Prairie Penprints
This series, DEEP FORK, OKLAHOMA TERRITORY, is based on a true occasion where the government conducted a unique and one-time experiment in central Oklahoma.  At that time (1889) large tracts of territorial land had been set aside for various parts of the Indian tribes who were moved here, but the central nugget of land was still “unassigned”.

For many reasons, partly to gain more taxes, it was decided that it would be settled with homesteaders very quickly... namely in one day… by the shot of a gun at noon on April 22, 1889.  Minor fallout!  It kept lawyers busy for years sorting out tangles over claims and insufficient and inaccurate survey lines.

This event was widely advertised and the takers were many.  It was an unbelievable opportunity for a person to acquire 160 acres of prairie land if he got there fast enough to get a claim first and then get it registered in Guthrie.  There were eager runners from many states, coast to coast, and even a few foreign countries.

They came for many reasons… some for the land they could never acquire a by their labor.  Some were running from trouble, and to some, it was an unexpected opportunity for a new start in a new land.  The fact was… though America was a ‘melting pot’, this central nugget of Oklahoma land (as well as the whole state) became the ‘ultimate melting pot’.  Immediately, strangers who were suddenly thrown together, realized quickly that they could benefit by banding together to survive.

Each of the eight books of this fictional series (there could have been two dozen!) brings a different person, family or group to the new land, and their various lives converge in a woodland by the Deep Fork River, 14 miles east of the Registry town of Guthrie.  They lined up at the border, and at the report of the gunshot they were off… 6 and 8 persons deep… eager to win the prize of raw, virgin land.

In book 2, UNDER THE REDBUDS, a Nebraska town decides, during a blue-norther snowstorm, that they will move for numerous reasons, not the least of which was less severe winters.  They sent runners to win the land, and then moved at least half the town in one long caravan to the fictional town of Prosper.  This town became the focal point of all other newcomers in this series.

GUNSHOT TO HOMESTEAD begins with a Scottish gentlemen from the hills of Tennessee who heads out in a night flight to protect a 5 year old granddaughter.  The book goes heavily into life at that time. (NOTE:  I am an old woman, myself, but my talkative grandmother was my greatest source of information about “how things were.”  She remembered!)
Day to day existence, then, was so much different from these days of I-pads, frozen dinners and running water.   Small mountain cabins, perched in tall timber, must become self-sufficient centers for family living, and knowing no different, became comfortable.  Hard work for all, but parties, weddings and other celebrations were arranged.

In this first book, Ebenezer Carlile was over 50 years old, tired, discouraged, but at one point got himself together and headed to Oklahoma with two covered wagons, crossing the whole of central Arkansas guided by sketchy maps.  All the family he had left were a 22 year old daughter and his dead son’s 5 year old little girl and it was this child who must be protected from the criminal element of the “other side of the family”.   The book is peppered with details of river crossings, dealing with horses that pulled the wagons, keeping clothes clean and food cooked… childhood illness and the general necessity of living.

These books are about real people who are… some good, some bad and some trying to be good… like so many of us.  The books are probably 75% historical living adventure, 20 personalities, and about 5 % light romance… some with a bit more.  There are a number of weddings, parties and celebrations to break the monotony and exhaustion of their everyday work.  In the various books are unusual happenings.  In one book there is a kidnapping.

About the travelers, an interesting comparison would be to determine the frustration of packing for such a trip.  The wagon space available was 4 by 8 (the size of a sheet of plywood) and on that space must be packed all that was needed for the trip… for life at the other end of the line… and still have a place to ‘live’ in it for weeks… maybe months.  There was no 7-ll convenience store to get ice!!!!  Just to get a hot cup of tea or coffee, a fire must first be built.

Most of the wagons had oiled or tar-covered canvas protection overhead but there was always another rainstorm to be endured, and there would be no hot food until the rain was over. Small children to be somehow entertained and food to be prepared. (The cook often cooked the beans after the family had gone to bed.  It was the ONLY time there was!)

Beans and live game shot along the way were food life-savers.  Jugs of water were used carefully because there was no assurance of the next river, and even then, it usually had to be boiled to settle out the impurities and grit.  All eight of the books of DEEP FORK go heavily into details of living, the personalities of the people and reasons, however sad in some cases, for making this exhaustive and life- changing trip.

On the selected day of the race, families waited apprehensively around the border for their runner to report back.  On occasions, someone on a neighboring tract would help guard against claim-jumpers while his neighbor made the trip to Guthrie to register both claims.

It was absolutely necessary to help each other, because, for one reason, the people on the next claim would be their nearest neighbors in this raw territory.   Community skills were valuable and utilized, and work skills were swapped around as needed.  Life was stripped down to the necessity of existence from one day to the next, but being humans, they arranged time for fun whenever possible.

Even with for those with money, goods of ANY kind became impossibly hard to get.  Trees were cut to build houses, and when a saw mill was brought near, they joined a roster to determine when it would be their turn get ‘sawed lumber’.  A well digger was scheduled months in advance.  Seeds were pushed into raw ground before the wagon was unpacked, and tents and the wagon bed were living quarters while a crop was put in the ground.   Food came first.

These accounts are a trip into the fairly recent history of our great country, and details are precious to retain for the future.

So, download and come along.  Stake out your own claim on an ebook from Amazon, always affordable prices.  Paperback and Kindle also available.  You just might enjoy the company!
The way a quiet pool sends out ripples when a stone is tossed in, so an incident in a costal state caused a series of ripples in a Midwestern prairie that lasted thirty years..

These five books are a chronology that builds and spreads from the tiny prairie town to another continent and another age.  Tucked within these five books are:

A small, 15 year old girl in close association with mammoth Clydsdale horses… A young Hollander who was to lose everything, only to go west where he would gain much more… a silversmith and artist in turquoise and crystal who spent WWI in an English basement working on codes. .. A prairie massacre suddenly giving to a young man the responsibility of an old graying woman and a 6 month old baby, either of whom were his.  Also, the Fire Bird brothers who joyfully took to the skies and never looked back, even when the war was over.

In addition, there was a strong-minded 14 year old girl who bravely left a loving home to be what she knew she always was… A white feather on the forehead of a baby who would live in peace within a bloody war, putting together human scraps left over from the battle… A horse thief shot by a barefoot girl in the snow… A young man using a long horned Holstein bull to get to meet a special girl… A school math problem about shoe laces… A soldier who saves his own life by picking up an injured person…  A two year old girl ‘chaperones’ her pa… and a pair of lights and a tall rock lead a small, lost boy to find his way home.

They contain the account of a catfish leaping for food furnishing direction to a returned soldier… A runaway horse is stopped by the melody of a hymn… A girl is kidnapped… A pencil that has a mind of its own… A native grandmother bargaining her skill for the education of her grandchildren… A beautiful teenager begs for someone to drown her… A herd of goats used as watchdogs…  A girl pushes her young brother from a second story window into the snow…  And a pilot coming in with a wing on fire.

Along with a blossoming tree that marks the place of God’s buried treasure… A cat learns how to buy a fried pie… A rock ledge buys Irish horses for a breeder-trainer… The lowly ‘cowpat’ comes into its own… A French vineyard arrives by stage coach… School teacher’s clothes catch fire… A pollywog found in school drinking water bucket… Fence posts decide to leaf out… and a ten year old orphan from New York falls in love with a huge iron cookstove.
That is certainly not all of the unexpected finds, but they are all in the books available at affordable prices, as ebooks from Amazon.  Also available in paperback and Kindle.
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I’ve pretty much been in love with the pencil from the time I first learned not to poke myself in the eye with it.  That was back when the pencil was sharpened with a pocket knife, or maybe the kitchen paring knife.  In those days, it took skill to get to the point without breaking the lead, but we managed.  Later, when I started to school, I met that little machine attached to the wall that did the sharpening with the turn of a lever.  Pencil and I were both glad of it.
Joann Ellen Sisco
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