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Donna's Journal
Perry Oklahoma Book Presentation-February 1, 2006

    Oklahoma mosquitoes during damp weather are a nuisance if they aren't controlled. However, their blood sucking ways are not more a trial than the every-day problems and chores upon me around this place. No sooner have I slapped one miserable little annoyance down when another attacks a different part of my body of living until I am quite exhausted and cross-eyed with unbelievable frustration. My steps are slow, thinking is not quick or with inspiration and there is a general threat of feeling I must simply run for high ground far away from the overwhelming menaces all about me.
    The phone rings and a lilting voice at the other end asks; “Mrs. Flood will you speak to our Library Science class in Perry, Oklahoma.”  This could have been an angel calling from a higher plane as far as I was concerned. I'm thinking; “Can you kiss someone over the phone?”
But then, I remember my need to remain dignified as a grandmother who does have a special interest in the well being of children.
    “Sure! I all but gushed, “I will come as soon as you wish.”
    So it is, in a couple of days I'm off and down interstate for the next forty miles to this small town close by. The day is wonderfully warm and balmy and sun coming through the window on my driver's side was warm. It felt wonderful on my face and sinuses which had been aching. It was almost like physical therapy and I imagined my self being gifted with some special treatment. New roads during my life time made it an easy trip. Clear directions were given to me by a classy sharp teacher,  of whom I learned was a person raised and educated in Dallas, Texas. I must say, upon learning this, even a greater respect and admiration was mine,  for her.
    If only I could paint a picture, in words of what an inspiration these 11th and 12th grade students were to me. Their teacher arranged them easily and casually in a semi-circle around the table where my easel held my antique photographs of the Jones family. I knew I was challenging their mind as we went from an early day picture of my grandfather's bicycle shop in Perry to pictures of my Native American grandmother in the Gibson Girl style of 1910.
Click on photo to enlarge:
 Turning again to more thought provoking material I showed her sisters with their Pendleton blankets around them and the mark of the chief's daughter tattooed on their forehead.
    With an audience, especially one so youthful, it is difficult to see if you are holding their minds or if it is only polite attention they give. It was their expression, the look of on their faces as they leaned forward in order to get a better view of the pictures that told me I had penetrated some recess of their mind that had never been touched before. Even the teacher had that same pensive, facial-feature. It was a sudden coming of an awareness that there was a world  never seen before and it was all around them like a whispering ghost, invisible but definite in its force. When I commented on the wealth of information at the Historical Society building near  the capital in Oklahoma City a look of quiet determination came over the expression of the teacher and she said, “We need to save money for a field trip.”
    The next leg of my trip took me to an elementary school. It was here I would speak to the second grade students. For this lady approaching seventy years I have to admit the faces of those beautiful bright children will stay with me forever. The presentation had to be geared down to their thinking and was I in for a surprise.
    When I asked the children to give a definition for the word respect and one after another explained to me what it meant.
    “Respect, means you must treat other people as you wish to be treated,” the boy on the front row commented. His hair, healthy skin, eyes and attitude made me aware of what a good job this teacher and his parents were doing for his up-bringing. Another child told me, “If someone falls down, you don't just laugh at them, you help them up.”  One girl informed me, “Respect means, you take care of other people's property.”
    This was the thought to get me into showing them the old pictures and to tell them not to bother their mother's pictures because then, when she gave the pictures to them they would be in good shape.
    These children were so totally attentive but, of course, I wondered if they were absorbing any of what I told them, that is, until the floor was opened for their questions. And here are some of their questions:
    “Why are these children's feet so muddy in this picture?”
    “Because there were no paved streets like you have today. The streets were dirt and when it rained they became muddy,” I answered.
    “Where did the Osage people get all that money?”
    “From oil.”  I told him. People need oil even today in order to run cars, to create electricity for lights, and many other things.”  I was heady now,  with my realizing of how much information they could absorb.
    “If the Osage didn't know how much money something cost, why didn't they?”  The perplexed look on the boy's face told me he was very interested in this.
    “They spoke a different language, their numbers were different words than ours. They didn't know the difference in a dollar or a dime. Their money was even different and their way of buying and selling was different. They couldn't say the numbers in our language.” 
    And then there was the ultimate, best question, “Mrs. Flood, back in the olden days did you have paved streets when you were little?” 
    This was my call to ask the teacher how much time we had left. When she said three minutes, I breathed a sigh of relief.
    “Almost all the streets were paved,” I quickly ended the discussion with a chuckle.
    Once again as I drove into my drive and wagged my visual tools into my house I was confronted by the mountain of laundry, dust from a carpentry project in the house, the shawl hanging half-finished and somehow these all seemed like such small issues. I walked straight to the washer and filled it with clothes and soapy water. Dust cloth in hand made me a white tornado as I plunged into the worst of it. Even the design on the shawl I had been unsure about became clear and visually easily seen in my mind's eye. My thoughts were  no longer dim but were now free from any obscurities. Color and design rested on the borders of the fabric in strong definitions with abstract clarity in my planning. The minds of the children today had given me freedom once again and so it is with the delicate balance between living and loving.

    Here is a very interesting read about the history of Perry, Oklahoma. I hope you will be able to read it:

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