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Donna Flood

One cannot say Tahlequah, Oklahoma without everyone immediately thinking, Cherokees. This is where their offices are located. More than that, the very dramatic scenery speaks of a backdrop vibrating with indistinct shadows. The feeling is one of mystery wound about and around the timbered hills. One knows great respect must be given the locale simply because of its history which is involved with the Cherokee. Settled in a valley the town makes anyone wonder what very old tales could be told as to the settling of the town.

The buildings are good looking, well kept,  but are of another era. It is almost like looking at a historical presentation of how shops were put up in early day Oklahoma. Some of the very small places were not much bigger than a storage shed.  They were setting side by side behind a sidewalk and looked to have served one or another renter for many years. At this time those antique looking places were vacant.

It was striking to see how healthy the people looked. There was an easy pace. It was apparent the same society existed as we all know in America. The fast food places, photo developing services, dry cleaners, and so on, were all there. For some reason there seemed to be a different attitude. We were reminded a bit of hill people who are pleasant but do not go out of their way to approach a stranger. Once an effort is made to become acquainted they are very friendly and out standing in their hospitality.

It was all so pleasantly different. This aura was upon us as we walked into the Cherokee Tribal Offices. At the front desk sat an elderly woman who was beautiful.  There was a delicate way to make one believe she was actually in her own home, maybe sending off a note to someone rather than working here at the receptionist's desk. Her white hair and tanned complexion was so striking. The sweet pleasant way she had immediately put us at ease.

“The fountain and eternal flame at the front entrance is so lovely.” I honestly commented. As I spoke I was looking over her shoulder to the mural sized painting of such great beauty it was breathtaking.

“Oh thank you.”  Her sweet smile could be coming from a grandmother or a beloved aunt.

We were there on business though and without any hesitation the genealogy department was opened up. Here a receptionist asked to assist us. Fumbling through name after name becomes an almost unending chore, but finally a possible ancestor who had the same location as ours was found. The age, the time period, the name all seemed to agree.

One of the women working stepped to a computer and within a moment had all the information on the woman there in front of us. Apparently, the age did not match so nothing there. Without being too inquisitive it was noticed the woman lived with a family by the name of Murray. This was intrigue too,  since I have seen the Murray  name on some family records. But then, it is all a mystery isn't it.

We stayed too long and missed being able to get into the genealogy library at North Eastern State College and that was very disappointing.   The woman with me had little actual documentation on her ancestors and I was hoping to get information there for her. It was a pleasure to go into and to see the very nice large library the college had.

As we left town we took the same highway out, “51.”  Turns out it was the old fifty one and dead ended after quite a drive. Turn right to Tahlequah it said. Well, we knew we didn't want to go back to Tahlequah so naturally we turned left.

We drove what was beginning to seem like forever and were now into deep woods. I was so nervous because of the fear of a deer darting in front of the car as they like to do. Also,  the sun was setting and neither of us wanted to be in dark woods driving at night.

“I'm going to stop here.”  I told my friend. The miniature house was so close to the road it was a little difficult to get the car off the road.

A very beautiful young girl opened the door. Her hair was a brownish red, more brown than red. She smiled and asked me if she could help me.

“I am so lost.”  I told her.

“And where do you need to go?”  She smiled a more winning grin than any striking model on a televison commercial could have had. As she did she reached down to the bottom of her blouse pulling it around her. I saw then that she was pregnant.

“Honey.”  She turned to one side and looked over toward someone. “Come tell this nice lady how to get back to the highway.”  This southern way a woman has with her husband was like ointment on my spirit and pulled at my heartstings. I had not heard it in so long.

As the young man came to the door it was obvious he wasn't much older than the girl and had the same pleasant way these people seemed to have. He was more reserved  though and was looking out toward my car. I turned around too,  and while looking saw the name on the mailbox. Clearly was neatly printed with  the name, “Murray.”

I think it was the deep woods or,  maybe it was the strangeness of the terrain to give me the unsettled feeling. I so wanted to ask him all sorts of questions. Of course, as he explained to me we were just a short distance from the interstate in spite of the looks of our wooden surroundings, I was very ready to get back on the road.

Of the Cherokee superstitions I know nothing. About the Ponca's sayings I do know. I could only think of what Mother would say, “Wah nohn' hays-led you there.”  It was a thing they said meaning, “You were led there by a spirit who wanted you to see something.”  It was then I thought about how much the girl looked like the pictures I had seen of my own grandmother.

For only a flicker of a heartbeat I had looked back to the past and had an encounter with my own grandmother it seemed. Her hair, her stature, her direct commanding eyes holding my own gaze was the exact personality. Even her turning to her husband to allow him the dignity of headship was so like grandmother. For the whole trip filled with lasting impression this one is the one to leave me with the most wonderful awe of how little we understand about life and living.

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