How Tuffy Got His Name: Putnam, OK ~ Dewey County EPTOM Run

(All photos by Rachel J Apple)

A friend of mine took her adopted Vietnamese son on an essential journey in the early 90s.  After watching international news for years, word came of the borders finally, possibly, opening for visitors from the United States.  Armed with supplies, money and large quantities of prayer, they made the long trek to the Vietnamese mountains, found their son’s tribe and watched an amazing reunion.  Although his adult frame stood almost a full foot higher than his siblings’ and mother’s, they connected.  He saw…and felt…the place from where he came. His people.

I thought of my friend’s son as we covered the entire perimeter of Dewey County last June. Meeting Tuffy Howell was the impetus for thoughts linking to that Vietnamese trek.  It was as if, while sitting in the Putnam Co-Op, I had begun my own pilgrimage. I had found “my people,” so to speak.

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Our family had lost my grandmother only three weeks prior to this run.  That moment in our life, intersecting with wheat harvest and an elder in overalls, brought back memories of not only my grandmother cooking meals during harvest but of my grandpa who died six years prior. And, my other grandparents who had passed during my late adolescent and emerging adulthood years.

Tuffy patiently talked through a great deal of his life with us.

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And, everyone in the Co-Op helped us understand wheat sample moisture tests and “appropriate levels for various locations.”

There are so many minutes of video I’m not sharing, but my hope is that what I do share somehow lends you a hint of “my people.” I certainly know that going back through our work and editing this piece help me recall the deep comfort of The Familiar.

~Kelly

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Tuffy and April, our videographer
Tuffy and April, our videographer
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In person, when looking closely, you can see “Howell” painted on this garage owned by Tuffy’s father. Tuffy completed his agricultural education degree from OSU then came back to help his father rather than taking a teaching job the first year. The reason: career counselors said that if your draft number was likely to come up, no one would hire you for fear that you would only work six months before getting called to the armed services. He overcame that, however, with news that the draft was slowing down so much they were only calling one person per month out of his geographical area in Oklahoma. His first teaching job? Helping returning WWII vets reintegrate by beginning their family’s farming careers once again. He was 22. Everyone in the class was older than he.

 

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