ON ROAMING THE PRAIRIE

 

To most travelers, Western Kansas is not a destination of choice but rather a barren expanse of earth and sky to be endured on a journey east or west.  The very words conjure mental images of a blazing sun breathing fire on a dry prairie, of whirlwinds, dust storms, bleakness, and loneliness.

            Though disturbing to travelers—who have a compelling desire to speed on to more interesting terrain—Western Kansas is a peaceful haven to those of us who call it home.

     Yielding to a tendency to ignore speed limits, I speed westward, ignoring glistening mirage pools that magically appear and disappear on the seemingly endless ribbon of road.

     Sunflowers bob their golden heads from wide shallow ditches, fields of ripe golden wheat shimmer in the sun and churning pumps, dredging oil from the bowels of the earth, dot the landscape.

     One can truly “see forever” out here where the past, the present and the future form a mental collage of jet streams criss-crossing the sky above, while ghosts of Indians and buffalo, long-horned cattle and covered wagons plod across the land.

     As I cross a bridge, the dry bed of the Cimarron River recalls stories of horrible floods at the turn of the 20th century.  I envision Indians charging over the sand cliffs beyond.  I blink my eyes.  Are those really buffalo I see?  They, at least, are not a figment of my imagination.

 Enviously eyeing the strong, high fence, I promise myself that someday, I too will have a ranch and a herd of buffalo and cattle and horses—

     A dream?  Perhaps.  Here, on these plains, I have a tendency to dream.

     I pull the car to the side of the road and walk across the prairie.  The wind at my back, I inhale the fresh clean air as I go.

     The rich soil needs only water to grow productive crops and though I am surrounded by lush prairie flowers and grasses, mares tails, drifting overhead like wisps in the clear blue sky, tell me the weather will be dry.

     Tumbleweeds, tossing before me as I walk, are intrinsic to the plains.  As they tumble after each other across the prairie then tumble back with a change of wind the next day, I’ve often wondered: How far did they go?  Are they a product of this year’s harvest?  This decade?  Or perhaps they materialized a century ago! While my grandmother hated the tumbleweed (they tangled in her skirts), I often take them inside at Christmas and decorate them with baubles, tinsel and lights.  They are incongruously beautiful—hardy, tough, as are all products native to the prairie.

     Although I’ve roamed the world, I am forever bound to this land. I have only to return to the plains to discover once more that “other person” that I am.

     Never a child, I was spawned already old and wise.  A tanned, skinny urchin, I was fostered early to the prairie, which welcomed me with open arms.

     Her creatures became my brothers, sisters, friends.  I collected arrowheads and colored stones, and gathered red and yellow blossoms of cactus and Indian Paintbrush.  I chased lizards and captured snakes, and the grasshopper spit tobacco at my command.  The prairie, where the whispered solace of the ever-present wind eased my childhood miseries, is my home.

     I feel a kinship with the long-eared jackrabbit, the coyote and the pheasant.  They dare me to come close, then dash away.  It is a game we play.  High above, a hawk soars as he scans the earth for prey—the weak succumbing to the strong.

     I sit down by a buffalo waller, a fading reminder of the huge beasts that roamed the prairie over a century ago.  I find it interesting that their mark has survived for all these many years. Rimmed with wild flowers, overflowing with brush and weeds, it is a haven for rabbits and ground squirrels, snakes and toads.

     Beyond, a lone sentinel perches alert atop a mound of sand, prepared to issue a warning should I approach his Prairie Dog town.

      I never feel alone here.  The prairie both soothes and excites me.  I lay back on the grass and watch tiny insects and bugs crawling, flitting about me, going about their business of being alive.  The earth seems to throb beneath my body and I recall my grandmother’s words: “If you are ill, lie down on the ground and let the earth heal you.”  Is it because of my Indian heritage that I want to believe this is true?

     The land has a music all its own.  The soft murmur of the wind, the rustle of the grass, the hum of the insect, the call of a whip-poor-will blend together in perfect harmony—the song of the prairie.  It begins in a whisper so subtle it almost escapes the ear.

     I’ve been asked, why do you not leave this God-forsaken land?

     We cannot go.  If we leave, our spirit remains and, soon or late, we will return.

     The Great Plains has a continuity over the ages that man, so brief a creature, admires, even envies.  In his momentary arrogance and sorrow, he can only mark his passing on granite stones and in writings such as these.

I delight in the prairie sunset and watch expectantly as the sun slowly sinks below the horizon.  As it ebbs from sight, a spectacular burst of color leaves me breathless and I marvel at the melding hues of red and gold, orange and purple, pink and coral.

      The colors deepen and fade in the growing darkness and lights twinkling on in farmyards and towns are visible as far as twenty miles away.  Tripled by this miragic phenomenon, a magical, shimmering, three-tiered ring of light encircles me.

     Nowhere on earth are stars more bright.  Though I have searched in vain in other climes here, on the plains, I easily pick out the dippers, the North Star, Taurus the Bull, the Milky Way—

     I’ve enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, the ocean, the lush foliage of the tropics, but there is no place as exciting or as much a part of me as this prairie.  I’ll not be smothered here.  There is room for souls such as mine to grow.



THE OSCARS

 

            Hosted by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Academy Awards was organized by 36 motion picture industry leaders May 4, 1927.  Douglas Fairbanks was named president.

            With censorship and public disapproval posing threat to the adolescent industry, the announced goal of the Academy was “to improve the artistic quality and add to the prestige of motion pictures.  (Later rumors claimed that the real reason The Academy was formed was to stop the advancement of film unions and to keep labor disputes in the hands of the studios).

Three hundred guests were present at the first Academy banquet at Hollywood’s Biltmore Hotel.  Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Golden-Mayer Studios was principal speaker.

As he spoke, Art Director, Cedric Gibbons, was doodling on the table cloth.  When Mayer sat down, Gibbons displayed the sketch he had drawn which was later acclaimed the ideal achievement award.  (Gibbons was later recipient of many of his creations).

Although several stories exist about how Oscar got his name, the one accepted as most authentic reports that when Margaret Herrick, Academy librarian, (later executive director) first saw the statuette, she exclaimed: “Why it looks like my Uncle Oscar!”

Oscar, a thirteen and a half inch, eight and a half pound, gold plated metal figure, holding a sword and standing on a reel of film was sculpted by George Stanley.

The First Academy Awards ceremony, honoring achievements from August 1, 1927 to August 1, 1928, was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, in May, 1929.

"Wings", a 1927-28 a World War I silent air extravaganza, won the Best Picture Award.  Janet Gaynor won Best Actress and Emil Jennings won Best Actor Award.  With few exceptions, these were the only awards ever given for silent pictures. The highlight of that first award ceremony was a demonstration of a "talkie."

Oscars for supporting performances were awarded for the first time in 1937.

America saw the first televised colorcast of an Academy Awards in 1966.


RAISON D’ETRE

 

“If I don’t write, I’ll die,” a writer friend quipped.

 

He says it jokingly but there’s a grain of truth in his words.  Writing is his “raison d’être”.

 

Raison d’etre, a French phrase meaning “reason for being,” has come to suggest, in English, an intense emotional attraction to a course of action such as “not money but love of sport is his raison d’etre—his reason to be an athlete.”

 

Raison d’être has inspired poems and songs; businesses have been named for it.  Philosophers have expounded on the subject, essays have been written covering a spectrum as broad as the human race.  A Belgian beer, created for those who are connoisseurs of the drink, has even been named for it

 

Psychiatrists associate it with mental health and depression, the consensus being that a raison d’etre—a reason for being—is important to mental acuity, to health and, henceforth, happiness.

 

A saying attributed to Allan K. Chalmers says that a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: “Something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to.”  And inspiration guru, Tony Robbins, says that, if we aren’t happy, most likely our problem is that we don’t have any goals.

 

Most of us can find something to do and, if we open up a bit, someone to love, but there are far too many who have nothing to look forward to except the same old hum-drum existence—work, home, eat, watch TV, go to bed.

 

Art was Mary Spurgeon’s, raison d’etre, her lifelong dream; her reason for being.  Busy with home, family and ranching, she treasured the moments she could steal away and devote a little time to painting—until she was in her 70’s.  Then, once her children were grown, and on their own, and she had the time, painting and sculpture became her passion.  Mary achieved many awards and lived to see her paintings, and her sculptures—which include the eight-foot statue of Wyatt Earp gracing the Trail of Fame in Dodge City, Kansas—enjoyed by admirers nationwide.

 

Mary is only one of thousands whose reason for being isn’t necessarily the same as what they do for a living.  David Carter, president of the bank in his home town, puts in long hours at his business.  However, he truly comes to life in his role as tenor for his city’s symphony orchestra.  Music is Carter’s raison d’être.

 

Many writers spend hours each day, working at routine jobs to earn a living, then go home at night to burn the midnight oil writing.

 

Our reason for being doesn’t have to be lofty or “hi-falutin,” however.  Nor must it necessarily generate cognitive stimulation.

 

Family and children are many people’s reason for being—even after said children have “flown the coup.”

 

“Each morning I wake up looking forward to seeing my grandchildren,” one grandmother said.  “It gives me pleasure to teach them, to help them see the beauty and the opportunities of this wonderful world we live in.  What more can I ask for than to give them guidance that will enhance the quality of their lives?”

 

Many agree that one of the most satisfying raisons d’etre is doing something for others.  They find an immense satisfaction in helping friends, working with the poor, the homeless, the abused, alcoholics, animal shelters, etc.  Others find pleasure in working for a cause, be it political, religious, saving the planet or endangered animals.

 

Carol, one of my neighbors, volunteers at a hospice.  This is her raison d’être.

 

Rose, who gets about with the aid of a walker, spends hours each day doing favors for others.  She wouldn’t be happy if she didn’t.  It is her reason for being.

 

Georgia, who is a fabulous cook, spends hours in her kitchen mixing, baking, stewing, preparing food to share with friends.  She delights in their pleasure.  I always look forward to seeing her coming, bearing a pot or a box full of goodies.

 

When we reach a certain age, life often intervenes—we lose loved ones, develop health problems, become depressed.  At times like this, we have to think hard to come up with a reason for being.  But doing so is well worth the effort.

 

When we were young our work—our job—was just a way to earn a living.  Our raison d’etre was to enjoy life, to dream, to explore the possibilities of the world around us.

 

Thinking on it, maybe enjoying life, and seeking ways to make others happy, isn’t a bad raison d’etre after all.







MY GRANDMOTHER

February 16, 2018:  My Grandmother’s 158th birthday.  My book, “Fragile Hopes, Transient Dreams” is dedicated to my grandmother.  Ninevah Augusta Trent Booth  (called “Gussie.”) married my granddaddy, John Estes Booth, in 1896 at the age of 36,  She bore him three children.  They homesteaded a few miles northwest of Hooker, Oklahoma.  I lived with them most of the time until I was eleven.  I never heard her call him anything but “Mr. Booth.”

For her entire life, Grandma was an inveterate “piecer” of quilt.  I treasure a quilt she pieced when she was nine years old (1869) and gave to me on my ninth birthday.

From the time I can remember, Grandma encouraged me to write.  I wrote my first poem when I was five, a silly, poorly composed, rhymed thing which I still have, forever preserved, in my grandmother’s commonplace book.

When I was born, Grandma and Granddaddy bought me a set of The Books of Knowledge for my “Birth” day.  I still have the complete set—well worn—in the original case.  As a child, I spent hours daily, lying on the floor in the living room, one or more of the books open before me.  I virtually devoured the stories and poems, but I also spent a lot of time on astronomy, French and geography.

Grandma and The Books of Knowledge must have educated me well because I skipped both the second and the fourth grades.

However, I evidently used all my stored knowledge in my earlier years because once I became a fifth grader—although I still got lots of A’s—I was just an average student.



SEXUAL HARASSMENT


As my grandmother used to say: "Men will be men."  Actually, they aren’t to be faulted.  Taking advantage of any opportunity provided them is what men do.  At least, most of them.

Just look around and you’ll see they have no end of invitations/opportunities, what with the inclination of the female population, by make-up, dress and mannerisms, to “flaunt it.”  As Grandma would say, they’re “asking for it.”

We all know that once a woman/girl makes it obvious that she will not tolerate such advances, and demands respect, she’ll get it.  And she doesn’t have present herself sans make-up, or to dress like a nun to do so.

I'll admit I've had my share of advances, passes, or whatever, but I took them for what they were and handled them accordingly.

Following is an excerpt from a work in progress entitled "Headwinds," showing how I handled one gentleman who had, apparently, misjudged me:

Bob Griffith had started hanging around the airport two or three weeks back.  He always came directly to the office and sat around an hour or so, asking questions which I answered patiently, while encouraging him to take flying lessons.  He hindered my work but, considering him a prospective customer—possibly even a buyer—I tolerated him.  As owner of a local business, he had the money, he had the time, and his interest in flying seemed genuine.

Carl, less enthusiastic, called him my “boy friend.”

“What do you want to bet that his only reason for hanging around out here is just to talk to you,” he said.

“Nonsense!” I protested.  “He always acts like a perfect gentleman, and we never talk about anything but flying.”

“All the same,” Carl laughed, “I’ll bet you a quarter that you never get him to take up flying.”

“It’s a bet!” I replied, more determined than ever to sell Bob Griffith on taking flying lessons—and maybe even buying a plane.

It was the morning of Ungerer Flying Service’s first flight breakfast.  I was flying the Ace.  Bob Griffith had asked to be my passenger.

Sunday morning, we met at the airport shortly after dawn.

Eight planes were participating in the flight; our destination Union Airport in Lincoln, Nebraska, a flight of approximately one hour.

To make sure everyone got away OK, Bob and I were the last to take off.  The sight of the planes lifting into the air, one by one, just as the sun peeped over the horizon was beautiful.  Once on course, the other planes fanned out before us.  It was a beautiful, sunshiny morning and the air was calm; perfect for flying.

As we flew, I pointed out familiar farms and towns below to Bob.

“When we fly over, you’ll see people coming out of their houses to watch the planes,” I said.

When we were about half way to Lincoln, I asked Bob if he would like to take the controls and see what it was like to fly the plane himself.  He smiled, but shook his head.

Undaunted, I pointed out a community, appearing up ahead off to the left of the nose.

As he leaned forward to look, he casually placed his arm across the back of the seat, his hand resting on my shoulder.  At the same time, his other hand dropped to my knee.

Oh, Oh!, I thought.

As his hand moved slowly up my thigh, pulling my skirt above my knee, I pushed the left rudder forward and pulled sharply back on the wheel, negotiating a wing-over to the left.  I then reversed the controls and made another to the right.

After I brought the plane back to straight and level flight, I turned to Bob.

“Wasn’t that fun?” I said cheerfully. “That’s only one of the maneuvers you’ll learn when you start taking lessons.”

Not only was the plane back on course; so was Bob.  His hand, no longer on my thigh, was covering his mouth as he reached for the ice cream container in the baggage compartment.

I babbled on about flying maneuvers but Bob was strangely silent for the remainder of the flight.  When we landed at the Lincoln airport, he sought out Carl and told him he wouldn’t be joining us for breakfast; or the return trip.  He’d decided to spend the day with a friend in Lincoln.

The flight breakfast was a huge success but Bob Griffith didn’t show up at the airport the next day—or the next.  When a week passed and he hadn’t made an appearance, Carl said:

“What happened to Bob?  I won’t say ‘I told you so’ but it looks like you lost a bet.”

“Looks like it,” I grinned and tossed him a quarter.



OLD LIKE ME

 

When I first began tinkering with the idea of writing this essay, I looked up “old” in the dictionary.  The first of fourteen or so definitions was: “having lived or existed for a very long time.”

That’s me! I thought.

And about thirty-nine million others in these United States—and that’s not counting the Baby Boomers who don’t consider themselves old.

As our numbers increase (an estimated 40 percent in the next five years), so does our influence on the economy, politics and the marketplace, and a lot of people who once gave us nary a thought or the time of day, are sitting up and taking notice.

Although they no longer pass us over as “that old woman” or “that old man” and refer to us, respectfully, as “Senior Citizens” and “Older Americans,” it’s a bit disconcerting when we converse to realize that many of them haven’t a clue as to who we are or how to relate to us.

As a certified member, perhaps I can provide a little insight on the essential nature of America’s aging citizens.

First of all, even though most of us have white hair and stoop a little, we are not “peas in a pod;” we come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors, have disparate interests, beliefs, desires and opinions toward life, religion and politics.  We do, however, laugh, cry and bleed like everyone else.

We detest condescension, patronization and discrimination and we don’t like being called a “geezer,” an “old fogey” or a “fossil.”  We are proud of the contributions we made to “our century” and we appreciate being treated as an equal—socially, mentally and professionally.

We may be rich (whoopies, opals, grampies), or appallingly destitute.  Most of us are somewhere in between.  Collectively, we pour billions of dollars annually into the marketplace and provide jobs for millions of workers.

While some of us may choose to retire to the couch to watch TV, vegetate or fossilize many of us, agreeing with French author, Andre Maurois, who wrote: “Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form,” are postponing retirement, launching new careers or going back to school to further our education.

Although many of us remember when the term “horse power” meant the four-legged kind, we’ve learned to take electronic technology, space travel, moon landings, and studies of life on Mars in stride.  We’ve traded our lead pencils and treasured books for computers, TV’s, cell phones and other electronic devices which simplify our work, provide us with E-mail and instant access to worldwide news, weather, sports, entertainment and every kind of information imaginable.

            Although discrimination still lingers in sundry sectors, many in the business and professional world, valuing our dependability, our work ethic, the expertise we’ve acquired from years of experience in the work place, welcome us with open arms.              While some of us fume when a younger driver flips us the bird for driving too slow others, searching for adventure, become race car drivers, airplane pilots, motorcyclists, mountain-climbers, or take to the sea.

Despite widespread opinion otherwise, we don’t dwell on what it was like in “our” day.  We feel that this is our day.  We want to make the most of it.

What is it like to grow old, to be, as they say, on the “twilight side of the hill?”

Well, it isn’t as if we’d suddenly metamorphosed into a different person.  Actually, we’re the “end product” of accumulative change.

All of us who live to a ripe old age experience numerous changes—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  We make geographical changes, changes in career, mate and family; our particular generation has dealt with phenomenal technological changes.

With each change we learn to adjust.

How we feel about aging varies with each individual.

Some of us accept physical changes passively; others fight the invasions of old age with face and body lifts, physical fitness agendas, vitamins and Viagra.

Most of us, having accepted the person we’ve become, feel pretty good about ourselves.

As life expectancy increases (from 47 in 1900 to 59 during the Great Depression to 78.l in the year 2009), living to be 100 and beyond, isn’t the miracle it once was, and since we’re no longer destined to settle for the biblically allotted “four score years and ten,” we look forward to this millennium, its imperfections, strengths and new discoveries.

            Although we’re concerned with the dire fate of the earth—as predicted by mystic soothsayers—we are more concerned with the state of our soul.

Nor does it bother us that our younger counterparts consider us a little “quirky.”  Having “been there,” we know that even though they don’t understand us they will one day walk in our shoes.

God willing, as the years take their toll, they will deal with their “future shock” as courageously as we dealt with ours.

Regardless of age, physical or financial condition, we’re here for the duration (research shows that a Baby Boomer turns 62 every 7 seconds).

Like most of my contemporaries, I’m hoping to stick around—say for another forty or fifty years—not only because life is good, but because the future looks challenging and exciting; to resurrect a saying almost as old as I am, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

The Best Times  and Kansas Seniors





THE U.S. ARMY AIR FORCE

Although the nation is celebrating the 70th birthday of the U.S. Army Air Force on Sept 15, 2017, some would argue that it is actually 100 years old.

In April, 1917, as the increasing use of airplanes and military uses of aviation became apparent, during World War I, The U.S. Army Air Service was created as a separate branch of the Army.

On July 2, 1926,  The Army Air Service became The United States Army Air Corps, and on June 20, 1941, The Air corp became the United States Army Air Forces, giving it greater autonomy from the Army’s middle level command structure.

During WWII, The Air Corp remained as one of the combat arms of of the Army.

In 1947, it was legally abolished and the Department of the Air Force was established.



BECOMING A WRITER


The following may not be of interest to professional authors—or to those who specialize in content writing—but it may be helpful to writers whose aspiration is to write for magazines and newspapers.

I was once asked to do a presentation at the Kansas Author’s Club convention because, the president said, I have “an amazing body of work and expertise.”

Mulling that over, I realized that, although I’ve been writing for most of my life, I’d never considered anything I did extraordinary.  I merely did what I was supposed to do.

When I made the decision to become a professional writer, I didn’t expected miracles.  I started out by doing what every aspiring writer should do—I learned how to do the job.

I’ve seen numerous posts on LinkedIn and other social media by writers bemoaning the fact that they can’t find markets, that their manuscripts are not selling, that they cannot concentrate on their work, they have problems with procrastination, etc. etc.   (To my dismay, many of them also have problems with English grammar).

To me, this indicates that they haven’t “paid their dues.”

I know—anyone can write—but I believe there’s always more to be learned so, from the beginning, I took courses:  English courses, Literature courses, Composition courses, Creative Writing courses, courses on how to Write To Sell, College courses, Correspondence courses….  Any time the opportunity arose, I took another course.

One of my very first—a correspondence course from The University of Kansas—was, without doubt—the most helpful of all.  It launched my career and got me off on the right foot.  Included in the course was to read—and follow the instructions—in Dorothea Brande’s book “Becoming A Writer.”  I give Ms. Brande credit for the fact that I’ve never suffered from writer’s block.  It’s still in print and I advise every aspiring writer to read it and heed her words.

The fact that I have sold hundreds of articles, essays, stories and poems to magazines and newspapers worldwide doesn’t mean that I’m a great writer.  Far from it.  There are hundreds—make that thousands—of far better writers than I.  My advantage as a selling writer was that I’d learned, early on, how to find a market for practically everything I wrote.  I didn’t shoot for the “major” markets but I seldom wrote anything that didn’t sell.  And I never wrote for free.  If not money, there was always an equal exchange—advertising, promotion, product, etc.

A writer’s job isn’t an easy one.  If done right, it entails spending many hours at work other than writing.  I’ve probably spent as many hours studying markets as I’ve spent writing—studying magazines, their style, format, content, what they have published, their audience, and other factors a writer should take into consideration— bearing in mind meanwhile what I have to offer; information I have access to, an individual I might interview, what I might write that the editor would be interested in.

I particularly like to write human interest stories.  Few editors will turn down an interesting article about an interesting person, place or event, especially if it is slanted specifically for their publication.

For many of my articles, I took my own photos which gave me additional advantage in that it saved the publication the cost of hiring a photographer.

In recent years, I have concentrated on writing books.  I’ve published six and have several more in my “works in progress” file.

You’ll find my published books as well as a number of articles, essays and stories on the various pages on my website www.bell-pearson.com



MORE BECOMING A WRITER


I got my first computer in 2005.  (Until then my work, and my correspondence, was done on an electric typewriter).

Following is my very first email.  I sent it and numerous others, when I found that many of my (previously published) articles were being offered, by publications world wide, for sale on the internet.  It took me a while to contact all those who were selling them.

When I started the EDoc page on my website, I thought at first that, if the articles were of enough interest for people to buy, I’d sell them myself.  Then, since they have all been previously published, I thought again and decided “What the heck!  I’ve been paid for them once;” so I post them for free.

jerry.moore@thomson.com

Dear Mr. Moore,

I understand that you are distributing the above story.  Please be aware that I own the rights to this (and others) and have not given permission for them to be used elsewhere.  It would be in your best interest to contact me before selling any stories/articles/essays written by Edna Bell-Pearson.

If you are interested in buying the rights to this and/or other documents, contact me at this address.

Thank you for giving this your attention.

Edna Bell-Pearson 

I published my first book, Fragile Hopes, Transient Dreams, a year later and, as of now, have published a total of six books.  Have two more in progress.

Check them out (blurbs and excerpts) on my website www.bell-pearson.com.

Available in print and ebook at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, your favorite book store, Memory Lane Mall in Hardy and Far Out and Funky in Ash Flat, Arkansas.