all of us…maybe…
Cassie was raised in Miami until she was twelve, when her parents bought their 40 acres in Wyandotte. She’s so attached to the land and the area that she moved back into her parents home for a year after graduating from college, waiting for property in the area to become available.
Just as she was about to give up and “move into town,” her landlord’s son took a preaching job. So, she’s now living in the home her great-great and possible one more great-uncle built.
In the video, Cassie mentions the rocks with which her great-times-three uncle covered the home. They had been retrieved from the Picher mines, and when you peer close, tiny worlds of crystallized quartz and other formations can be seen.
Cassie Pearl Browning was surrounded by history, and completely comfortable with those surroundings.
She feels at home in her “new-old” home, as did we on that drizzly day while sitting on her porch.
When you glance left, then downward just a bit on our Red Dirt Chronicles homepage, you’ll notice a small section we’ve entitled: “RDC Recommends.” And, we do.
We choose our recommendations carefully, sharing those we feel not only fit with our mission, but provide a quality read.
One site listed is on our minds especially today. NonDoc, a site and mission dedicated to quality journalism and “the public good,” launched a series today highlighting broader themes collected through our Every Point on the Map project.
One of the most unjust things I could ever imagine would be to decide whether Abbey or Carolyn Rollins has more grit. Carolyn, having been in the periphery of baby Abbey’s community life over nine years ago, took her in…first as a foster child, but soon to adoption court. Although the State had been grateful for her foster parent status, she was denied her petition to adopt because of her age.
But Carolyn didn’t accept that answer. She appealed, and was eventually granted permission to become Abbey’s mother.
Abbey’s high school-level vocabulary and tender heart are a product of her educational deep dive into her studies at Quapaw schools, mixed with being socialized by a mother who volunteers at their local church food pantry every week.
The day we rolled into Peoria was as gray as clouds could bear. Rain dripped from the rooftops, dogs barked as we cruised by aging houses with bars on their windows.
But as we sat in the wood paneled living room of Carolyn’s trailer, the view was transcendent. Carolyn rocked in her recliner, Abbey sat on the arm rest, and they held hands all the while we were there.
Of this I’m certain: they needed each other, and they are better because of each other. Bless everything about you, Carolyn and Abbey Rollins.