Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Home Sweet Nowata

I spent the better part of an hour talking to an old hometown friend on the phone this morning. While our conversation touched on home only peripherally, it started me thinking about my recent near-obsession with all things Nowata. I’ve had lunch recently with a couple of schoolmates, ornery boys who’ve turned into wonderful men. I’ve been thinking of Nowata often in the past few months. Perhaps it’s the upcoming all-school reunion and all of those pictures I’ve been uploading from old yearbooks and from inside an old metal box I’ve had since middle school. Maybe it's following what's going on with the children of old friends who live around Nowata, seeing pictures of them going to spring dances, FFA events, showing animals in the spring livestock show, or playing baseball in the frigid Oklahoma spring. Perhaps it’s the contact with so many old friends from home since I joined Facebook last summer to keep up with my lovely daughter as she attends college. I could blame it on Joan-Marie and her lovely descriptions of life in small-town Oklahoma. But honestly, I think I am simply homesick.

Just look at the countryside. Why wouldn't I be homesick for lovely Green Country? There is nothing prettier to my eyes than a pond in a cow pasture when the grass and the trees are lovely and green. Part of what draws me is knowing that underneath that beautiful grass and on the edges of that pond, the dirt is a lovely, rich, dark color. Not red. Dirt, my friends, should not be red.

Lovely old buildings in Nowata are more than just lovely old buildings to me. So many memories float into my consciousness from looking at this picture of the courthouse. My great-grandmother lived down that street to the north when I was in elementary school, right next to Sheila Stinnett, my life-long friend and distant relative. There was an organ in Grandma Bonnie's formal living room that she played by ear and a cellar that I spent many an hour in during the spring, staring at a bare bulb, jars of home-canned fruits, vegetables, pickles and preserves, and listening to an old transistor radio for the all-clear. I obtained my first marriage license in the courthouse after Anita Folk drew my blood out at the hospital, the only woman I've ever known who could do so without bruising or hurting me. Mrs. Folk also happened to be the make-up artist from the dance recitals of my youth and the mother of my old classmate, Dee Ann. Free association leads me to thoughts of Miss Vicki, dance classes in the basements of the Savoy, and Noweta Lodge, a summer writing course with Joyce Hifler in one of the high school annex buildings, and my 1974 red-and-white Chevy pick-up, the one with a 454, chrome running boards, dual wheels, and a chrome cow catcher on the front. I wish I had a photo of that truck. All that from a picture of the county courthouse.

There's nothing prettier than Nowata County in spring. Other seasons have their pleasures, but for me, spring has always been Nowata's best season. Warm days, cool nights, vegetation turning green, the gallardia, butterfly peas, and coneflowers blooming in pastures and alongside the roads, and the daffodils, forsythia, and lilacs blooming in the well-manicured town lawns. Nothing prettier.

I've been thinking about taking a drive north, an hour past Tulsa up Highway 169. There are people I'd love to see, but the main draw this time of year, for me, is the natural beauty of the place where I spent my childhood. There is just something about that little town that's always gotten under my skin. I said to a friend recently that you can't really ever go home again. And I suppose in some ways that's true. But if I ever loved a place and thought of it my whole life through as home, it's a little town called Nowata. It is, simply, home.

*Pictures are all Google images. Really. I just searched Google Images for "Nowata County". Try it. There are pictures of the bowling ball art, the motel signs, Ironman sports, and Main Street. It's kind of awesome.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Kim, truly enjoyed that. Sometimes living here in Nowata I get really frustrated about so many things and then I remember the wonderful things like the green grass you mentioned and the fact that I don't have to stand in a mile long line at Healthmart to get my prescription like I did at Wal-Mart. Some people complain about living in a small town and everybody knowing your business but I love my small town and knowing that anywhere I go I know most everybody and I like that feeling. Thanks for reminding me.

Pat said...

Very well stated. I seem to remember that you were like me in high school -- ready to get out of that town. It was not big enough for all of our dreams and aspirations. Truth be told, it really wasn't.

That being said, there is something about the charm of the community - a charm I fear my children will never know.
As my daughter starts to drive, I wonder where is her Carolyn Hessong? (The wonderful supporter of school activities who let me mom know when I was taking the curve too fast.) How is she going to deal with different people when you only see those in your own clique, and aren't forced to make friends across the social mores as you have to in a town like Nowata?

And, finally, will she ever understand the quiet solitude of being regularly confronted with the mastery of our Creator by being exposed to the beauty that is Rock Creek in the spring, or what I miss the most -- darkness and the stars. A Nowata sunset, followed the absence of city light is one of the most calming, incredible moments a person can encounter. And I took it far too for granted.

(In my blue '74 AMC Hornet with the straight-6 that could jump the railroad tracks going much too quickly on the way to the ballfield).

And while my vision of beauty lies in the northern part of the county along Rock Creek east of South Coffeyville, I agree with you that the rural part of our home county is underestimated.

Kim said...

Thanks for the lovely comments. I am wondering who anonymous is...

Pat, I think Carolyn Hessong served that purpose a long time before us and still to this day! What would we have done without her?

Yeah, I wanted to leave, too. And you're right, there weren't a lot of opportunities for kids like us in Nowata. But still, I love it. Sometimes I think of going back. The parents aren't as young as they used to be...

Anonymous said...

Stirring. I think the thing I miss the most is that feeling of belonging to a community where I knew I belonged. I don't have that here in the city. I sit the football stands here and maybe know 12 people. I regularly go to the store and see no one that I can speak to as a friend or ask how their families are doing. As beautiful as I think Nowata county is I miss the community most of all. And yes, Rock Creek is a beautiful spot in the spring. And yes, dirt should be dark and rich, not red and slick. And yes, I too could not wait to move away to the city (but shouldn't it always be that way?). And yes, I feel mis-placed and home-sick too. So, is this nostalgia - an infection of wanting to return to the place I knew as my home? Or, is it possible to be infected by a place so much that it actually becomes a part of you?


Kim said...

Ah, Ray. I know what you mean. I don't even go to football games here. I do not know anyone, really, because my boys don't play and the Edmond schools are so large. In Nowata, I'd go anyway, know lots of people, and have a fantastic time. I miss that, too.

I think it is nostalgia in part. But Ray, my family has been in Nowata County for six generations. Six! That land, that place, is definitely a part of me. How about you?

Pamela said...

I have been to Spavinaw, OK almost 8 years ago --- my first and only trip to OK.

My brother lives high up on the "mountain" above the water supply (I believe for Tulsa?)

It was lovely - and full of ruby-throated hummingbirds. My SIL went through quart jar feeders like hotcakes!

I've got back to visit the small community where I grew up and nothing is the same. housing projects cover the farms. My heart aches.

Hope your old home town hasn't changed much!

Anonymous said...

Kimmo: how long my family has been in Nowata County is a hard question to answer. I know my Great-Grandfather Merrow walked to Nowata County when he was 14-15 to work in the oil fields (that would have been about 1913). I know my Great-Grandfather Inman bought his farm near Alluwe from the Cherokee Nation, not sure of the year. He lost it in the depression and wound up renting it from the bank then bought it back in 1931. I noticed that the barn finally fell down last year. My Blanke family only got here 5 generations ago. They lived in Kansas for a short time and then all moved to Nowata County and Chelsea. I know where they are all buried.

Maybe that is what ties us so closely to that patch of dirt. Nearly everything I know about my family occured somewhere in Nowata County. I can drive all over the county and point at houses and leases and farms and tell you stories that I've heard from my family.

Maybe we feel like we "belong" there because part of that county has belonged in our families for so long. Maybe there is a sense of community because our families were the community.

Maybe it is all sentemental hog wash....Whatever. I still miss home.


Anonymous said...

I'm actually a new-comer to Nowata, only living here 31 years now.

My children have grown up and left here now, but it is always home to them.

I never head into town (I live about 6 miles south of town) that I don't see and chat with someone I know. Walking around the block in the evening seems to take forever because you always stop and chat with the neighbors.

There's nothing like building a fire out in the back lot to have a weenie roast with the kids, sitting on the back porch drinking iced tea or even going out to hot-tub (in the nude if you like cause there is no one close enough around to care) and drink in the quietness that is country living.


agoodlistener said...

I'm going home to New Jersey to see my dad and sibs for Memorial Day weekend. I like walking around town looking for myself, hoping to catch a seventeen year old me so I can tell him how cool his life is going to be.

Dene Merrow said...

I wish I had a name for the person who's GG Grandfather walked there. I just found my GG Aunt is buried there, also two of her children are buried there. Looking for more info of Family.
You can write me at DMerrow285@aol.com