Twelve months later I’m wondering how Darcy, Austin and Faith are doing. I have no doubt the students they are today might be surprised to see to see who they were only a year ago. As a mother and a former high school teacher, I know maturity makes gains by leaps and bounds in the lives of our future leaders.
Is Darcy still showing goats? Did Austin go to SWOSU like he had planned? Will Faith find time to go “muddin'” this summer? Are they okay?
I hope so. For many reasons.
To me, students are easy humans with whom to make connections…they are forthcoming, sometimes lighthearted, and for these three…accepting of each other.
In the light of our recent event in Orlando, and the subsequent politically charged discourse, I thank God for places like Vici, Oklahoma. A place where high school students can have a high school life. Where they can find their way. Where they can realize they live in a fairly quiet town. And where they can openly appreciate all those things.
Peace to you, Darcy, Austin and Faith. You gave us laughter the day we met you, and we are grateful for our time together.
Dusk was settling over Quapaw when we happened upon a tee-ball practice session. The coaches jokingly volunteered each other before Aaron Thomasson finally agreed to sit with us for a bit.
My experience during our discussion was as a teacher listening to another teacher. The fact that he was living the headlines of all that’s wrong with education was both validating and deeply disheartening.
Thomasson could have been from anywhere because his story is the same: over testing does as much harm as good; absent parents are absent for a reason, but their absence makes it that much more difficult for a child to succeed; and, male teachers balance the precarious position of being sometimes the only male role model in a young student’s life.
But, Thomasson was not from “anywhere.” He was from Quapaw, as was his family, and the generation before. His children can see their grandparents’ home from their own, and walk across the pasture to visit. His wife is from the area as well, and is an early childhood teacher in the same school system.
They are deeply embedded, and invested, in the Quapaw community.
We sat with Thomasson at the end of May, 2015. In the midst of most likely the worst budget cuts in our State’s history THIS year, I just wonder…how is their school doing now?
Emotions carried me through our entire visit with Danny Dillon at the Coleman Theatre in Miami, OK. As he shared anecdotes from teaching high school drama, I was running a parallel process internally. Having taught high school drama for eight years, I had experienced a similar story for each one he told. Cripes, I missed the theatre…and Dillon did everything he could to help us enjoy the full experience of the Coleman the day we sat and talked…which made me miss it even more.
Our photographer and videographer filled up too many memory cards to count during our time with Dillon. We could produce multiple pieces of the Coleman’s history, special features about the tourists going walking through the the theatre’s plush hallways with us, profiles of the volunteers who spend hundreds of hours using the donor’s hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring back the original glory, and more.
And we may. Someday.
But our first duty is to those with whom we get to know, and we had a beautiful conversation with Dillon. His full heart is invested in what he does at the high school, his church, and at the Coleman. It’s as if he has three hearts…no, four. A heart for his children and wife were apparent as well.
Even after having documented the Miami stop over six months ago, I am quite awestruck when I think about how many children have been introduced to the stage, to plays and musicals, to silent movies with amazing organ music, and to history…because of Danny, the Coleman at large, and the “extra at-large” community that makes it happen.
We are tipping our Tom Mix hats to you, Miami. You’re really quite something.
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.
With red walls and trim, a printed Christmas scene curtain hanging on a rod, and a decorated spruce surrounded with Angel Tree gifts donated by community members…the setting was a stark contrast to the wild, open drive across the Wichita National Park we had just completed. Rachel and I talked quietly, eating oatmeal and planning our day.
However, fate had taken care of the planning for us.
Already full of Christmas Spirit from our previous evening in Medicine Park, we discovered that Santa was drinking coffee at the table next to ours! And, after a brief bout of cajoling from our waitress and the Cafe’s owner who was also his daughter, we sat with Mike Carrick and learned three things: 1) Santa is real; 2) Santa serves many functions for children, depending upon their situation or needs; and, 3) being Santa is a higher calling that I had imagined.
Merry Oklahoma Christmas to you and yours…
Kelly Roberts and Rachel Apple ~Every Point on the Map project
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.