Thursday, July 30, 2009

Silent Sentinels

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.

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