Thanks to watching a most spectacular show on OETA - “Oklahoma Rising” - I have been thinking about this great state we live in. And I've been thinking about my family who came to Cimarron County before it was known as Oklahoma - back when it was part of the Indian Territory.
Little snippets of family history lay embedded in my memory, but I must admit I don't have the exact dates of the happenings so firmly implanted.
You have heard me talk about the Munson - the quarter of land three miles west of town where I have walked amidst snakes and beside my dogs. The reason it is called “The Munson” is because sometime around statehood, my grandmother, Ruby Munson, and her mother “proved their claim” on that parcel of land. I wish I had asked her why they decided to journey from Missouri, a place of trees and hills, to live in a dug-out on the windswept and treeless prairie known as “No Man's Land”. Whatever the reason, she was just a young girl living alone with her mother. Later she would recall laying in bed at night and listening to the sounds of insects and creatures as they slithered down the papered wall of that little dug-out. She also talked of walking to the Mizer's homestead several miles north of their own. It was a lonely existence for my grandmother. That was, until she met the French kids. They were new-comers, too, living at Doby, which was a little settlement centered around a well about three miles northwest of what is now Boise City.
There were seven French kids - Ed, Lawrence, Joe, R.J., Hazel, Louie and Ressa . And Ruby was quite happy to spend time with this family when she walked those three miles for water. She, Louie and Hazel became good friends. But it was R. J. who “sparked” her, and eventually they married, and lived out their lives in Boise City. They had four children. And those four children produced ten grandchildren. Six of the ten grandchildren live in Cimarron County today. Seven great-grandchildren are here, as well. Then add to that, seven great-great-grandchildren (the eighth is in gestation).
The parents of R. J. French and Ruby Munson brought our family to this time and place one hundred years hence. Six generations of my blood have called this corner of Oklahoma “home”, and that fact amazes me, even as it makes me ask questions. I wonder why the descendants of R.J. and Ruby French are still here in Cimarron County? Many of our relatives have long since shed the dust and wind from their souls, and traveled to far-away states. They chose to live in cities and beside oceans. And yet the core of the family remains here, among those other families with generational ties to this land and place.
Perhaps we stay because there are still more pluses among the minuses of living life in a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere. Raising kids in Boise City is one of those pluses. And the ties that sometimes bind are also the ties that connect us to family and neighbors we have known all our lives. And unlike my dear grandmother, who had to walk three miles for a conversation or a drink of water, we can now drive to that big city or to that big, blue ocean. But then we can return to these wide open spaces and be soothed by the continuity of a slow-paced and friendly existence.
Who knows what the future holds for the French/Munson descendants. Perhaps those who have left the fold will someday return, and those who have stayed will someday leave. For after all, that is the natural rhythm and flow of life. But no matter where any of us find ourselves, we know that our roots are firmly established among the plowed fields and beneath the endless sky of the Oklahoma Panhandle. .