Tag Archives: northeastern oklahoma

For the History Buff

When I originally proposed At Home with Daffodils, my story in A Bouquet of Brides, I wanted the story set in 1895 in northeastern Oklahoma. When the novella was picked up by Barbour, and I began my research in earnest, I requested permission to move the historical timeline to after Oklahoma’s statehood, which happened on November 16, 1907. I made this change because I found myself getting lost in Oklahoma’s varied history. At the time of the original date part of what is now the state of Oklahoma was Indian Territory, and part of it was Oklahoma territory.

To further confuse things, it was difficult to know just which part of Indian Territory had white people “squatting” on the land. There were many white settlements in Indian Territory, despite legal efforts to keep this from happening. Take this a step further by digging into the history of the Cherokee Nation, which settled in the area I wanted to write about, and it became very difficult to know how to handle history accurately.  Though my blond hair and green eyes might not show it, I have Cherokee and Choctaw ancestry. I wanted to write about those years with the respect due this heritage, but soon realized that kind of research and historical under-girding was too dense for a book of novella length. I was relieved when the editor at Barbour allowed me to move my story to the years right after statehood.

In At Home with Daffodils my heroine is part Cherokee. Many of us who grew up in that part of Oklahoma claim a little of that heritage, whether or not we were legally part of the tribe itself. It’s interesting to note that the nearest real town to my fictional setting is Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Tahlequah is the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Supreme Court Building, located in downtown Tahlequah and constructed in 1844, is the oldest public building in Oklahoma.

Cherokee Courthouse

(Photo from: http://visitcherokeenation.com)

Though modern conveniences like the automobile and electric lighting were seen in the big city in these years (and the RMS Titanic was being fully equipped with electric lights), this type of extravagance hadn’t made its way to the back hills of northeastern Oklahoma. Thus my story has undertones of the  kind of life many of us experienced through Pa and Laura as we watched the classic TV series, Little House on the Prairie.

That’s not to say that all of northeastern Oklahoma wasn’t modern at that time. The Cherokee Female Seminary was one of the first schools of higher learning for women west of the Mississippi River. When the original building burned in 1887, it was replaced by a very modern building located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. In 1909 the state of Oklahoma purchased it from the Cherokee Nation, and the seminary became Northeastern State Normal School. This beautiful building is still in use. I had history and English classes here when I attended Northeastern State University after high school.

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(Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_Female_Seminary)

It’s interesting to note that Indian Territory also boasted the first newspaper. According to http://www.visitCherokeeNation.com The Cherokee Advocate, printed in both Cherokee and English, was started in 1844.  The website further states, “Soon, the Cherokees’ education system of 144 elementary schools and two higher education institutes, the Cherokee Male and Female Seminaries, rivaled the best systems in the U.S. Many white settlements bordering Cherokee Nation took advantage of the superior school system and paid tuition to have their children attend Cherokee schools. Other bilingual materials, which had been made possible by Sequoyah’s syllabary in 1821, led Cherokees to a level of literacy higher than their white counterparts, all prior to Oklahoma statehood in 1907.”

Another example of elegance built in Indian Territory is the Murrell Home, which is the only remaining antebellum home in the state of Oklahoma.

MURRELL HOME

According to http://visitcherokeenation.com where I got this photo, “George Michael Murrell was a Virginian who married Minerva Ross, a member of a wealthy Cherokee family and niece of Chief John Ross. When the Cherokees were forced to leave their homes and move west to Indian Territory, Murrell moved with his wife’s family to the new Nation in 1839.”

I have another reason for affection for this lovely home. It was the site of a very special event in 1989.

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I’m including the next two pictures so you can catch a broader view of the home itself, including the richer landscaping it now boast, and also so you can maybe chuckle. My outdoor wedding was interrupted by what we call an old fashioned “Oklahoma gully washer!” The umbrellas were going up about the time I was coming down the sidewalk.

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But it all dried up nicely by the time my groom and I headed to Tulsa for the first night of our honeymoon. We were sent on our way by a shower of birdseed.

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Though the Cherokees brought much culture and modern thinking to northeastern Oklahoma, and even though Dilly would have lived in the Edwardian era of Titanic fame, Dilly was removed from such modern living. In fact indoor plumbing didn’t come to the back hills of the area until the mid-twentieth century.

It was fun to research how my heroine, Dilly, dressed, fixed her hair, and managed daily life.

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Dilly’s work in the general store and her life in this tiny community made a simple long black skirt, white shirtwaist, and sturdy boots more sensible.

I picture her like this:

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(photo found on Pinterest)

You can learn more about the history in northeastern Oklahoma by reading At Home with Daffodils.

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And now, for the winner of A Bouquet of Brides! 

I gotta tell ya, I really enjoyed sharing this month with you. Thank you for engaging with me, leaving comments, following this blog, and signing up for my newsletter. I hope you’ll continue to stick around this February. I’m planning two series. The first is “Lessons from a Heart Attack,” where I’ll share things Jerry and I processed in January as he recovered from his December 31st heart attack.

God’s gracious intervention saved my husband’s life, and an incident like that makes you dig a little deeper. I haven’t talked much about it here, but January’s challenges were stretching–and you learn from that stuff.

The other series is, “Keeping a Spiritual Journal,” a series requested by one of my Soul Scents readers. In honor of this series, the giveaway this month will be a Soul Scents book of your choice.

And the winner of A Bouquet of Brides Collection is . . .

Congratulations!!

Until next time,

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How is a Book Conceived?

Ever wonder how an author thinks up stories? It can be anything, really, that becomes what I call the story seed. Yesterday you got some sneak peeks into the inspiration for my novella, At Home with Daffodils. Today’s posts gives the rest of the story.

On that warm summer’s day when my husband, two youngest sons, my dad, and I drove through Camp Gruber, stopping to swim in the creek when I swam as a child, I had no idea a story was about to be seeded into my heart.

It happened after we drove on through the camp, coming out the other side to discover the quaint little building I talked about yesterday. Dad suggested we stop for lunch. (Don’t mind my hair in these pictures. Remember, I’d just enjoyed an unplanned dip in Greenleaf Creek.)

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Located on Qualls Road in Parkhill, Oklahoma, Jincy’s Kitchen is housed in what was once the general store for the old Qualls community. (As I mentioned yesterday, the site was used for the filming of the movie, “Where the Red Fern Grows.”) The old building still has the wooden cubed walls that once held merchandise. Now it contains memorabilia—antique dishes and newspaper clippings of folks important to the area.

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We ordered—and enjoyed—our home-cooked meal.

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Debbie Rucker, the proprietor and cook, left her stove to share the store’s history. The store was opened many years before by her grandmother, a single mom. The building was passed down to Debbie, and she opens the restaurant on weekends to keep the spirit of the Qualls community alive for the next generation.

 

I commented on the french fries. I hadn’t had homemade fries like that since my grandmother made them for me many years before. My husband said, “Yes. The fries were just like Grandma Eunice’s weren’t they?”

Debbie whipped toward me, “You’re Aunt Eunice’s granddaughter?” She explained that she had been married to my grandma’s nephew. Then the stories began in earnest. She said my grandparents were well-loved in the Qualls community; everyone had a story of a time Grandpa or Grandma helped them out. Then Debbie began to tell her special story. It was about her daddy and my grandpa. How I treasure this story!

You’ll read a similar version in chapter one of At Home with Daffodils. I won’t spoil it for you by sharing it here, but I find great joy in honoring my grandpa by creating a fictionalized account of the event.

I dedicated this novella to my grandpa. Maybe you’ll enjoy reading the dedication:

For Grandpa Curtis

Whose grave lies just outside Camp Gruber

Near the old general store at Qualls

You were the master storyteller

No doubt the hours I spent mesmerized by your stories

Influenced my decision to become a writer

I look forward to sitting on a front porch swing

(if they have them in heaven)

With you and Jesus

No doubt He’ll chuckle as Grandma whispers,

“I wouldn’t tell that one if I was you!”

Until next time,

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. The contest ended on January 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

Just Where is Rock City

Just where is Rock City anyway? Today’s behind the scenes post is about the setting of my latest release.

Rock City, the fictional setting for At Home with Daffodils, my story in A Bouquet of Brides, is a made up town, but in my mind’s eye I saw the rolling hills around Parkhill, Oklahoma as I wrote. These are the same hills I roamed as a girl. I specifically picture the old general store in Qualls, Oklahoma, the same store used in the movie, Where the Red Fern Grows.

I couldn’t resist naming some of my characters and landmarks with the names of real people and places from the area. (For example the old store in the picture below is near Camp Gruber. Recognize the name? My hero, Jace Gruber, came by it honestly.) I hope my friends and family back home will enjoy those nods to the actual location and real people I knew as they read.

This picture shows my two youngest sons, Stephen and Sam, standing with yours truly in front of the country store, now a weekend restaurant called Jincy’s Kitchen.

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The picture below was taken during a drive through Camp Gruber. The boys couldn’t resist a quick dip in the simmin’ hole of my childhood, at “the slab.”

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I watched them for a while then the little girl in me couldn’t resist the opportunity to revisit one of my favorite childhood memories.

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I grabbed my suit and jumped in. I even tried the rope swing off the side of the bluff. When I surfaced, I yelled, “It wasn’t pretty, but it was safe!” (I let go much sooner than intended. It’s been a few years!)

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When I was invited to dream up a story with the heroine named after a flower, an idea immediately surfaced (more tomorrow on that) that would be set in the hills of my childhood. And if I was writing about that area, the flower had to be a daffodil. Thus Daffodil “Dilly” Grace Douglas was conceived in my mind.

Down the road from the farmhouse where I lived in northeastern Oklahoma was an old home place. You couldn’t see the building anymore, but you could see a field of daffodils (we called them jonquils) that someone planted years before. The picture below wasn’t actually taken there, but is similar to what I remember.

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Every spring each year I eagerly awaited their arrival, as I did the tiny spring bluets and Virginia spring beauties that also grew in the area. After I moved to Colorado, my grandmother sent me the tiny flowers in February. She wrapped them in a damp paper towel, covered with plastic. She also sent jonquil bulbs, and so I have cheery yellow faces transplanted from Oklahoma that bloom every spring in my yard.

I hope you’ll enjoy At Home with Daffodils, set in the rolling hills of my childhood. The country is beautiful, the culture engaging, and the generous people are salt-of-the-earth. The best thing I received from those years living in the hills of northeastern Oklahoma is a relationship with Jesus. He is indeed the one who removes our shame and finishes the good work He begins in us—no matter how flawed we believe ourselves or our pasts to be.

Blessings,

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. Enter the drawing by signing-up for my newsletter or leaving a comment on my blog during the month of January (USA readers only). Each comment on a new post means another chance to win! (If you’re new to me, check out my website, where I have free resources and information about the Free to Flourish writing and speaking ministry.) The contest ends TODAY, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!