Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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In My Small Town World

I might have mentioned I absolutely love my small town. People who speak disparagingly about it will get a fight from me because, I LOVE OUR TOWN! It’s not perfect, but it’s darn close!

So I wondered who first established C-Town. Naturally, I turned to Wikipedia. Here’s what I found.

After the Cherokee Outlet opening, a homesteader by the name of Willis H. Herbert established a town named Herbert by opening a post office on the current townsite of Cleveland on October 28, 1893.

Most people from these parts know about the town of Herbert. And we’re all VERY glad they changed the name!

The Post Office department subsequently withdrew the approval of the Herbert post office. The post office was then moved 100 feet, and reestablished under the name C-Town, named in honor of then President Grover Cleveland on April 19, 1894.

By 1900, the town’s population was 211. Before the discovery of oil in the area, the town served as a trade center between the local farmers and the Osage Tribe who lived on the reservation was on the other side of the Arkansas river.

In 1904, a railroad line owned by the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (later known as Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway or Katy) from Oklahoma City reached Cleveland and crossed the Arkansas River into Osage County.

On May 27, 1904, the first oil well was spudded near the community, and it caused an influx of oil workers and other people. At the time of statehood in 1907, Cleveland had 1,441 residents.

I thought the next part was very interesting. It’s “Notable people from C-Town.”

  • David Bivin – author
  • Lincoln Ferguson – President of Beta Upsilon Chi
  • Tony Perkins – president of the Family Research Council and a former Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives graduated from Cleveland High School in 1981.
  • 1952 Heisman trophy winner Billy Vessels was born in Cleveland in 1931.

All the men mentioned are wonderful people, but there’s a couple of names missing, and I’m not sure how to get them added.

One is Gulf War hero, Craig Berryman.

This is from Fox 23:

 Gulf War POW Recalls Torture by Iraqis

Marine Maj. Craig Berryman can’t shake the memory  of his 37 days as an Iraqi prisoner of war.

The Cleveland, Okla., native says a day hasn’t  passed in the last 12 years that he hasn’t thought of how Iraqi soldiers  tortured, kicked and starved him in 1991.

Iraqi guards broke Berryman’s left leg, beat him  repeatedly and threatened him with shooting and mutilation. A lighted cigarette  was twisted into an open wound on his neck, and his requests for medical  attention were ignored.

He lost 25 pounds in 37 days and caught a case of  dysentery that lasted two years and is likely to cause him digestive tract  problems the rest of his life.


The other person I’d like to see listed there is U. S. Army Specialist Ashley Jones, who was seriously injured in Afghanistan. Her injuries included the amputation of one foot.

And of course, I’d like to see some people listed who we’ll never see there, because they kept their good deeds to themselves.

Such as the woman I heard about who took a family groceries, just when they were desperate.

And the man who won a drawing for several hundred dollars and passed the winnings along to a family in need.

And the folks who secretly gave Christmas Jars so someone else could have a happy Christmas.

If you have another moment, try googling Christmas Jars. You’ll find a link to Jason Wright’s website and probably a link to Amazon and B & N so you can buy the book. But you’ll also find stories about people who received Christmas Jars from someone who knew about living in a Small Town World.

Did you hear any Christmas Jar stories? If you did, could you share them with me? I’d love to learn more about C-Town’s history, too.

  • W-o-w!!! (

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Love This Book!

Zola Bellis Sample had a beautiful way of writing. I’m still reading her book, Cherokee Strip Fever. Yes, I’m a little slow, but my romance group is in the middle of a unpublished writers contest, so time I might have been reading has been spent judging. (It’s nice to read a book that has all the commas in the right place!)

I’m all the way to page 53. (Not a speed reader.) On page 53, she mentions Chauncey Owens, who has a hotel in Tulsa. Chauncey Owens is the name of my grandmother’s brother-in-law who married her sister Lillis. Same man? I doubt it, since this is set in the late 1800’s, but it might be Grandmother’s BIL’s father. Cool, huh?

Chauncey was some guy, who started out renting sleeping spots in a tent, and ended up owning a rooming house (which sounded like a hotel) called The Tulsa House.

On this one page (53) she also tells about Doc Besser, who’d lost his wife. “He is blind and has three sons. Little fellers. They make out, but it’s rough.”

“Chart, you must try to to become homesick. Things are not gonna be like it was up north. It’s a wild country rich in Indian and outlaw legends. There’s all kinds of hideouts, buried treasures from train holdups and other robberies. Oklahoma weather is unpredictible. Temperatures can drop 20 to 30 degrees in no time. Cyclones skip across the country like a grasshopper flitting from one green cornstock to another. You’ll have to learn to watch the clouds,” Bill warned.

Wow. Just wow. How could a young woman get homesick with all that excitement waiting just outside her cabin? Outlaws? Indians? Buried treasure and train holdups? I think his words probably made her grin with anticipation.

And don’t you love the way he described tornadoes? “Cyclones skip across the country like a grasshopper flitting from one green cornstock to another.” 🙂

The way Charity answers him is beautiful. “I’ve heard Oklahoma has the most beautiful sunsets of all the states. Oklahoma skies can lift up tired spirits. Maybe they will inspire poetry and song . . . softer than softest cotton, whiter than whitest snow, brilliant in the twilight glow!” quoted Charity.

I have no idea who Charity quoted, but I love the sentiment.

They finally get to their cabin.

He grabbed her and they danced a jig there on the earthen floor. They were happy to be united after the long separation. Home or not home, they had each other. Charity saw, at a glance, he had done his best.

There was their table, sawed-off logs answered for chairs, a four lid cook stove presided over in the kitchen area; and best of all it had a fair sized oven. The stove pipe rose straight through the roof.

It did resemble a bachelor’s quarters; but she could soon remedy that. Plans had already started fermenting, calling for hand cut shelf paper to cover the crude open-faced cupboard nailed to the logs. Hooked or braided rags rugs and a curtain at the one wide window could help change the atmosphere.

Okay, I’ve thought it might have been fun to spend a week or two back in that time period, but how in the world would you keep a house dusted if the floor was made out of dirt? It’s hard enough with a wood floor. LOL! And imagine making all your own food.

When Charity and the children had traveled all day to get to the cabin, Charity has to get dinner. They don’t stop at Sonic for a burger on the way in. “Searching through the homemade larder, Charity found the corndodger.”

Corndodger? Like on True Grit?

I checked it out and from what I can tell it’s kind of like cornbread made in those pans that shape the cornbread into ovals. Sometimes it’s called cornpone or johnny cakes.

Here’s the recipe I found.

Corn Dodgers
2 cups corn meal

1 tsp salt

2 tsp fat

13/4  cup boiling water


  • Pour boiling water over all of the ingredients
  • Beat well.  When cool, form into cakes
  • Bake 30 minutes in hot oven, or Dutch Oven, until crisp

That and fresh milk, still warm from the cow, was dinner.

When dinner is ready, she goes outside to wait for her husband to get back from the barn.

Having prepared for the mere snack she drifted out the cabin door. There, stock-still in the center of a frontier clearing, she stood, slightly trembling, listening. All around rose tall trees towering over tangled passageways, shadowy and dark, where the wilderness folk walked trodden paths on four padded feet, ever cautious of their enemies. The shadowy forest extended down toward the banks of the Arkansas River. It lapped away in a continual murmur, ever nibbling away at the sandy-loam banks. It had decided again to return to its torrential channel.

*  *  *

Charity thought, “This day is closing. Never to return.” The trees stood silent, drawn close together. Their branches provided protection to the fowl of the air. The sun’s goodnight caress was diminished in the cool river atmosphere of the surrounding bottom lands. A humid, rich smell of earth odors penetrated her nostrils.

In a way it was so peaceful, quiet and touching. She whirled her long skirts with arms extended, suddenly standing at attention. For there, right in front of her eyes, was her very own small home, with the lamp throwing a yellow glow from the doorway.

Isn’t that beautiful? Those aren’t paragraphs you can skim your way through. You have to take your time, read them a word at a time and savor them. And sometimes go back and read them again.

I’m loving this book.