At one of the first writing workshops that Gail Lee Martin attended at the East Wichita Shepard Center in 1995 they were asked to write 10 nouns and 10 verbs on pieces of paper that were placed in a container. Then each participant drew out ten pieces of paper and wrote a story using all ten words. Gail ended up with the following words: rose, treasure, Scorpio, rodeo, arrow, stride, deceit, gather, restaurant, terror. All are in this story, can you find them?
I’m guessing from the rich descriptions in the story that Gail had recently been researching the Woodward, Oklahoma ancestors in her genealogy work. She also had a strong interest in geology which shows up in the story.
Just west of the little town of Freedom in the panhandle of Oklahoma territory is five thousand acres of rose-colored sand, coated with a shimmering crust. Locally known as the Great Salt Plains it was a rugged escarpment of red shale capped with white gypsum the Indians called it the salt mountain because there they could gather a treasure in the form of salt that the tribal Indians needed in their diets.
A mile or two due north of the Great Salt Plains, but still in the sandhill country a salt collector’s camp was made in a ‘little bit of paradise’ that surrounded a tiny oval pool of cold water, that continually overflowed a slight depression to disappear in the hot sand a short distance away. Under the feathery, drooping branches of a lone tamarack tree on the downside of the pool almost completely hidden was a small, furry puppy. Lying flat on his belly he was watching the two boys in the nearby camp.
The boys were arguing about something they had found in the sand. The taller boy was correcting the pronunciation of his little brother, who was calling it a Scorpio instead of a scorpion. “So what? I’ll bet he’ll sure sting with that tail, no matter what we call it.”
Meanwhile, the scorpion was busy playing a game of deceit by hiding in the sand that was the very same color as he was. But the boys marked his spot with a stick so they wouldn’t be deceived.
The men of the camp had left early that morning while the sun was still below the horizon. The small mongrel pup had been relieved when the men disappeared in a mirage of trees that appeared in the middle the salt flats and soon returned his full attention on the two smaller humans sprucing up the campsite after their meal.
Even if this wasn’t a restaurant their Dad had instructed them to be sure and clean it, and he meant clean, like the restaurant they had lunch when they attended the rodeo in Woodward last fall.
The smell of frying bacon had been almost more than the pup’s terror-stricken and starved little body could stand. The sturdy red-headed boy with freckles scattered across his face and arms gathered up some leftover flapjacks and flung them with all his might, straight as an arrow towards the little dog’s hiding place, beyond the camp-site.
This was too much for the pup and he slunk deeper into the shadows. A couple of the flat cakes had landed not far away and the aroma was tantalizing to the cowering pup. Keeping one eye on the boys, the puppy crept slowly toward the enticing smell. In another stride, he quickly grabbed the pancake and gulped it down. Becoming braver he advanced on the other scrap of food.
Just then the older boy saw him and shouted. “Luther! there’s an old coyote getting those cakes you threw away!” As the pup quickly retreated to the hollow under the tree the redheaded boy declared. “Be quiet Francis! that’s just a puppy and he is must be awful hungry.” Kneeling he held out another pancake to the pup that had become lost in the panhandle of Oklahoma. That was all it took for the three to become fast friends.
(This story was first published on the Our Echo website.)