My Oakie Grandparents and them Cherokee Indians from Childhood

“I could jus squeeze the bejesus out of my Oakie grandparents cuz that’s how much I love’um. They live in a big magic house with hidin places to play in. Grandpa got day dreamin room with windows to look out at the mountains, watchin sunsets, playin gin rummy’n keepin a look out for who’s comin to visit. Ever night he explains how things was in Oklahoma back in the good ole days when it was wild’n wooly’n how he moved his family to Ada to build a post office for them Cherokees so they got mail. He says they weren’t nothin for miles on end cept’n a handful’a Oakies round about. Grandpa says they don’t like white people none’n that’s how come he learnt to talk Indian. He gonna teach me too if I make good grades. Grandpa says I make him crazy askin so many questions. He built a log cabin back’a the store. Sometimes I dream bout that little creek behind grandpa’s log cabin’n the water mill Grammy used for grindin corn for the Cherokees. I wish I was there in the evenin with grandpa spinnin yarns bout Ned Christy, the famous Cherokee bandit. I cry when he says white people caught up with Ned’n killed him. What’s wrong with white folks? Grandpa says kids back then made they own fun playin in the woods’n chewin rabbit tobacco growin wild. After sayin that, grandpa looks in my direction’n laughs sayin I oughtn’t to look for it cuz it’s called nicotine. Them Cherokees was always invitin him’n the family to all day stomp-dances’n barbecues. When I asked grandpa how he went from livin on a Cherokee reservation to now, he says he moved west with all them other hell raisin Oakies’n that’s how he landed in East Los Angles. Them Mexicans reminded him of Oklahoma, that’n the property bein so cheap’n all.
Grandpa says he believes in the American dream, that if folks not afraid to put in a hard day’s work, they can be anythin they wanna be. He says his sister, my great Aunt Alice, lives alone in the log cabin her great granddaddy built high up in the Ozark Mountains. Grandpa says Alice never married’n to hear him tell it, it lucky for mankind she didn’t. She grows her own vegetables, hunts for possum, makes her own moonshine, chops kindling for cold winters’n can kill a rat three yards away with one spit a tobacco. Whenever the G-Men Revenuers is brave enough to travel on foot the long ways up the mountain to her log cabin, she pulls out the welcome mat’n plugs they ass fulla buckshot. When Grammy hears me say “ass,” she bout to have a kanipshun fit. Grandpa jumps in real fast, explainin that I only said it on accounta I heard him sayin it. Anyways, he convinced Grammy we meant it in the donkey way. Anyways, when Alice run outta supplies, she rides her ol’ horse bareback down the thick, back woods to the nearest town where she’s well known in these parts. Mountain folks protect they own specially where them Revenuers is concerned. Grandpa reckons Alice been makin shine for the neighbors too. He says she can get a government check cuz’a her old age’n all, but she downright burrs up, refusin anythin smackin’a charity. Aunt Alice don’t believe in state aid’n she is quick to say it. Grandpa says she’s stubborn as a jackass, but it’s not good to get riled up cuz’a her temper’n in all. He paid good money for her a radio but she won’t use it none cuz theys no electric. One day when me’n him are workin the cards playin gin rummy’n him spinnin yarns, he looks up at me’n sayin, “You jus like Alice. Botha y’all made outta piss’n vinegar!” Grammy don’t preciate him usin swears to describe me, but I take it good like a compliment.
Grandpa found his self a way of gettin round usin swears in front of Grammy. He says, “Government’s a bunch of SOBs (that would be sons of bitches) they ought’ a stay out folks GD, (that would be goddamn,) business!” Grandpa says swearins an art form’n damnation to hell fire, he ain’t stoppin for any woman! (til Grammy walks into the room)
When he was young, Grandpa belonged to a literary society but nothin ever came of the short stories he wrote, him explainin he had too many mouths to feed to fiddle round spinnin yarns. I love it when he reads his own poetry but I cry when he reads Mr. Robert Frost out loud cuz I know in my heart, it’s his way’a sayin he’s leavin soon. I caint hardly stand thinkin bout it.
The woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep”

An excerpt from Tharon Ann


“Busloads of Indians who arrived the day before seem happy to sleep outside in sub-zero weather just to be near him and pay their respects to this great Saint. I notice some without shoes wearing only thin shawls around their shoulders. They don’t seem to care. More busloads from other nearby villages are just arriving. The moment we drive through the gates I hear a groundswell of voices singing shabds of love and devotion. The air is electric with song. I feel a sense of relief as though I’ve come home again. Baba Ji is greatly loved by all. Whenever he travels to give satsang, the Indian hotline lets everyone know when he’s about to drive through the front gate. No matter how exhausted he is, he makes time to hear the children sing shabds he taught them at a very young age. Afterwards, he gives them candy prashad. It is something to behold.”

~ A passage from India with a Backpack and Prayer.