Kid in Osage County

My first nine years of life were spent in Osage County, Oklahoma.  After four years living in the town of my birth, Hominy, my parents and I moved ten miles north to Wynona which had a population of about one thousand people.

This is where the most of the memories of my young life began.  Wynona had been an oil boom town and remnants of that industry were still around.  I remember visiting friends living in the tree covered rural area and hearing the haunting sound of the pumping of several shallow oil wells,

The Osage Nation reserved the mineral rights of their reservation which became Osage County when statehood arrived for Oklahoma in 1907.  With the discovery and production of vast volumes of oil, the Indians holding head-rights became very wealthy.

This was wonderful and exciting to these innocent, naive, largely uneducated people.  They spent their money wildly and became the victims  of  many scams.  To remedy this, the US government appointed guardians for each of the Indians to protect them and control their spending.

Large brick homes were scattered though out the countryside to house the guardians and their wards.  We would drive by some of them when we would drive over the gravel road to Pawhuska, ten miles north.   Pawhuska was the county seat and the headquarters for the Osage tribe.  We would go to Pawhuska to see Will Rogers and Shirley Temple movies and  an occasional Indian Pow Wow.  I loved the movies but the noise of the drums and shouting of the stomp dances at the Pow Wows frightened me to tears.

At that time the main street of the towns were paved with concrete but the rest of the streets were gravel or dirt as were the highways.  I was really happy when Daddy would take us to Pawhuska on a route slightly out of the way to view the two story brown brick home that had been built by the guardians for their ward, John Stink.

John Stink refused to live in the house so a large teepee was built for him a few steps from the back door of the lovely home.  A couple of times we were lucky to see him walking in the yard. He looked like a heavy older man and was wrapped in the traditional colorful Indian blanket and his hair was in long braids.

From what I heard, Stink had led a miserable life.  He was was known as a drunk and  lived mostly on the streets and slept there with his dogs.  The sale of liquor was illegal in Oklahoma and federal law prohibited the sale of alcohol to Indians.  It could be bought from bootleggers and some people made their own.  Obviously, Stink found all he wanted.  Needless to say, he was shunned by the most of the populous.

One morning, Stink was found lying on the street lifeless and pronounced dead.  His fellow tribesmen took him to the top of a nearby hill and pilled rocks around his body.  This method of burial is still used in some primitive cultures.

Two days later, Stink appeared back on the streets of Pawhuska looking for his dogs.  He had been dead – dead drunk.  To the Osages he was a ghost and they refused to have anything to do with him.   Eventually Stink was living a good life in his own teepee and directed by his guardians, but I am sure that many in his tribe tribe still thought of him as a ghost.

Sometimes, we would see a horse drawn  buggy or trailer but the automobile was now the king of the road.  Each car carried a crank which was used to start the vehicle.  Tube repair kits and jacks were kept in your car and were need often.  If the car had a trunk, it was a real trunk strapped to its rear.

Most people carried a brick or two in their car.  When you parked on a hill, bricks were placed behind a tire on the downslope wheel to keep the vehicle from rolling down the hill.  In the wintertime, bricks could be heated and placed at the passengers feet.  Sometimes we would have freezing weather and the radiator had to be drained of its water and refiled when the car was driven again.
Model Ts photo
A spare tire was often strapped to the rear of the car but some models had a slot built into the rear of the front fender of the passenger’s side. These were very decorative on the more expensive models.  Horns and headlights were prominent on both sides of the radiator.

Immediately below the doors was a metal platform extending from the back of the front fender to the back fender.  This was a running board used to step into the car.  It was made of metal and usually covered with rubber.

Kids today have their fun and happiness with many gadgets that we could never have dreamed of.  It appears that much of their fun is directed toward their education and homework.  We had little of no homework and had our fun running and playing with neighbor kids.  Some of our fun that we enjoyed most involved our parents cars.

One of my earliest remembrances was when Daddy drove a large touring car for a short while.  Attached to the back of the front seat were two folding seats that could be pulled out and they faced each other looking toward the opposite side.  I was very young but I remember sitting in Model T crookedone of them all alone.  I felt like a king surveying my world during our short drive.

One thing that everybody  did was to jump on the running board of the sedans of that time, hold on to the support between the windows on the passenger side and have an exhilaratingly ride in the fresh air over the gravel streets.

Another great ride was to sit on the front fender and hold on to the nearby headlight.  Sometimes a friend would b sitting on the other front fender.  I do not remember having trouble with bugs hitting me in the face.

Seldom did we have snow but when we did, Daddy would hook my sled to the back of the car and I would dress in my warmest clothes and slide through the neighborhood.
Riding on the car in the fresh air gave us a feeling of freedom and wildness. I suppose that the kids of today get their feeling of being wild and free on the ski slopes and on the slides of WaterWorld.

I remember the first day that 3.2 beer became legal in Oklahoma.  Daddy and his good friend, Bill Waller, decided to drive to a drive-in in Pawhuska for a real beer.  Bill’s sons, Billy and Bob, and I rode in the back seat as Bill drove.  On the trip, Billy and Bob started shouting to their dad to speed up to fifty miles an hour.  I kept quiet since I had never even thought about traveling at that extremely high speed.  Soon we were going fifty miles an hour.  Billy and Bob screamed with excitement.  To the best of my memory, I cringed in the corner of my seat, scared almost to death.  Daddy and Bill had their one bottle of beer and we returned home but not at that terrifying speed.

A big disappointment  for me was that I never got to ride in a rumble seat.  The rumble seat was was a seat for two that folded out of the trunk area of coupes and roadsters for open air riding.
Model T with rumble
I still hope to someday ride in a rumble seat — maybe through the pearly gates.

JIM PERSHALL
JUNE 2014