Archives for the month of: November, 2014

There is no formula to my family Thanksgivings except for family, food and love.  The traditions have evolved through the years and change all the time as we lose and gain family members.  You learn to keep it loose and fun, being thankful for the chance to even plan whatever you’re doing.

When I was little, we drove to my grandparents home in Oklahoma City to have dinner with my aunts and uncles and cousins.  My father and grandfather would go quail hunting in the early morning while dinner was being prepared.  The hunting goes back to Kentucky where both of them were born.  My grandfather and his brothers always had dogs and hunted, bringing home all kinds of game for the family to enjoy.  Those Kentucky burgoos were born of those Kentuckians hunting long ago.

As my generation of the family grew up, one of my cousins married a man who lived in Chandler, hunted and had property for the hunting.  My husband learned to hunt from my father, growing to share his love of working the dogs and walking the fields in the early mornings and later in the afternoons of fall, bringing home the birds for delicious dinners later.  Alan with Guy (1)

For several years, the Tulsa relatives met the Oklahoma City relatives in Chandler, repeating the routine of hunting in the morning and then dinner.  Football in the afternoon was added about that time and our family continued to grow and add to the memories.

I forgot to mention the awkward years when we were first married and tried to go to both family Thanksgiving dinners, coming home exhausted and way too full.  We all make that mistake when living in the same city.  You can’t please everyone.  You just can’t.

At some point, there were moves and changes and the families stayed in their own cities, each gathering their own on the holiday.  At our house, the routine was pretty much the same with us going to my parents.  My in-laws had moved out of town, so we spent some holidays with them.  When home, the hunting, food, football tradition continued.  We had added the tradition of walking to nearby Utica Square for the Lights On celebration in the evening, a good way to work off the big meal.

Through the years, we’ve lost all our hunters, adjusted to some family members going different ways, sometimes go to a movie on Thanksgiving night, added recipes, kept the ones we like, still set the table with our best crystal and china and silver, even though we come dressed casually.  The grandkids play football or hang out, the adults sit back, and we all get lazy.

For the past decades, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays.  Even when I was working, I loved cooking all the dishes I only made once or twice a year.  I had my routine compressed so it wasn’t too exhausting and I loved the early morning, alone in the kitchen getting everything ready for the kids to come over.  It was a comforting time of year where I could count my blessings quietly.

Today, I’m thankful for my healthy, happy family.  We’re about to change as the grandkids start leaving for college and there will be new members added and our family will begin to grow again in the not too distant future.  I’m so grateful to be here to see it all.

In our family, the traditions are family, food and love.  What else do you need for a great holiday?


There are people I run across while reading or traveling or meet in person who fascinate me to the point that I start learning all about them to see if they are truly as wonderful as I’ve been led to believe.  Blame it on my degree in English and all those research papers, but I really get obsessed with digging through books and the internet to see what I can find.

My latest obsession is close to home.  I graduated from Oklahoma State University and, of course, knew the mascot, Pistol Pete.  I’m not sure I was aware that he is the ONLY college mascot based on a real person, although I knew there was an actual Pistol Pete.  Back in the days before the abundance of branding, we didn’t see Pistol Pete, the mascot, except at sporting events.  How I wish I’d been there just a few years earlier.

The real Pistol Pete was Frank Eaton and he lived about ten miles from OSU.  He became the mascot in 1923 when he was still alive and liked to roam the campus, wearing his guns on his belt.  He walked the sidelines at football games and spoke to classes, demonstrating his quick draw until he shot a bullet into a wall in the Student Union basement during a class.  The hole is still there, evidently.

Frank Eaton wrote an autobiography, “Pistol Pete: Veteran of the Old West,” that is astounding for many reasons and almost too rich in details of life in Indian Territory in the late 1800s to believe.  I’ve tried to find someone to debunk it, but all I’ve found are facts to make it more believable, even though he may have fudged or not known his actual birthdate, which allowed him to be a lawman in his teens.  He wrote the book, or dictated it to his co-writer, when he was in his 90s, which could make it doubtful.  When she was in her 80s, I asked my mother a question about her childhood and she replied with incredible detail, drawing a picture of her grandmother’s house with all the plants outside, the furniture inside, etc.  Memories are an amazing thing and I’m sure Frank Eaton had told his stories too many times to forget.

I won’t go through the details because I’d love for you to discover his life yourself, even if you just go to Wikipedia.  This guy was the real deal.  His father was shot to death by six men in the doorway of their home with eight year old Frank watching.  A family friend told him he was no kind of a man if he didn’t avenge his father and get the killers, so he learned to shoot at eight, perfecting his accuracy and quick draw until he was the best in the territory.  He was appointed to be a marshall in his teens, killed five of the cattle rustling thieves who killed his father, worked chasing bad guys for the Cattlemen’s Association and the marshals, was a bronc buster, rode in cattle drives, worked on cattle ranches, worked in Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show, was in the land rush, farmed, was a blacksmith and a water-witcher who not only could find water, but climbed down in the holes to place the dynamite.  He was absolutely fearless, didn’t drink, played cards, smoked, cussed like a sailor except in front of women, and even learned to play the fiddle.  No matter what you think, you can’t dispute his prowess as a quick draw master.  There are films on YouTube of him demonstrating when he was in his 90s.  Amazingly fun to see.  Here’s one of my favorite pictures of him.  He never lost this persona.  pistol10

What I love most about Frank from the various accounts I’ve read is the kind of man he was.  After all his adventures, he married a woman he loved.  They were homesteaders and struggled and had two daughters.  His wife died, leaving him with the two girls and he kept them near him.  He remarried another woman and had eight more children.  He worked as a blacksmith in Perkins, OK and never tired of showing off his shooting skills or telling his stories.  One man who lived there said he loved to show off by hitting two matchsticks from twenty yards, never missing.  Gunshots could be heard in Perkins, followed by his loud laugh, “Ho Ho Ho!” He even wrote a column for the Perkins paper when he was in his 90s.  Even though he never spoke of attending school, his daughter said he wrote one of his books by hand in his Spencerian style.  He had a wonderful sense of humor, which shows in the stories he told, some of them tall tales that match those of Mark Twain and Bret Harte.  He may not have made them up, but he knew how to tell them.

He was a legend in his own time, which delighted him no end.  He rode in the parades, which is where OSU students saw him and asked him to be their mascot.  He spoke to school children.  Listening to tapes of him speaking, you get a feel for his story telling ability, which must have been a delight for those who stopped by to visit him in his Perkins home.

I visited his home recently in the park where the citizens of Perkins have moved it and dedicated a huge statue to him.  IMG_5333DSC_0011You can find photos of him sitting on the porch of this house, entertaining guests.  Everything looks the same.

This larger than life man was actually small, standing at 5’5″ in his later years.  He had a lazy eye, which makes his incredible shooting skills even more intriguing.  He wore his hair in long braids, always had a gun on his belt, would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need, loved his kids and grandkids, and never asked for anything that I can tell.  He was definitely a character, decidedly a hero, and, at the very least, someone you wish you had met.

When I see his image on everything imaginable at OSU, I smile, knowing that he would have absolutely loved it.  My big regret is that I reached campus a mere five years after he died.  Isn’t that unbelievable?  There are people alive today who walked to class beside a real life cowboy from frontier days, wearing his guns and telling his stories.  How much fun would that have been?  I’ll have to settle for reading his stories, seeing his home and other memorials to him in small museums around the state, and knowing that such a person really did proudly live in the state I call home.  And seeing his image around campus, including the current mascot.  I hope we all do him proud.


The little girl clung to her daddy, standing beside him in the pew, looking at the people behind her and trying to be as good as she could be.  I wasn’t sure who she belonged to, but I recognized the family genes.  I had seen smidgens of that face in my childhood in what turned out to be her great-aunt, a friend of mine since we were three.  I had to smile, which you do a lot of as you get older and are watching generations grow up in front of you.

When I was a little girl, I looked mostly like my father.  I adored him, so that was ok with me.  As I grow older, there are more of my mother’s genes showing through, so I carry looks and other traits from both of them.  Babies may look like one parent some of the time and then the other as they grow up. Nature’s way.

People have always known that things “run in the family,” things like eye or hair color, artistic abilities or even mental illness.  Even a little bit of craziness has been traced to the genes.  And there are genetic predispositions to illnesses that we learn about every day.

I’m fascinated with the way nature distributes those little bits of DNA so that every birth is a mystery as to which traits, good or bad, will be passed down.  As the mother of four, it was a treat and a terror to watch myself and my husband being recreated in so many diverse ways.  Each child was so different and, yet, to this day people know what family they were born into.

How much is nature and how much is nurture as to personality traits? Does that wacky sense of humor come at birth or is it born from being around someone funny?  I watch my friends with adopted children who assume some of their parents’ personalities, so some of it has to be the environment.  That’s another whole discussion.

In my family, I have a daughter who looks like she could be her cousin’s sister.  The same thing is true with my grandchildren.  My son’s daughter and my daughter’s son look like siblings.  Even his friends have noticed. That pervasive gene pool strikes again.  image

This whole observation brings me to the wonder of seeing my children as adults and their children as young adults and looking back at family photos of my grandparents and their siblings and catching a facial expression or something you aren’t even looking for and seeing how it has survived to the next generations.  There’s no control over it.  It’s a magical connection that just happens.

The joy can be when you see an expression on a face or turn of a head and there’s a spark of memory of a loved one lost.  It can be jolting as you recognize the bits of each of us running through the family.  It can be comforting when you see that loved one living on in a small way.

Those twisting DNA particles…where will they end up next?

We’ve had a green autumn in Oklahoma.  I don’t remember having a mild summer (well, for us), followed by a very warm fall before.  We’ve had some autumns when our trees turned brown too quickly because of the hot summer.  This year,  hmmm.

It’s November and the temperatures have been in the 70s and 80s.  I’m not sure we’ve even had a hard freeze.  About a week ago, the maple tree in my front yard burst into color…finally.  IMG_5498

This week, the temperature was almost 80 on Monday and, then, it dropped overnight to freezing.  On Wednesday, we woke up with winds and temps in the 20s.  When the wind blew, my maple dropped its leaves.  IMG_5615That was typical.  But…in my back yard, some of the trees hadn’t even turned yet and there was a flurry of leaves falling…all green.  I’ve never seen a green autumn before.  IMG_5614Oh well.  Not much to say…we went from one extreme to the other.  As Will Rogers said, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it’ll change.”

Going to a Comic Con wasn’t on my bucket list, but you do a lot of things for your grandkids that you wouldn’t ordinarily do.  That, plus the fact that a friend of mine, Scott Wilson, was appearing as one of the guest stars when Wizard World Comic Con came to Tulsa.  And, I was naturally curious about a phenomenon that has grown from a comic book convention to a group of Trekkies and Star Wars fans to a show that highlights a whole pop culture world of comic books, graphic novels, movies and television shows.  These things are huge.  The Comic Con in San Diego draws A-list stars.  There had to be something to it.  Right?

There aren’t so many grandparents there because it’s noisy, you walk a lot on hard floors, the crowds are big, and other things that make it not as attractive once you’re older and more curmudgeonly.  But, there are people of all ages.  It’s a diverse crowd because there is a universality to costumed characters that transcends race, gender, sexual orientation, income levels, age.

I also learned a new word…cosplay.  That’s short for costume play.  There were signs saying that you needed to ask before taking photos of cosplayers.  That amused me because I guarantee that the majority who spend hours and dollars on elaborate costumes are there to have their pictures taken.  This guy strutted around all day, posing with anyone who asked.  I have no idea who the character is, but his costume is cool.  IMG_5513If you go to a Comic Con, take lots of money.  There are booths with everything you want in this fantasy world.  There are toys and action figures.  I loved this little girl in her fancy Robin costume picking out a toy.IMG_5423There are swords and other props, and, yes, the swords are real metal.  Wow!  These guys are armed for any kind of invasion or apocalypse  IMG_5420There are helmets and hats IMG_5419And beautiful masks crafted of leather   IMG_5431and t-shirts and huge tote bags to carry all your purchases  IMG_5454This father showing his kids the incredible light sabers amused me.  The father probably grew up with Star Wars and is passing it down to his sons.  I saw people playing with the light sabers they bought at costs of $200, $300, and $400 and up.  They were definitely cool.IMG_5514And, of course, there are comic books and graphic art of all kinds…IMG_5426IMG_5451Meeting celebrities is another plus.  The Tulsa World featured a piece of custom art for the Tulsa show  5459e1ec5e042.imagecreated by this artist who was selling prints of his other work.  IMG_5521You could meet Lou Ferrigno of The Incredible Hulk, as my grandson did.  IMG_5523Here is Robert Englund, who played Freddie Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, strapping on his sword-like hands for a picture with a fan.  I watched a little boy wearing a mock hand and Freddie Krueger hat gasping in awe as he watched him.  IMG_5505There were lots more stars from shows and movies from William Shatner from Star Trek, to stars from Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Superman, Harry Potter, and others I didn’t know.  There were question and answer panels that drew thousands of fans.  My friend, Scott Wilson, has a long career in films and became a Comic Con star playing Hershel Greene in the Walking Dead series.  The four actors from that show who came to Tulsa were by far the stars of the show, with Norman Reedus, who plays the crossbow wielding anti-hero Darryl, being the rock star.  Their lines were continuous.  I have to say that Scott goes above and beyond with his fans, giving them all hugs and personal conversations.  He is a gentleman and a jewel in my book.  Here he’s wearing the t-shirt featuring Tulsa’s iconic Golden Driller that I gave him when he got to town.IMG_5489He also stayed an extra hour to give free autographs and pictures to the show’s volunteers at the end of a grueling weekend of activities.  IMG_5543Comic Con has the reputation among the non-believers of being only for nerds.  Well, maybe, but this is where these fans can meet their peeps and mingle for a delightful weekend.  After all, I’ve been to Renaissance Fairs and re-enactments and the Scottish Games and October Fests which are not much different.  It’s all a festival where adults can remember what it’s like to be a child again.  Comic Con is a place where families can play – or cosplay – together.  IMG_5515Here’s a family with oddly colored children.  IMG_5536Couples can fantasize about whatever or whoever they enjoy being… IMG_5519Children can meet their action toys in person.  IMG_5548And grown men can bring the Oklahoma Ghostbusters out to play.  IMG_5444Some of you are rolling your eyes that people actually do this, but it’s really great fun to watch people enjoy themselves in whatever fantasy they choose.  There was an atmosphere of camaraderie and festivity for all who attended.  I got a huge kick out of watching it.  Way more than I thought I would.  As my little friend, R2D2, said to the crowd…Beep! Beep!IMG_5478My own memories flash.  How many Star Wars figures did I pick up off the floor when my son was little?  Why did my mother throw out all my brother’s comic books?  Who knew?

It’s amusing to me how excited I can get over learning something new, even the simplest thing.  Approaching 69 quickly, I work to keep my brain power as sharp as possible by playing games that make me think, reading, getting outside, and hanging out with people as much as I can.

Watching the students, all 21 or older, whom I am working with this year, use their computers is inspiring.  The first computers I was around were in a math lab at the elementary school my children attended.  They were simple machines that were used in a lab for the students to do math.  I remember that the screens were black and the numbers were white – I think.  Anyway, I decided that if kindergartners could do this, so could I, and I embraced the computer age.

What amazing changes there have been since that time, probably 40 years ago.  Shoot, there are amazing changes every year, month, week, and day now.  What you thought you knew is updated so quickly.  People grumble and curse the new ways, but I’ve found that most of them are pretty spectacular.

Today, I taught myself how to do something on the computer, something so simple that I won’t give details because I wouldn’t be surprised if my 5 year old granddaughter could have taught it to me.  I was beaming to myself with pride at learning this skill that my students assumed I knew.  It takes so very little to make me proud of myself these days.

Oh well, onward we march.  Now I’m going to concentrate on getting the rest of my body as sharp as my brain.  It’s going to take the whole package of me, brains and body, to conquer this latest challenge of approaching the truly elderly ages with more than a sigh and resignation.  After all, I’ve sworn to keep up with my grandkids for as long as possible.  By keeping up, I mean being able to do active things with them, even if I can’t possibly move as fast as they do.  At least my brain is up to the challenge…so far.  Sigh…


I’d like to say the ever noble thing and tell everyone to exercise their right to vote, a right that is fundamental to what our nation is all about.  I’d like to say that, but I’m not sure this time.  What I really want is for you to vote for the people I’m voting for.  And some of you won’t.

Normally, I’m pretty good about the majority ruling, but lately I’m not so sure.  I know that the alternative is not so great either, but I’ve been voting for almost 48 years now and I’m not real happy with what is going on in our country.  That’s an understatement.  By the time we actually have an election, we have been listening to candidates speak, throwing away an incredible amount of campaign material left in our mailboxes (hopefully recycling them), been annoyed by the phone calls that come at all hours, and been subjected to the horrendous 24 hour news cycle where so-called journalists have dropped any pretense of objective reporting for voicing their, or their network’s, opinion in the ever present sarcastic news tone used by all these days.  You know what I mean.

I’ve been a good voter through the years, showing up for the most minor of elections, studying the candidates and issues, coming prepared. I don’t know anymore.  I watch the people in office at every level playing the political games, surrendering their pre-office idealism for wheeling and dealing in votes.  They all begin to look jaded.

This qualifies as a rant.  I’m going to vote my conscience because I can’t trust any of the party platforms.  I’ll do the best I can and hope that some of my candidates win and that they do what they promised.  This is a year when I can truthfully say that I’m doing a lot of voting against incumbents, hoping they’ll be voted out before they do more damage.  I’m a negative voter this time around.

We have a great country, made greater by its people.  I’m a forever optimist who hopes we’ll get leaders who inspire us with their dedication to these wonderful people they are supposed to represent.  I’ll always vote because I know how important it is, no matter whether I like the outcome or not.  I vote…

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