Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Land-Run Celebrations

I have several faded memories of parades in the Ford. Once I rode on the First Christian Church float (in a big wagon with all the other Sunday School kids, if I remember right) while my cousin rode her cute little kiddie car. (I wonder if her legs hurt from pedalling when it was over?) And another time I rode with my cousin, Randall, on his horse, Randy. Both parades were to celebrate The Rodeo! We loved those rodeos!

When my family moved to C-Town, there wasn’t a rodeo, so no rodeo parade. Instead, C-Town celebrated the opening of the Cherokee Outlet on September 16th of each year. (Or maybe it was the closest Saturday to that date.)

Over six millions acres had been up for grabs that day in 1893.

I’m sure there were people around when I was a kid who’d made the run, but I didn’t know any.

Doesn’t the land run look like it was exciting?

 We’ve all seen the movies, watched the experience through the TV screen. But imagine actually being there for that adrenalin rush. Whoa!

Photographer William S. Prettyman learned that the opening of the Cherokee Strip was going to be the biggest land run of all, so he built a tower at the edge of the run, put three cameras there with three photographers. He took the above picture himself, then ran to get in the race.

I read several accounts of people trying to sign up to be part of the run. Hot, dusty, discouraging days with water costing a nickel a drink and standing in line from can’t see to can’t see and still not getting a certificate to run must have been disheartening. And even when they’d signed up, they weren’t guaranteed to get land.

The people were strong hearted gamblers, for sure!

Back when I was a kid and we had a celebration, but we DIDN’T have a landrun. Not even a pretend one. (Maybe the memories were still too fresh.) Instead we had a parade.

This picture must have been taken at a parade before we moved to C-Town. I don’t remember them calling it Old Settlers Day, but I do remember the Otasco Store and drug store being there.

And I remember Bayouth’s being next door to Ben Franklin. 🙂

We had street dances to celebrate the opening, beard growing contests (for men only) and free (!) delicious (!!) barbecue sandwiches!!! (I remember standing in line for those. YUM! Wonder if they came from Dari Diner?)

Sometimes we had a pet and bicycle parade. I wanted to take our toy Manchester Terrier, Tiny, in the parade one year, but she wouldn’t walk on a leash. I didn’t think it would look very good to drag this little five-pound black dog for six blocks on the end of a chain, so I decided to carry her in a baby’s bath tub.

When I was in the garage finding the tub, I noticed a box of crocheted baby clothes someone had given Mom, so I dressed Tiny in a frilly little pink jacket and bonnet.

That stubborn little mongrel won Best Dressed Pet (could have been ONLY dressed pet) and I won a dollar!

For a while after Keystone Lake was built, C-Town stopped having Pioneer Day and started have Jolly Roger Day. After several years, though, we reverted to PD. A much better way to celebrate our heritage.

Besides, I got tired of walking around in an eye patch and saying, “Arrrrrr!” 😉


Old Home Week

G-Man cemented the long string yesterday (don’t ask) so I went to church headed to lunch at Sister Debbie’s. (She’s the family hostess. Talk about a gift! Hospitality is her forte!) But after church and before lunch was ready, Dad and I decided to take a drive through the cemetery.

When we got there, Grandmother’s arrangement was dangling by a wire (the wind on top of that hill was only blowing 40 and gusting up to 355 mph.) We drove around, seeing old friends’ graves, pointing out where new ones were.

I showed him Cathy’s dad’s headstone and he pointed out Carolyn’s and Mick’s. I love seeing the saddles of flowers sitting on the headstones. (Looks a lot like sweet little ladies in church with flowery hats on.)

The feeling is bitter-sweet, isn’t it? Sad at our losses (always too soon); glad because someone cared enough to decorate.

Late in the evening, G-Man came home and we took an arrangement to put on his parents’ grave.

This isn’t G-Man’s family, but I love these beautiful memorials in his hometown cemetery.

When we had our arrangement wired down (Memorial Day is notorious for storms and winds that blow MD decorations to Texas) G-Man asked if I’d like to go to B’ville or Punkin Center for dinner.

We decided to hit the former. To get there we drove through The Pioneer Woman’s small town world. In case you’re wondering, no. She didn’t wave as we went by and we didn’t drop in. 🙂

Even though the highway has moved, I remembered a shop I visited there long ago called Grandma’s Back Porch that was filled with antiques and antique-looking things. I loved stopping there. I don’t remember buying much, but I loved it!

A short time later, we got to B’ville. Talk about Old Home Week! We drove on straight into downtown, and oh, boy! The memories came back! (The first town we lived in after we were married.)

Just as we entered town, we saw a Murphy’s Steak House, a restaurant we visited as often as possible. It’s moved from where we remembered it, but the sign looked the same.

Although we didn’t eat there, I’m fairly certain the food is the same. A salad big enough to make Seinfield smile, steaks so huge they hung off the plate and a mountain of fries.

Once when I wasn’t able to finish my dinner (back in the day) the waiter stopped me to ask if something wrong with my food.

I had that pain-in-the-gut feeling. You know the one, where you feel like a little kid being told to stay at the table until you’ve eaten everything on your plate?

My first impulse was to grab G-Man’s hand and run! Instead I said, “I just can’t eat that much.” We were allowed to leave after that.

So back to last night–we drove right past the street to the little house we lived in, the pharmacy G-Man helped open that year and V’s, the department store where I managed the junior department.

I loved working for V’s! We had a juke box in my department (although the songs weren’t what I would have chosen) and really cute clothes. The girls who regularly shopped there were so much fun to work with!

After all these years, V’s is long gone 😦 and there’s a furniture store in its place.

When we’d eaten at Montana Mike’s, we drove home past Woolaroc. (If you’ve never been there, make time to go. It’s fantastic!) This is one of the Pioneer Women on display there, and the one I like best. I get tears in my eyes when I think about those women who lost their husbands on the wild prairie and still pressed on–a baby on one arm, rifle on the other.

And we drove through Barnsdall–

Singer Anita Bryant was born in Barnsdall. Bryant was also Miss America runner-up. Movie Star Clark Gable, famous for his role in “Gone With the Wind”, came to Barnsdall for a short while when the town was in the oil business.

Barnsdall has two properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the Bank of Bigheart and the Barnsdall Main Street Well Site, an oil well in the middle of Main Street. (From Wikipedia)

This isn’t from Wikipedia, but Frank Blake–the man who established the Dari Diner (world’s best bbq) in C-Town–is from Barnsdall. (The Shay clan is eternally grateful for DD and him!)

How’d you spend your Sunday? Any plans for Memorial Day itself? I wonder if the majority of people will go to the lake or if they’ll spend time catching up on neglected chores.

I’ll be taking the chores route. How about you?


♥ More Wedding Days ♥

I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but I married G-Man five months after I met him. We were married at my church in C-Town and had our reception at my parents’ home.

I’m one of those “I like it cozy and homey” people if you hadn’t noticed.

It didn’t take much to talk Mom into having the reception at home. If my kids wanted to have theirs at my house, I’d freak, but she was surprisingly cool about it. This is our dining room. (Ignore the picture of the bubble head on the buffet if you can.)

The cake topper was from my grandparent’s fiftieth anniversary reception. I wanted to use it because it was theirs and I wanted to honor them, and I hoped for that many years (at least) for us. We used fresh flowers to camouflage the “50 Years” on the topper.

We had so much fun that night. The wedding and reception was just like a big party with all the people we loved celebrating with us.

So many women stress out over their weddings. I’ve known a few who fainted in the middle of the nuptials, so I encourage the women I know to have a good time. If your marriage starts out fun, there’s a good chance the entire marriage will be fun.

So we laughed and talked and enjoyed the people who were there to celebrate with us.

Finally, Mom reminded me that the guests couldn’t leave until the wedding couple did (I’m not sure how she learned all this stuff, but she knew!) so I went to change into my “going away outfit” which came from Mom’s dress shop.

This is my beautiful mom and sister, helping me get out of my wedding dress. If you’ve never had a wedding dress on, you’ll never know how hard they are to get out of. At least mine didn’t have a thousand buttons down the back. Fifty-seven buttons on each cuff was bad enough.

We borrowed my friend car for our get away and hid it two doors away. We ran through the shower of rice (ouch) and headed across the yards.

Amy has an icing rose here she’s wanting to give me and #4 (in the hat) has more rice she wants to pelt us with.

That girl had quite an arm!

I posted the above picture for #4. G-Man always says that shot was one of his favorites because of the way she looked.

Hiding the get away car didn’t help much, btw. At least G-Man and I didn’t have to stop and get it washed before we left for the big city. We just drove to the small town to the north and got his car from his parents’ house.



According to Wikipedia–

Serendipity is when one finds something that one was not expecting to find. The word has been voted as one of the ten English words that were hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company. However, due to its sociological use, the word has been exported into many other languages.

In the simplest of words, it means a “happy accident”.

I like that definition, don’t you? I caught a few happy accidents and thought I’d share. Let me know what you think.

 The extreme red in the sunrise didn’t really show up, but it was gorgeous. Remember that old saying, “Red in the morning, sailors take warning?” It held true that day.

These plants break off and grow where they land.

This sunflower wasn’t planted by me. We feed the local wild birds sunflower seeds . . .

and to repay us, they planted this with my herbs.

Not bad repay, huh? Maybe we can keep the birds from eating the seeds coming here until we have time to harvest them. Or not. LOL.

I went with Dad to get gas yesterday, and saw this little fellow hot-footing it across the gravel. At first I thought it was a leaf blowing, until I noticed how even its movement was.


He hid like this until I picked him up. Then he ran from one of my palms to the other over and over again. He was all of 1 or 1-1/2 inches the long way and so cute.

I took him back to the office to show the kiddos there, and handed him to one of the little girls. To keep him safe I put him in a clear plastic cup with a lock-down lid that I punched a hole in.

She was so excited, she ran to little Deegan (about 10 months old) and said, “Can you believe anybody gave me a pet turtle?”

She named him Carzel. (I think.)

Now I have a new definition for serendipity: Surprises that make me smile.

Anything surprised a grin out of you lately?


Prayers for Joplin

I’ve spent a lot of time this week, crying and praying for the people who lost homes and loved ones in Joplin. And later in the week, crying and praying over the hurting people near Piedmont, Oklahoma.

Like my friend, Marilyn, said the other day, I’ve never seen a tornado because I’m always hiding when one gets close. As an Okie, though, I’ve witnessed the devastation one of those monsters can do.

A looooong time ago, I went to Ozark Christian College (then it was Ozark Bible College) in Joplin. And I loved it. I enjoyed school, loved the town (much bigger than C-Town but still not the Big City) and the surrounding area.

Oronogo–a nearby town–had a strip pit that years earlier had filled with water. I loved visiting that swimming hole, jumping off the cliffs and swimming into the caves.

My second (and last) year at Ozark, Mom came in May with a group of women from our church to the Women’s Clinic at Ozark and brought Sister Amy, who was still a tyke.

The entire C-Town crew and my friend, Bomber, went out to lunch on lunch on Range Line. On our way back, we took a different street than the normal jaunt down 7th Street. We were heading back to the college for classes and afternoon sessions.

I dropped Mom off at one of the Mission Building and Amy, Bomber and I went back to my dorm. Just as we pulled up in front, the tornado siren went off.

I was taught by my parents to respect those warnings, so I threw Amy into the dorm’s bottom floor with Bomber and zoomed back to the classroom building to get Mom.

I stampeded into the classroom, ready to scream over the roar of panicked women, but all I heard was the even tones of the lecturing professor. As I stormed in, the entire room turned and looked at me. (Kinda made me feel like I’d shown up at the Royal Wedding dressed for Sadie Hawkins day.)

But that siren was still echoing in my head and my heart was pounding out of control, so I shouted, “Tornado. We have to go!”

The professor, a Joplin resident for many years, shook his head.”That siren gets hit by lightning all the time and gives false warnings. Don’t worry about it.”

I was ready to argue (you know how it is when you have that gut feeling) but my wise mother stood up. “I’ll go with her.”

We rushed back to the dorm, sat with the others in the hallway of the bottom floor, told stories and sang upbeat songs.

Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about. Nothing to make you feel afraid. Nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails so why not trust Him and shout! You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.

There was a tornado that day that went right up 7th Street–the street we hadn’t taken–the main street that went between Main and Range Line. It damaged 40 blocks and did $7,000,000 in damage. (A lot of money back then.)

But that’s nothing compared to the total devastation the EF5 tornado caused this year.

One story touched my heart and still brings me to tears today. It’s about a young man named Malachi Murdoch. He’s a recent high school graduate and enrolled at Ozark this fall.

Read about him here.

I hope you’ll join with me in prayer for Malachi, his family and all the residents of Joplin.