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Donna Flood
Of Jewels, Unbreakable, Brilliant, Priceless

Collins descendantAs their daughter's small car slipped into the drive, they were ready to take advantage of her chauffeuring them to the funeral of their Aunt Jewel who had passed at the age of ninety-six. As the car was moving away from the edge of the little oil patch town, they were quickly coming into the long stretches of highway passing through the ranching community. Looking out the window one could see the bright sunny patches of broom weed blooming all bright and yellow. Mary realized how far she was removed from the days of her ranching family when she was mentally admiring the color of the weed her father had no affection at any place or time. He considered it a nuisance weed which took up the space where rich prairie grasses good for cattle grazing might have grown. There was nothing pretty about it as far as he was concerned. "How times and my ways have changed," she thought to herself.

She cautioned her daughter, "Watch the speed limit!" as they pulled into the small town of Fairfax.

"My, my, dropped from 65 to 25?" Her daughter noted.

"Old Indian trick!" she smiled to her daughter. This too reminded her of another place and time when the great daughters of the Tall Chief family grew away from the town where the movie theater was named after their family. Marjorie and Maria Tall Chief had become lovely glimpses of beauty so very breath taking when they danced as ballerinas across stages throughout the world. "This is their town." The sign announced at the edge of the very wide streets which were also speaking of another era. The aged buildings of heavy hewed stone, showed the small town's character. The oil wealth of Oklahoma had spun through here like a small tornado which forever leaves the imprint of its action on the land. That money was gone now, with only the memory of it recorded on the minds of the older citizens. It was this very gain to have educated the Tall Chief girls to share the talent and strength their culture and brought them along with discipline instructions of well-paid teachers.

It was only a short drive to the little town of Ralston and as they crossed the bridge Mary pointed out a very small donut shaped drive at the edge of the river on the right side. "You see that area?" She asked. "Well that is all that is left of what was your great grandfather's land."

The girl's interest was caught for a moment. "You mean the river took it?"

"Exactly!" "It was told to me so many times. I've never forgotten." She passed the phrase on to her daughter who like herself was mildly interested. She was certainly not mouthing the phrase with the same anger in her voice she had heard her Grandfather speak. Mary could hear him yet,

"Yep, the river got my land!"

They turned immediately left passed the bridge and followed the river road, passing elegant low rambling brick homes setting back in the wooded area completely hidden from the main road.

"Well, look at these beautiful, expensive looking brick homes!"

"I had no idea they were here. They are so well hidden by the woods."

Hidden even more carefully was the little cemetery. It was edged with a tall privet hedge. If Mary had not been watching for it and the markers, they would not have seen it. In fact they had to stop the car and back to the little small road entering there. As soon as they drove through the gate the little area opened up to them to reveal a quiet hidden tree draped space which looked to be a secret garden. It was so rich and verdant with well-trimmed care one forgot it was a cemetery but rather felt they were being given access to a place that would surely in a moment be a poof of memory and disappear as if it was mystical. There was a feeling of strength so startling Mary could not help but remember her own great-grandfather Nathaniel Stewart Collins who lived so close to this very place. She knew him only from pictures and stories but, all at once she had the strangest feeling of being at one with his hopes, dreams, loves, and ways. The feeling was so pleasant she didn't want to let go of it to do the necessary traditions of going through the funeral of one of his grandchildren, Jewel Wagner.

The minister concluded the sermon with the scripture, "Marvel not at the Resurrection," stating that to marvel at something often meant one did not really believe. "But notice this says not to marvel, at the ressurection."

Quietly a cousin she saw only on rare occasions stepped to her side and here it was. Here was the whisper from her great-grandfather, but this man she could see. Here were the same strong dark features of chiseled clean-cut facial lines she had seen in her grandfather's pictures. Here too, was the culture of the Collin' s family. He easily lifted them from the heaviness of the moment, speaking quietly of fun loving ways of their folks, calling attention to one or another of a person's out standing traits or personal beauty of one sort or another. How much, Mary realized all at once, how very much she had missed this part of her life with her father's passing. These Collinses, these folks who were at one with the world around them in every moment, meeting each situation with total control and decision making to guide the young ones around them to the same place they were. They were ever teaching, directly so gently they might have been holding the reins of a high-spirited race horse rather than the personage of a developing youth. He visited with them long after everyone had left holding them there with his conversation. As the last final moment when the earth of the grave was heaped up over Jewel only then did he say, "Well, I have a lot of Jewel's old pictures I want to share with you." They knew it was time to leave this sacred place which was the last pleasure their loved aunt had shared with them.

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