Shadow Dance With Tulips

Shadow Dance

Shadow fingers stretch to touch
velvet cups on slender stalk–
Dance! whispers nature
‘ere sun makes each shadow walk.


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A Memoir for Mother’s Day, by Ron Querry

Choctaw Elder Beverly Corbett (1922 – 2011)

Generations
Ron’s blond Aunt Sue, his grandmother Ruth Adella Foster Downer, and his mother, Beverly, circa 1923

This week a parcel was delivered that was addressed to my late mother—Beverly (Downer) Querry Corbett. My mother died September 24, 2011 of natural causes in Oklahoma City, a few days before her 89th birthday.

Born October 4, 1922, in Norman, Oklahoma, to Ruth A. Downer, an Original Enrollee of the Choctaw Nation, and to Pierce A. Downer, my mother spent much of her early childhood on my grandmother’s allotted land near Newcastle, Oklahoma. Our family always called it “Choctaw Place.”

The parcel was accompanied by a letter from Chief Gary Batton. In it, Chief Batton honored my mother for her years of wisdom and her service with a beautiful “Wisdom Blanket.” I speak for her three children when I say that our mother was always proud of her Choctaw heritage and would have been deeply moved by this tribute.

I believe that my mother would have liked you to know about her family—to know things that should be remembered. I believe she would have asked me, as her eldest son, to tell you.

Listen:

It was, I suppose, in first or second grade that I was first required to commit to memory and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, and the names of the Five Civilized Tribes. Only later did it occur to me that not every young scholar in the United States was so well versed in exactly which five tribes were deemed “civilized” as were my classmates and I at Andrew Johnson Elementary in suburban Oklahoma City. I assumed that fresh young people all across America pledged and prayed and chanted “Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole” just as proudly and as loudly as did I.

I am very light-skinned—over the past couple of decades I have spent a good deal of time and money having skin cancer and pre-cancerous lesions removed, mostly from my face. My hair color has transitioned from orange (when I was born, I’m told), to white-blond (as a kid reciting things in elementary school), to reddish-brown (high school and Marine Corps), to raccoon-like multi-colored, to gray. (I do not mind that my hair is gray. A former Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation told me once that I shouldn’t mind what my hair turned, just as long as it didn’t turn loose.) My eyes are blue.

To see a photograph of my mother as a young girl you would not likely question her Indian-ness. The same applies with increasing certainty to my grandmother, to her father, to his father (the latter I understand to have sported braids and, when astride a horse and under the influence of strong drink which was not unusual, would frighten women and children—and while that story may not be entirely accurate, I hope that it is), and, I trust, on back to a Choctaw woman named Otemansha, peace be upon her.

The Dawes Commission was organized in 1893 to establish a Roll of American Indians residing in Indian Territory between 1899 and 1907.

My late grandmother Ruth Adella Foster is listed Number 15,137 as of March 26, 1904, on the Dawes Commission Rolls as an “Original Enrollee” of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. As are her father and her two older brothers—her mother is enrolled as an “I.W.” or “Intermarried White.” My grandmother had a younger brother who was born after the Rolls had closed and so, to his eternal dismay, was not considered an Original Enrollee. E.A. Foster, Jr., was his name—we knew him as “Uncle Manny”—and he researched exhaustively the Foster family lineage, to wit:

My four-greats grandmother was referred to generally in documents I possess as, “the Choctaw woman, wife of William Foster” in Mississippi. In a couple of documents of court proceedings, she is called “O-Te-Man-Sha,” which I presume was a phonetic attempt to spell her Choctaw language name.

Otemansha was of the “Sixtown” Tribe or Clan of Choctaw Indians. Oklahoma Historian Angie Debo says that “Sixtown Indians, Okla Hannali, spoke a distinctive dialect, tattooed blue marks around their mouths, and were shorter and heavier in build than the other Choctaws.” (Debo, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic, 1934, p.20)

When Andrew Jackson determined that the Southeastern Tribes should be removed from their homelands to what is now Oklahoma, so as to better facilitate the white folks who wanted more land, it was the Choctaw Tribe that was chosen to be among the first to go on what they called The Long Sad Walk. Those upstart Cherokees with their Trail of Tears came later. I understand that the Choctaws were chosen to be the first removed because they were deemed least likely to protest—they had already begun to assimilate and there were farmers and store-keepers and teachers among them.

There were, to be sure, different levels of assimilation. I remember one of my uncles telling about how our Choctaw ancestor, Otemansha, had held an important position in the Sixtown Clan back in Mississippi—that she had been a “Bone Picker.” At the time I didn’t know what a Bone Picker was and I don’t recall that my uncle told me. Had he done so, I feel certain that as a young boy I would have remembered so gruesome were the duties of that high office in Choctaw culture. If Otemansha were a “Bone Picker,” she was, indeed, an honored person and would have performed important duties in the funerary practices of her community at the time. She would likely have had distinctive tattoos that identified her position and her thumb and index fingernails would have been long and thick. For when a Choctaw Indian died, he or she was wrapped securely in robes and placed upon a wooden scaffold near the house and left to rot for a number of months. When the appropriate time had passed the “Bone Picker” came and removed what flesh remained on the deceased’s bones by using his or her fingernails. The bones were then placed in boxes and stored in a “Bone House” until such time as there were enough bones from the community to bury in a mound. To be sure, I have no real evidence that I am descended from “Bone Pickers”—only a story told by a long deceased uncle. But I hope the story was true. I like thinking of this woman without whom I would/could never have been born—I like thinking about her place in her community.

In preparation for Removal, in September of 1830, at a place near what is now Philadelphia, Mississippi, the making and signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek took place. The Choctaw tribe ceded almost eleven million acres and agreed to remove to Indian Territory in what is now Southeastern Oklahoma. Among the nearly two-hundred signatories of that Treaty appear the signatures of my ancestors, brothers William and Hugh Foster, and the “X” of their brother Thomas.

Choctaws who wished to remain in Mississippi were offered 640 acres of land and Mississippi citizenship if they would sign up with Indian Agent William Ward. Colonel Ward, as it turned out, was not an honest man. When the deadline came for signing on to what is known as Ward’s Register, only sixty-nine heads of Indian families had done so. Otemansha was one of thirty full-blood Indians to sign; her sons James, William, and Hugh Foster (the latter two having also signed the Dancing Rabbit Creek Treaty, you’ll recall) were three of twenty-four so-called “half-breeds”; fifteen of the signers were white men with Choctaw wives. (Clara Sue Kidwell, The Choctaws in Oklahoma)

Possibly owing to the fact that traditional Choctaw people, when they moved or relocated, were bound by tradition to take the bones of their ancestors with them, Otemansha refused ever to leave her Mississippi home, as did her son James, who is my three-greats grandfather. James died in Mississippi in 1833 at about the age of twenty-eight. Otemansha died some four years later and is buried near the Pearl River. Hugh Foster was reportedly “killed by a white man” and is buried at Skullyville, Oklahoma.

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which was ratified by Congress February 25, 1831, promised, among other things, autonomy of “the Choctaw Nation of Red People and all their descendants [emphasis mine]” to be secured from laws of U.S. states and territories forever.

I like knowing that I am a direct descendant of a woman who may have used her fingernails to scrape clean the bones of dead people.

–Ron Querry

___________________________________

Ron Querry is a renowned author of two novels about contemporary American Indian life in the southwest, non-fiction works, and countless articles in magazines and newspapers. He may be reached at rquerry@gmail.com

Encourage one another…

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  1 Thessalonians 5:14

EncouragementIt is good to encourage others. By doing so, we are encouraged as well. When we reach out to help someone who is struggling, we understand that at some point we, too, will need help. Find the good in your neighbor. Look for the talents in your friends. Tell someone how much you appreciate them. Draw strength from being patient and understanding. Kindness builds character.

You never know when your encouragement will make a difference in the life of another person. Anne Mansfield Sullivan did not give up on Helen Keller. She encouraged her, instructed her, and brought discipline into her life. She gave Helen hope, which put an end to her unruly behavior and gave her a future. Helen overcame her limitations and became world famous for her advocacy for the blind. “We are never really happy until we try to brighten the lives of others,” she wrote. Keller understood perhaps better than most that encouraging someone else has a personal benefit to the one who gives it.


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A Modern Day Noir

The Gray and Guilty Sea“The Gray and Guilty Sea” by Scott William Carter, is a sort of modern-day noir detective novel that pits an embittered private investigator’s desire for privacy against his innate goodness.

Garrison Gage has seen it all. He becomes a recluse after a near-death beating that prevented him from saving his wife from being brutally murdered. Five years have gone by, but the memory and constant pain in his shattered knee are fresh in his mind. He thought leaving everything behind and moving to the rugged Oregon coast would bring escape and anonymity. And it has. He has limited his contacts to a few people he trusts. Crossword puzzles are all that capture his attention. Strolls along the beach listening to the sounds of the ocean cleanse his soul. And then he finds the dead girl washed up on the shore.

A determined iconoclast he has no home phone and no cell phone. He calls his discovery in to the local police and soon regrets he didn’t make it an anonymous call. Giving his name opens doors he may not be ready to go through.

Still, he can’t help wondering about the girl. Who is she? Why hasn’t anyone reported her missing? Injuries to her wrists and ankles speak of something more than drowning. He finds the suggestion that she committed suicide to be preposterous. Gage’s instinct to right a wrong kicks in. He quickly finds that Barnacle Bluffs isn’t the sleepy tourist community it seems on the surface.

Gage, a retired New York PI, starts asking questions, and experiences push back from unknown quarters. A mysterious message left in his driveway gives him reason to believe the Jane Doe on the beach isn’t the only one. There may be others.

Gage doesn’t trust local law enforcement. His emotional roller coaster of a life creates barriers to moving forward. His good friend is dying of cancer. To complicate his life, she asks the impossible. Add in an unexpected attraction to a beautiful newspaper publisher and you have the ingredients for a tale you want to read to the end at one sitting. So get your favorite glass of whatever, find a cozy spot, and open “The Gray and Guilty Sea.” Follow the clues as the mystery unravels at a breathtaking pace.

Publisher’s Weekly called Carter’s first novel, “The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys,” published in 2010, a touching and impressive debut. The book won the Oregon Book Award that same year.  Since then Carter has published ten novels and more than 50 short stories in a wide range of genres. He lives in Oregon with his wife and children. For more information about Carter, go to www.scottwilliamcarter.com. His books are available at most online retailers and from his website.

Note: This book was downloaded from Book Bub, a subscriber based book promotion website that offers e-books free or at reduced rates. To find out more about the Book Bub service, check out their website at www.bookbub.com.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated.


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A blatant pitch for book sales

…from a terrible marketer

Finding Family

My problem with writing has nothing to do with writing; it has to do with selling. Every book I have written is worth reading, the last one perhaps more so than the first three. Not because it is a better book, but because I learned a lot between book one and book four.

What I should have had for all my books is a good editor. Reality check here. As an indie author, I can’t afford an editor. A good editor is worth what he or she charges, no doubt about it, but given that I’m so horrible at selling my work, I’d never recover my costs. The argument in favor of an editor is that grammar and punctuation improve copy so it will sell better.

Uh, “Fifty Shades of Grey” anyone?

Hel-lo-o!

I have not read the books because erotica isn’t my cup of tea, so my statements here are based on reviews and commentary, written by people who write for a living. Many of them are baffled by the success of these books, which by some accounts are poorly constructed, have questionable content, and basic plot problems – as in there isn’t one. And yet, “50” and its sequels have netted author EL James A LOT OF MONEY! She has sold MILLIONS of copies and landed a lucrative deal for movie rights. I don’t know if she had an editor, but if she did, she paid her too much. What James does have is an identified audience looking for cheap thrills. Erotica sells.

So, what does it take to sell books? That is a very complex question. It helps that –

a) You have absolute confidence your book is the best thing that’s ever been written.
b) That you are willing to wring out of every one you know a promise to do a review (POSITIVE ONLY) and post it on Amazon and Good Reads and wherever else they can find to post it on your behalf.
c) Know your audience, or at the very least, have one.

First off, I hesitate to use friends to promote my work. Number one, I’m afraid they will feel obligated to say yes while thinking, “Is she kidding me? This thing is the worst thing I’ve ever read!?”

And second… forget it, I can’t get past number one. It’s the fear of “not being good enough” that plagues even accomplished writers.

The thing is, I believe my books are quite good. Good enough, in fact, to fly magically off the shelves without much help from me. Won’t happen. Like all authors, I must work at promoting my books every single chance I get, something I am totally not good at.

A second and equally important factor is that, “knowing your audience,” thing.

I may not be there yet when it comes to confidence, but identifying my audience is at a whole other level. People who like to read books? Hmmm, yes, but there is so much more to it. The whole genre thing drives me nuts. Plus I haven’t written just one kind of book. I’ve written the books I like to write. One is a book of inspirational reading, two are sci-fi, and the fourth is a contemporary novel about a women of a certain age.

In “Finding Family,” it is clear early on that Lilly Irish has never understood her worth to others. Following the death of her husband she becomes accustomed to living alone. She is stubbornly independent. And then her dead sister’s daughter and her three children arrive with their dog. Calm turns to chaos and along the way Lilly… well, if I said any more I’d be giving the story away.

This story is funny and sad, just like life. You will recognize the characters because they’re like all of us, trying to find their way in life, day-by-day. “Finding Family,” characters aren’t based on any one in particular, or any family in particular; it is grounded in the reality that no one is perfect. How these imperfect people come together makes for an entertaining and satisfying read.

And yes, this is a sales pitch for “Finding Family,” and a request that you buy it, read it, and post a review – brief or long – on Amazon and Good Reads and wherever else you can. I would like for it to be positive, but I would rather it be honest.

Thanks,
Sharon

NOTE: I have Finding Family available for purchase. If you would like to order a book directly from me e-mail me at fsharon@msn.com. Book price is $19.99.

Finding Family is available at Amazon and other online book retailers in soft cover and as an e-book from XLIBRIS

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: XLIBRIS
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1499035489
ISBN-13: 978-1499035483


Also look for my latest book:
Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light
Paperback $15
Digital Format $2.99 


 

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