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American History
Osage Highlanders - Chapter 10

Another weekend saw her at a much smaller town of a totally different setting and this was in a wheat growing area. The little town of Billings, Oklahoma  is set off to the side of the interstate hi-way and is rather isolated in an off the beaten track way. This community celebration was to mark the accomplishments the town had made over the years. For a small town the turn out was impressive. It was the individual, the people, who struck the artist as being so outstanding.

The parade was fun and opened with the oldest citizen, a Mrs. Hunter, riding down the broad avenue in a classy antique car.  She was given a place of honor. Dawn couldn't help but wonder about her own folks, the Hunters.

There was a float set up with the way women worked before modern appliances. One of the ladies sat with a butter churn on her lap, another hung clothes from a clothes line, and yet another watched a pot
of beans on an old wood burning stove. They were all dressed in the pioneer garb of the early Oklahoma days which included the tradition sunbonnet. Dawn remembered how she hated to wear one even though her grandmother insisted lest her complexion be ruined with the sun. She now looked down at her own sun darkened arms called a tan and she knew Gramma Bell had been right.

The next exhibit to come down the street was a large piece of modern equipment called a Ditch Witch which was used for excavating large amounts of earth. The owner had geared up the engine so he could "pop wheelies," all the way down the wide street. It was quite a sight.  This giant jeep looking thing on huge tires, rolling down the street and all at once popping the front end of it up off the ground.  It would roll on its back wheels only for a while and bucking it was back on the ground. The man driving it added to the show with his attitude. It was something like, "Ho-Hum, I do this all the time.”  This was hilarious to Dawn. But, since no one else was laughing she decided she shouldn't either.

The small  classy little high school band marched and played well. They were  in tune and in step. The youthful girls and boys were beautiful and handsome in their sharp uniforms. The uniforms of a burgundy color were trimmed in shining gold trim.  Some of the ancient melodies they played reached back to Scotland and Dawn again remembered the oldest citizen, who was over ninety, a Mrs. Hunter.

All about the town it was obvious there was an unusual amount of people in wheelchairs. When Dawn asked the lady standing to her right the reason for this, the woman was kind enough to explain to her there was an institution here in the town who cared for them. What was impressive about this was the way they fit in with everyone.  They called  out to people  and were greeted with wide smiles and returned waves.   There were no lonely isolated wheel chair people here, Dawn observed.

"What a high degree of civilization you folks have achieved and out here in the middle of nowhere but wheat fields."  Dawn was truly encouraged by the strength and spirit of the people in this little town. Their handsome and clean good looks made her believe they must have descended from an older generation of immigrants.

Most of the folks were centered in an area about one half a block away from where she set up her table and easel. An artist doing their work always draws a crowd and Dawn being an outsider did not want to take away from the local exhibits of quilters and other crafters.  By choosing a little used medium known as scratch board she was able to work in a deliberate manner to turn out a piece of artwork resembling the etchings of by-gone days. These etching were produced with acid and metal.  This medium was simply a black board treated with a substance to be scratched off in lines with  a small tool. The eye of most of the people was caught with the process and there were many pleasant exchanges between them and the artist. These were country people who were able to create absolutely anything. A new challenge like this sparked their interest and they were enjoying the artist sharing the technique with them. When Dawn had thought about the medium she would use she knew it would have to be something to appeal to a people who were masters of every craft and artwork available to them. They were from all walks of life to hold retired university professors, farmers, and some who commuted to other towns to work. The scratch board saved the day for Dawn.

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