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.