Friday, July 31, 2009
I love the phrase, "we celebrate the life of...." It is so much better a remembrance than, "we gather to mourn..." Panhatchapie was not really an Osage Princess, but she was my princess. She was born Emilly Belle but some man in her early life began to call her Panhatchapie which was shortened to Pan, the name I knew her by all of my life until last year when I asked her if her given name was truly Pan. From the first time I remember seeing her, I thought she was beautiful and then I would see movies with actress Ann Blyth (The Helen Morgan Story, The Great Caruso) and think how much alike she and Pan looked. She was a mystery woman in my young life for she would appear with a gift from some strange land and then dissappear again. Pan had little formal education but she was a voracious reader and quick learner. She understood which clothes augmented her natural beauty and educated, wealthy and powerful men were attracted to her. She was married to an air force colonel, a diplomat, and a doctor. She lived in New York and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where she learned to speak Portuguese. Pan was not above telling a lie, even on an official document for someone catching her beauty suggested she apply to work as an airline hostess. With no experience and her limited education, she basically fabricated a history complete with college education and several years experience as a flight attendant. My mother received a letter from Flying Tigers asking for verification of Pan's story and she didn't want to lie but ultimately, she confirmed Pan's lie as a truth and then worried that the FBI would come and get her. Pan went to work for Flying Tigers and traveled around the world, adding to my toy collection as she did. She kept in touch with me through my navy career and when my son Stephen was born, she visited us in Bartlesville and took us to our favorite restaurant, which we could not afford. She was with us through many visits to Pawhuska, her home town, and Bartlesville and I was able to meet her in California at different times. She never seemed to age to me and I was stunned when she told me that she had told her doctor that she was eighty-three and did not want heroic treatments to fight the cancer that had invaded her pancreas, liver and kidney. How could Pan, who never changed be eighty-three? But I had not seen her in years, although we talked on the telephone often. The last time I had seen her was when her brother, Bud Purvis, had called me at work and said that Pan would meet us in the great hall in the Adams Building and I dropped everything to rush over to meet them. There was Pan, radiant, laughing, beautiful as ever. She was my guardian angel, someone always there for me, when I was a good kid, and when I was confused, lost and in trouble. My brother Charles called me last night to let me know that she had left us yesterday, leaving a hole in our lives that will not be filled. I knew she was going to die for the machines, CAT, PET, and other had told us so, and had even told us she would be here six months. The selfish part of us wanted her to have that six months and more, for ourselves, but now she won't suffer longer and that's good. I have seen too many suffer, especially with cancer. As much as I miss her, and will miss her, I am grateful that she won't suffer longer. Pan was a princess, and an angel to me and mine, and now she rests with the angels. We celebrate the life of Pan Purvis Ray, 1926-2009.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
In an earlier post, I had mentioned the Silent Sentinels that guard the entrances to Williams Park, the wonderful and well maintained park in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. They are not monoliths for a monolith is a single stone, like the Washington Monument, yet there is a monolithic quality about them, something from ancient Mexico when the Aztecs and Mayans ruled in the Americas. Each sentinel is made up of many stones placed together, and each has a ramp leading up that could be climbed by a small boy, especially one outfitted in Keds, for the rubber sole gripped fast, allowing us to run up from the back side and climb to the top, a plateau from which we could stake our claim to the tower that had become a fortress for us to defend. It wasn’t so high that it was very dangerous; yet just scaling its heights was an adventure. Once atop it, we usually had a friend or two join us and we fought off all pretenders to keep the sanctity of the tower we had just captured. It was much more exciting if we had just come to the park from a movie at the State or Ki-He-Kah Theaters when there had been a fort in the movie. It could have been a western fort, with General George A. Custer, for we knew few generals by name then, or it could have been a castle fort if we had just seen Ivahoe or Robin Hood. Sometimes we were forced off by bigger, stronger boys but there were several of these Silent Sentinels and we usually just moved to a new one. Once in a while a genuine fight broke out because someone refused to yield their trophy, but that was rare for we were seldom in the park without adult supervision, and that usually meant moms for most of the men worked somewhere during the day. The best times were actually during the school year, in late spring or early autumn, when the weather was still cooler and so many of our friends were together in one collection. The arrival of summer sent many families on vacation or working the oil fields and pipelines; some kids went to summer camps. It was harder to find a group and a mother to take a bunch of us to the park, yet sometimes there might be a church function, although those tended to be over supervised. As I look at this old friend from my childhood, I still see mystery in it and perhaps that is why these great stones attracted us so much. Like the wrinkled face of an old man, the weathered rocks, their cement filled interstices, seem to write a story and make us want to read more, to know how all of those marks and scars came to be and what lies beneath them. The other thing I see when I look at them is kids I knew, though I can’t remember their names or faces, but I remember them, and it brings me joy to see these old rocks doing so well still.
Monday, July 27, 2009
We took Williams Park for granted but when I go there now, I simultaneously go to two places. I go the quiet place where nature is at its best and I can relax and breath in the freshness of the park. I also go back in time fifty to sixty years and see boys I knew, having fun, laughing, being the best of friends to each other and making silent vows to each other that they would always be there for each other.
I remember the big swing sets and how we boys tried to outdo each other as we went higher and higher and Bobby Hughes went so high that the tether of the swing set was almost parallel to the ground. Boys on the ground were shouting to him, "Jump! Jump! Jump" and laughing so hard that they almost fell down, and then Bobby moved forward, left the seat and the tether behind and went sailing out into space, the greatest leap to which I was ever witness. I can still see him suspended in air, for a moment, as he laughed and then the wide grin on his face slowly turned to fear. He seemed to sail forever as his arc went above the plane of the swing and then began to level out, and then to sink. He shrieked as the ground moved upward to meet his re-entry to earth and then there was the thud. No sounds came from him as we ran to him, for he had knocked all the air from his lungs. We thought he was dead at first, but he soon began to gather color, and then breath, and then he was on his feet, no harm done, and a smile began to spread on his lips, and for a moment he was our hero, the boy who had gone further, higher, and faster than any of the rest of us.
"Do it again!" said one of the boys.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Triangle Building, Pawhuska, Oklahoma
This building, more than any other, seemed to symbolize Pawhuska when I was growing up. I took this photograph in September, 2004, when I had fears that the building might be razed. As a boy and young man, I took the old building for granted, assumed that it would always be there, but recent times have been difficult for it. It is old and cranky, with the many problems that beset all structures created by the hand of man. One of its flaws is, and has always been, that there are no parking spaces near the building. When I was a kid, I would see someone park in front of the J.C. Penney store, exit their car and walk over to the Triangle Building to conduct business. My elderly Uncle Franklin Revard once had an office somewhere upstairs and I would stop to visit him, smell the law books that lined the shelves, the clinging odor of his powerful cigars, and step carefully around the brass spittoon resting beside his rich, oaken desk. I often had to reintroduce myself to him. I, along with many others, continue to hope that someone will step in to rescue the building. Time changes everything, including me, but my heart would suffer if the old building was no more.
Atop the building is the framework of a star and every Christmas it was lighted and could be seen from many places about town. The hill next to the stairs is covered with small boulders of native stone, sand stone, and ivy grows between the rocks. I used to climb the rocks rather than use the stairs as it was both challenging and fun. It was fun except for the times that I stirred angry swarms of bees or wasps and I could not escape their wrath for the uneven surface of the rocks, the tangle of vines, kept me prisoner and so I was stung on a few occasions.
On the south side of the building is an empty lot, but when I was a kid, it was where the old State Theater stood. I have no photographs of my own of the State Theater as I did not know that I would need them. My memory was good and I knew that the State Theater would live in my heart and mind as long as I lived. It still lives for many of us but the number is fewer. I wish I had known more about the future then but I thought Pawhuska would always be the same. Time marches on.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
The stadium is not large but adequate for our school size. The school colors are black and orange and for dyslexics, orange and black. The outside of the stadium is beautifully assembled native stone which offers more character than simple concrete. I have sat through many things there and I advise taking something comfortable to sit on for the seats are stone and take a toll on humans, especially older ones, in short order. The field lies from north to south and the home spectators sit on the west side. The visiting spectators sit in a smaller set of stands, on wood, which, ironically, is much more comfortable. Still, it's home.
I live near Pawhuska, so when I have time or reason, I visit and habit requires me to travel certain streets. I always drive past a few houses of old friends, such as Bob Hughes (and his big sister Kay), Jay Hurt, Butch Daniels, and a few others. It is nearly impossible to not drive downtown and cross the great old streets: Ki-He-Kah Avenue, Main Street and the numbered streets such as 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th. I feel compelled to go by or over Flanagan Hill. There is no official hill called Flanagan as it is the short (325 feet) but oh so steep hill that rises between 10th and 11th streets and is actually Prudom Street. At least I knew it as Prudom Street but for my book, I labeled it Prudom Avenue as that is what my official sources told me. The needs of the 911 calling system required some things to be changed though, and maybe it was "Street" when I was growing up. No matter though, as whether we called it a street or an avenue, the name of Prudom was there for as long as I could remember. Some one whose last name was Flanagan lived near or on the property that became the hill and it was named Flanagan Hill in honor of that family. I have never heard it called Prudom Hill although the other hills in Pawhuska are named by the street where they reside. We called them Ki-He-Kah Hill, Grandview Hill, 12th Street Hill, which made sense. We had Dial Hill, Castle Hill and Flanagan Hill.