I had made arrangements to record a CD of sacred music for my family at Wesley United Methodist Church because I loved the acoustics in their auditorium. Unfortunately, the tuning on their piano wasn’t quiet ready for a recording session so we completed the project at my own place of worship, Cherokee Hills Christian Church on 63rd and MacArthur.
Since that time I’ve given away all my CDs pressed from the original recording. In order to keep the memory of that music, I’ve posted it here.
Editor’s Note: This article is being reprinted with permission from the author. The original post was deployed on her personal Facebook page around midnight this morning.
By Faith Phillips
“Then she told us how times were tough and about how she was thinking about
Bumming a ride back to from where she started
But ya know, she changed the subject every time money came up
She said, ‘Welcome to the land of the living dead’
You could tell she was so broken hearted
She said, ‘Even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt.’ ”
~Brownsville Girl, Bob Dylan
A family of four, soon to be five, runs in and out of a flimsy tent on a grassy North Dakota plain. The eldest daughter, Josephine, age 4, wears a pink tutu and wraps herself in a sleeping bag decorated with characters from Frozen, the popular Disney movie franchise. The youngest girl, Charlie, is two. She is a determined force. The entire family remains vigilant to safely contain Charlie’s energy. Their quiet mother manages the camp with an air of humble authority. She wears her waist-length hair tied back at her neck. The father enjoys discussion with relatives when they happen by. He is interrupted here and there to change a diaper and to occasionally yell, “CHARLIE!” when his youngest seizes an opportunity to bolt. The family gathers around a small fire in the evening when Charlie’s energy diminishes at last. Josephine sits on her father’s lap, satisfied to have earned his sole attention. She tosses her head back and laughs, delighted with each joke he tells.
This family’s camping experience differs somewhat from the typical American one. They are surrounded on all sides by a thousand others, gathered together in a field bordering the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. They speak an ancient language with each other, but politely switch to English in the presence of a non-speaker. Perhaps the most telling detail of this story is that the family can’t say exactly how long they’ve been camped here. Neither do they know how long they will stay, for they have no expectation to leave. This Lakota family of the Sioux tribe, along with thousands more Native Americans, constitute an unprecedented gathering determined to protect the main source of water for their tribe and for millions of other Americans downstream.
“Clean lines, compelling color palettes, refined sense of balance, and the greatest subject matter on earth.” Thoughts like these run through my mind as I work my way through Audrey Dodgen’s portfolio.
An editorial and commercial photographer who calls Oklahoma her home, Dodgen describes a gravitational pull that seems to draw her back to our state, regardless of where she goes walkabout for a period of time.
“I was born and raised here, and while I’ve lived other places, I keep coming back here. It’s not perfect, but it’s my home, and I love it like no other place,” she wrote during a social media discussion.
A sense of place, the air of familiarity, the peace that recaptures your soul when return home…emotions paralleling these phrases are interlaced within Dodgen’s images. Perhaps most especially a collection entitled “HOME” she has been recently compiling.
If you’ve ever longed to stop your vehicle, breach a barbed wire boundary, and walk among sweet, freshly cut hay bales, her shots have captured that experience for you.
If you’ve ever driven I-40 across downtown Oklahoma City and wished you had time, or the right equipment, to photograph the Scissortail of Skydance Bridge, no need. She’s done that for you with a degree of perfection I could certainly not reach.
And, if you, like Dodgen, ever leave Oklahoma and need a piece of “home” to take with you, her website can most likely fix you right up.
Nice work, Audrey Dodgen. Thanks for standing under our big sky and taking it all in.
Perhaps the “memorable” encounters we have with people in each Oklahoma town are recalled by jokes, jarring narrative, or discovering something unique about our participants.
However, encounters we have with people like postal employee Mary Luman are not as cognitively memorable as they are emotionally comfortable. Mary, who mentioned the degree of kindness in the citizens of Camargo, was herself SO. NICE.
Care was taken with the words she chose when responding to our questions. Small gestures like a candy dish for those who visited the post office, or herbs growing in the sunlit reception area spoke to Mary’s character. And although her husband had recently retired from the Air Force and taken remote jobs in the area, she exuded almost childlike wonder and appreciation for how “amazing” the U.S. Postal Service was for Americans.
If you’re ever traveling through Camargo and need a soft peppermint, you know where to go. And, if you lost a batch a greeting cards, Mary may still be holding them for you.
Note from the Editor
As the editor of the Red Dirt Chronicles and Director of our project, Every Point on the Map, I intentionally remove my personal presence from a good deal of our work. For example, I try to let our videos focus on the person we are highlighting, and not the person asking questions (me).
Other times, I do my best to write “about” places we go, or the people we meet, as opposed to use a first person narrative.
But today, I’m choosing to speak to you with my own voice. I’ve been out of town for a few days taking care of some research obligations. Soon, I’ll be leaving my position as an assistant professor at the University of North Texas and begin working as the “Family Initiatives Advisor” for the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma.
I know transitions take energy. I know that one way or another, I’ll have to postpone an Every Point article because we’re moving. However, if there are delays in content being delivered, please know that the silence is temporary. The voice of those with whom we are documenting our meaningful conversations will return very soon. And, my own voice, that I try to temper or pull into the background, will move forward once again.
Peace to you all. I hope your summer provided memory-making moments, love, safety, and gratitude for the goodness we observe every day. Love, Kelly Roberts, aka “Red Dirt Kelly”
What you won’t find on your Wiki screen, however, are the large and small pieces of history — some oral, some recounted from texts — that locals shared in almost every conversation we had over the course of our two and one-half days in that area.
Stories of people who disappeared and were never found. The tale of two cowboys so highly conflicted that when they finally killed each other in a gun fight, the locals buried them together as payback for the havoc wreaked upon their community. Skeletons found on the wild tundras. Tough times on massive cattle ranches. Outlaws. Historical robberies and shootouts with the culprit finally found by tracking his blood drops across the snow-covered spaces.
The people of Dewey county imbue rugged resilience, friendliness to strangers, and gifts of time for those who choose to trek into their territorial turf. It’s as if the auras of those who lived in their niche during the turn of the century continued to transfer to the next generation, and the next. So if the Putnam or Taloga or Vici or Leedey or Camargo or Fay or Seiling humanity had updated historically…the personas — somehow — had not so much.
Chism Sander was one of these folks who graciously offered his time…time enough to allow us to take in his articulate vernacular. Time enough to share familial anecdotes about his family’s fireworks business. Time enough to actually talk about guns and gun ownership, a topic that others in our project have avoided rigorously.
On a personal note, it is this gift of time Chism extended to us in July of last year that made me want to return that gift to him. A little over a month ago, the Sanders lost a family member. During that same time, I was ready to publish this work. But I just couldn’t. I felt that even though our team had only spent 45 minutes in the hot summer sun with Chism, it was appropriate that we somehow wait; somehow honor their family’s loss. We strangers who were given this moment in the Sander fireworks stand paid our respects from afar.
I will never be able to quantify what it means to intersect with the life of a stranger. Of being given permission to sit with them and to touch the edge of their life’s boundary and those included in their stories. But one way I would approach attempting to quantify the encounter we had with Chism is this: when I have thought of Seiling, Oklahoma during this past year, I didn’t associate any of those thoughts with Gary England.
Rather, I associated what I had learned about the autumn foliage as viewed from a creek bed during hunting season. As fish being pulled from the local ponds and cooked in fryers or pans at night. And, I associate Seiling with Chism Sander, a man who seems to be as comfortable selling fireworks to his town-folk as he does waxing poetic about the sense of community knitting him, and them, together.
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.