Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


I’ve Got the Fever

I’m reading a new book. Actually, it’s not a new book. It was published in 1976, and the inside cover looks as if it sold for $14.95.

I paid nearly twice that, and so far it’s worth every penny!

To be honest, I’ve scanned it before. I didn’t own it and wanted to get it back to the owner. But this one is mine, so I’m going to take my time and squeeze every drop of goodness out of it.

“Cherokee Strip Fever” by Zola Sample.

From the jacket flap:

Young, terrified but resolute, Charity Bellis, with three small children, leaves the security of her Iowa home in March 1895 to join her husband in Indian Territory in their search for a new homestead. The long train trip ends at “Tulsey Town,” where a hectic night is spent in a clapboard hotel. The next day, Charity and the children arrive a the inland village of Sinnett, which they reach only after a near disastrous fording of the flood-swollen Arkansas River aboard the only conveyance available, a mail hack.

I’m at the part where they’re going on the mail wagon with Jim Sinnett. We haven’t forded the river yet (I’m on page 35. This is my downstairs book so I don’t have a lot of time to read it) but already I’ve read about several very exciting things.

The town of Sinnett, which was just down the road from C-Town on the Cimarron River (I think) was named for that mailman. The Dalton Boys’ cave is near Sinnett.

I wonder if I haven’t seen pictures and heard something about it on the Spit and Whittle site on Facebook. 😉

I learned from Zola (who was a teacher, you know) that the town of Chouteau, just south of Pryor Creek where the Shay crew used to live, was named for Jean Pierre Chouteau. In 1796, he established a fur trade industry that stretched across the entire state. He even got 3000 Osage Indians to move their permanent villages from west of St. Louis in 1802 to this post. (I met more Cherokee Indians than Osage when we lived there, so they must have moved on.)

Jean Pierre brought a paradise tree from France–the first tree ever planted in Oklahoma. It grew to be a historical marker at the home of Col. A. P. Chouteau, and I’ve never heard of it before this book.

I thought I hated history when I was in school. Having to memorize dates made me crazy! Still would if someone tried to make me do it. But I love knowing about the people who lived and loved back then. I enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations they suffered and learning how they made it through.

Because they did. They did everything that had to be done and still found time to be good friends and good neighbors.

Back when they had no electricity, no running water, no bathroom and, often, not even an outhouse, these people were happy. Joyful and spirit filled! How in the world did they do it?

I have no idea.

I get cranky if the air conditioner isn’t cool enough. Was the weather cooler back then? Was less expected of people? Was it easier to fit everything in that needed to be done?

I’ll keep reading and let you know if I find out.