Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pawhuska Trails

Do Pawhuska trails really exist? If they do, what are they, where do they lead, where do they begin? And more importantly, where do they end? Perhaps trail is too narrow a word making us think of a single, narrow and dusty trail where hikers tread. How about The Oregon Trail? It crossed the western states and brought promises to Americans who longed for a better life somewhere else. Was it a single trail? Probably not. It was probably a series of trails, wide enough for a number of wagons to travel side by side, although in its toughest spots, it probably was a single trail. Should we have said Pawhuska Highways, Pawhuska Roads or Pawhuska Paths? I just like trails better as it gives more of a feeling of adventure, a sense of we don't know where we are going but the way looks interesting. Do the trails lead into Pawhuska, or do they begin there and lead to other places? I remember the first world map we were shown, perhaps in third grade, and we could not see Pawhuska on it. It was too small, not worthy of a dot. But Pawhuska was the center of our world, so its trails had to lead outward. And they did. For some of us, those trails led to other towns and cities, such as Ponca City and Tulsa, but those were short visits and we always seemed to come home. Later, the trails would lead further, to colleges, to OSU and OU, and for one young woman, to Wellesly. For some, they would lead to Germany, France, Japan, the Philippine Islands, Korea, and sadly, to Vietnam. Yet we seemed to come home again, even if just for a visit. For others the trails would lead to careers, marriages, births, and divorces. For some, the trails led to losing a child, yet we seemed to come home again. The trails have led to great highs as we climbed corporate ladders, rose to high military rank, became doctors, lawyers and teachers, wrote our names in sports record books, and preached from mighty pulpits. And in small ways, we always helped our neighbors, whoever they were. And the trails have led to dismal lows as we saw a President gunned down and lost our innocence. That was not enough and we saw his brother killed and the preacher and we wondered when it would end. The trails led to Vietnam for many of us, yet we seemed to come home again, some to rest under the earth on the hill where we honor them each year with words and songs and twenty-one gunshots into the air. We play taps for them and the solemnity we feel is real, and we miss them; some came home again. We follow the trails that lead outward from Pawhuska to, who knows where, for it is an adventure, but at the end of the trail, we always seem to come home again, and for us, home is Pawhuska.

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