The final book of the “Cherokee Passages,” Cherokee Steel will be out on August 30. I haven’t been told when it will be available for pre-order. This book begins in the 1940s and ends in 2000, continuing the multi-generational saga of Bluebird and Grey Wolf. Woven into the saga is the story of Bonita McKindle, who struggles to make a life for herself while coping with an alcoholic father. My book launch will be on September 6, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Kansas City Southern Depot in Stilwell, Oklahoma. I hope all of you can be there. If that’s not possible, you may buy my book online when it appears on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Googleplay, Young Dragons Press, and Kobo Books.
Recently I received a great honor. My poem, “A Look at Woody,” was chosen to be included in the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. I will be reading it during the festival on Saturday, July 16, in Okemah, Oklahoma.
I first learned about Woody in my music class at Stilwell Elementary School. “This Land Is Your Land” touched my heart and soul then and still does today. But, even though, I loved his music, I didn’t know much about the man and his times until I was in high school. After reading “The Grapes of Wrath”, I began to understand who Woody and John Steinbeck were talking about. Their inspirations were the poor folks who struggled to survive during hard times like the Great Depression. They especially focused on the “Okies”, who left their homes for the promise of better lives in California. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that my own family and the families of several in our community include Okies, and the exodus didn’t end after the Great Depression faded away. In particular, I remember one of my mother’s uncles who, along with his wife and children, would periodically travel to California, become migrant workers, make some money, and then return home to Oklahoma. This was happening in the 1950s, and I have found old pictures that prove that several relatives, on both sides of the family, were traveling to California during the 40s and 50s to try to improve their lots. Most came back home to Oklahoma, but some stayed in California. Thanks, Woody, for giving us insight into what life was like in these turbulent times and always sticking up for the poor and the oppressed.
As is often the case, Mother’s Day stirs up mixed feelings. My mom sometimes spoke about the void that existed in her life because she lost her mother when she was an infant. Even though her grandparents did their best, she still longed for a mother. This drove her to become a very warm, loving mother, and my brother and I inherited that blessing. As a mother, I tried to pattern myself after her. I went through a time when I felt like I had failed as a mother, but, thankfully, it didn’t last but a few years. Ironically, I also found myself in Delia’s role when I helped raise my oldest granddaughter. Just wish my family lived closer so we could celebrate Mother’s Day together.
Did you know that April is national poetry month? Personally, I have probably written poetry every month of the year sometime or another ever since I started writing it over 60 years ago. Yes, I have written poetry most of my life, and it has always been a sort of emotional, creative therapy for me. When I was young, I wrote poems about nature and the joys and fears of childhood. Here’s a snippet from a poem about swinging: “I can swing so high, I can touch the sky,
and there’s only God and me.”
Out of the angst of adolescence grew, “I am an unknown entity, drowning in a nameless sea. How can I reach out my hand to you when it doesn’t belong to me?”
When writing about love, “What greater plane can man reach than to be loved so greatly by one mortal being? Therein lies all the smiles of God and all the stars of heaven.”
With the demands of marriage, motherhood, and a teaching career, I didn’t write as much poetry. I do remember, “I dress the boys in blue and the girls in ruffles. But somewhere, somehow, I got lost in the shuffle.”
With retirement came more time to think and create. Several of my poems have received awards. Yesterday I learned my poem, “Shades of Oklahoma” received second place in a poetry contest sponsored by the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry in Locust Grove. I am going there Saturday to read my poem and receive an award. You really should visit this wonderful museum whenever you can. Happy Poetry month!
I will be honest with you. I really didn’t want to write this blog. My writing career is rather at a standstill right now.
I am waiting on my editors to have time to work with me on editing two books I have written. The first is a children’s book, and the second is a nonfiction history about Indian Territory in early Oklahoma history, with most of the book
being focused on the Cherokee Nation. Writing a new book would be a huge undertaking, and I am not ready to take
it on just yet.
So, let’s talk about more pleasant matters. My third book in the “Cherokee Passages” series, CHEROKEE STEEL, is scheduled to be released in July of 2022. My first and second books, CHEROKEE CLAY and CHEROKEE STONE are selling well locally but not so much online.
I need to figure out ways to promote online sales and reviews.
Another positive, spring is in the air. I walked around in short sleeves last weekend, but today’s temperatures were in the low 40s. Typical Oklahoma weather. The weathermen are talking about the possibility of snow again.
This old house lies close to my family’s original Cherokee allotment in Welling, Oklahoma. It was built during Indian Territory days by my great, great uncle, James Clay. A few Clay family members still live on the allotment. I am sure that my father, Gene Philpott, visited this house, as well as the old Clay Family Cemetery. He was born, July 7, 1929, on the family allotment. I discovered this house a few years ago when my Clay cousin, Imogene Clay Webb, took me there.
Today, February 4, is my birthday so I am going to blog about it. Sixty-two years makes a big difference, but I can still see a bit of that little smiling girl in the senior citizen on her right. Things don’t always go my way, but, generally, a grin comes to my lips quicker than a grimace. I was never a rambunctious child, and reading and listening were second nature to me. Both traits have served me well in my second career as a writer. Many of the characters and story lines in my writing spring from stories I read, was told, or overheard when I was a young, quiet girl. As I look at my younger self, I see my mother’s touch. She always made sure that I was well-groomed and neatly dressed. She worked hard at factory or sales jobs to make sure I had nice clothes that always matched. Thank you, Mama, for teaching me to put my family first and for showing me that looking your best is important. As I look out the window on this snowy February day, I think of all of the other birthdays I have celebrated throughout my 69 years. Some of them have brought snow; many have been simply cold, but a few, including the actual day of my birth, have been balmy spring-like days. I will gladly take them all, but I will especially glory in those unexpected, unique, unusually blessed birthdays!
This title is a little deceiving. This picture was taken in the winter of 2021, but we have already had light snow this winter. This is how our youngest cat, Lucky, enjoys the snow, sleeping snugly in our bay window.
Not sure what this winter will bring. Normally, here in Oklahoma, we have mild winters, but our weather can be bi-polar. We grilled steaks just a few days after Christmas, but now our night temperatures are in the 20s and teens. Soon these temperatures will regularly extend to daytime hours.
What is your weather like where you live? Do you have to go outside no matter how cold it gets? I feel very blessed that I no longer have to go anywhere I don’t care to go. I can be like Lucky, snug in my warm house. Unlike Lucky, I can get on my computer or simply curl up with a good book.
Happy New Year, my friend! May 2022 bring you love, peace, health, prosperity, and any other good gifts you desire.
Hidden Christmas Cat
I like to think that like the reformed Scrooge, I know how “To keep Christmas well.” To me, a big part of that is making good Christmas memories with those you love. This is a picture of our senior cat, Houdini, when he was a much younger cat, enjoying the indoors tree we, his people, provided for him. Over the years, our cat has gotten older and bigger, and our Christmas tree has shrunk. Now we decorate a tabletop tree each year. However, we still make lots of
happy Christmas memories each year with our family and friends.
This is a picture of my father, Gene Philpott, as a young soldier. My dad spoke fondly of his time in the service. Of course, he was fortunate to serve in the States and never saw combat. He said, “There is something about marching in a military parade that makes you feel good.” My mom said that he went into the army as a somewhat clumsy, overweight boy and came back as a confident, handsome man.
After making a reputation for himself as a tough lawman for over twenty years, he retired early after being diagnosed with kidney and bone cancer. He fought the cancer for six years until he died at age 56.
He was a complicated man, and I never quite measured up to his standards, but I know he loved me. As I write my stories and books, I find myself channeling his character again and again.
There are days, like yesterday, when life turns dark. Then I cry like a little girl, desperately wanting her daddy.
The following story is one of those strange, unexplainable family tales that happen to be true. There are a lot of these in my family that we usually just tell within the family. Maybe because we know each other well enough to know we don’t lie about things like this. Today I am going to share a tale with you.
It all started over forty years ago when my daughter Alison, who was around three or four years old, was entertaining herself with make-believe. One night I found her, crouched under our kitchen table, which she had covered with a bedsheet. When asked what she was doing, she replied, “I’m Ned Christie, hiding in my fort.”
I wish I had asked her then how she knew about Ned Christie, but I didn’t. By the time I got around to asking her this question, she didn’t have even a faint memory of imitating Ned Christie when she was a preschooler.
At the time of the Ned incident, I only knew the standard version of Ned’s story. He had been portrayed as a sort of Cherokee outlaw who was gunned down by a posse of United States marshals and their followers for killing a fellow marshal. For some unknown reason, I always felt drawn to him, perhaps because he was a fellow Cherokee and had died a gruesome death, but I knew little of the real story.
The incident stuck in my brain, and I once discussed it with my husband Dennis. His reply was, “She probably got the idea from a story your dad told her about Ned Christie.”
I outwardly agreed, but inwardly, I had my doubts. My dad wasn’t much of a storyteller. He didn’t tell me many stories until he was on his deathbed. Then he spoke about his Cherokee grandfather Riley Clay and related harrowing family stories from Indian Territory days.
As his health grew worse, people I didn’t know came to say goodbye. One day he introduced me to a visitor, a Cherokee man. “This is Jackie Christie. He’s my cousin.”
By the time Alison was in high school, we had moved to the community of Wauhillau, which was where Ned had lived and died. One day Alison announced that she had chosen Ned Christie as the subject of one of her school assignments. I drove her to Ned’s gravesite at the Christie Family Cemetery where she took pictures and to the general location of where we believed Ned had once lived. A friendly farmer pointed out where he believed “Ned’s Fort” was located, and we took pictures. I didn’t know until later that we hadn’t walked far enough to reach Ned’s homesite.
The years flew by, and I eagerly grasped the extra time retirement brought me. I finally had time to read, study, and write. Soon, I had read and studied enough Cherokee history to know that my instincts about Ned Christie were true. He had been wrongly accused and executed by federal marshals under the orders of Judge Parker.
As I was conducting research for a family history story I was writing about Riley Clay, I made a surprising discovery. I found the name and picture of my great, great grandmother, Susie Christie Clay. She was the first cousin of Watt Christie, Ned Christie’s father. Ned Christie is my second cousin, several times removed.
This discovery inspired me to write a nonfiction story, “Another Look at Ned Christie,” which was published in the western magazine, Saddlebag Dispatches. But my connection with Ned didn’t end there.
A few years ago, Dennis and I joined the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association (ACH&GA). When they began conducting historical tours of Adair County, Ned Christie’s gravesite was one of the sites featured. In my role as a tour guide, I met Betty Christie Frogg, Ned’s great, great niece, when she shared her perspective of Ned’s life and death with our tour participants. Thanks to Betty I felt like I knew Cousin Ned much better.
Recently, I conducted my first tour since Covid. One of the participants, Jackie Bob Martin, a Christie descendant, who grew up in Wauhillau, asked if he could share something with the group. Of course, I agreed, and the next thing I knew he had directed the driver to a long, rough dirt road which eventually crossed a small, flowing branch.
Goosebumps popped out when Jackie Bob announced, “There’s Ned’s Spring.”
Then he showed us the bare remains of Ned’s fort where Ned’s life was cut short by the marshals.
I was struck by a new revelation. What I had heard, read, and wrote about Ned Christie was real, and he was connected to my family. He was connected to me. Maybe blood ties can be more than physical. Maybe little Alison sensed her connection to Ned some forty years ago.
This story reminds me of one of my favorite Shakespearian quotes: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Below is the picture I took of Ned’s Spring.