Poems in the haze of bushfires Part III

Poems in the haze of bushfires Part III
25-27 December 2019
Camping at Pinch River, Kosciusko National Park NSW

Found objects
at the camp site
A footy ball
A rusted hammer
Size twelve men’s black canvas shoes
A green and purple tennis ball
Sunglasses missing one lens
What else has been
left behind?

Camp site Pinch River, Kosciusko National Park, Australia

What hopes                                                                                                 dreams
prayers
words
hugs
games
music
occurred
at this campground?

Were lives changed
enriched
enjoyed
from being here?
Who is to know?
Only trash
burned out campfires
left behind

Someone built
a rock dam
We enjoy the pool
as do the birds
kangaroos
who come by
for a drink
and watch us
watching

Pamela crossing the Pinch River, Kosciusko National Park

Sadness comes and goes
Beauty of the trees
the creek
Sadness of the grey haze
Smoke of bushfires
cover the sky
devour the land
Where is the future?

Poems in the haze of bushfires Part II

Poems in the haze of bushfires Part II
25-27 December 2019
Camping at Pinch River, Kosciusko National Park NSW

Climbing up a hill
through grey trees
stepping over residue
Rabbit droppings
Horse manure
Kangaroo dung
Huge white bones
of a dead horse

What is alive
in this forest
ants
cicadas
occasional birds

What is alive
in the flowing creek
No fish
No frogs
A bird takes a drink
A kangaroo hops by
A red and orange wasp
flies over

Poems in the haze of bushfires Part I

Poems in the haze of bushfires
25-27 December 2019
Camping at Pinch River, Kosciusko National Park NSW

25 December 2019

Blue sky above
after weeks of
smoky haze
The world on fire
or at least
a continent on fire
The glory of clouds
only visible when
against blue sky
The sun
shining through
spreading out
its rays
after days
as a red ball
surrounded by
grey smoke haze
The sounds of
the river
and the cicadas

 

Pinch River, Kosciusko National Park, Australia

In the stream
water rushing over
a rock dam
Cicadas crescendo
Orange ball sun
Shrouded in smoke haze
Bushfire season

Cleaner birds
Black feathers
Red eyes
White tipped wings
when in flight
Waiting in trees
Will they drink
at the stream
if I leave

Dried up forest
Adult kangaroo
Two juvenile roos
Forage by the creek

Juvenile Kangaroo foraging by the stream

Stream colour changes
brown green gold
Boulder colour changes
grey blue orange pink
The sun decides

Oklahoma OK

Previous to this trip researching about my father’s life for my novel, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, I had never spent time in Oklahoma. Whenever I heard the word “Oklahoma”, I thought of the musical.

Oklahoma! is the first musical written by the well-known team of composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is set in Oklahoma Indian Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906. The original Broadway production of Oklahoma! opened on March 31, 1943 and was a box-office smash. (source: Wikipedia).

One summer during my childhood in Kansas City, Missouri, my parents bought season tickets to the Starlight Theatre in Swope Park. Starlight Theatre has an outdoor stage and seating. It has operated continuously since 1951. Having been renovated several times over the decades, Starlight currently has a capacity of about 8,000 people.  I saw Oklahoma!  at the Starlight Theatre.

https://www.kcstarlight.com

I consider myself tone deaf and have a poor memory for music. But somehow, even after many decades, I can still hear the lyrics of Oklahoma! somewhere inside my head.

The lyrics come bouncing back, instantaneously when anyone mentions the word Oklahoma.

Ohhhklahoma,
where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain
And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet

When the wind comes right behind the rain.

But I only remember the opening lines (above) and the ending

You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!
Oklahoma O.K.

As a child, I never thought much about Oklahoma as being the birthplace of my father, W. Lon Hutchison, and the home of my grandmother, Letha Yates. She was occasionally mentioned and even visited us once in Kansas City. There was never any mention of any grandfather, aunts or uncles.

For me, Oklahoma was a mythic place, based on the musical, much as Kansas is considered by some to be mythical based on the book, The Wizard of Oz.

Having visited a small corner of northeast Oklahoma looking for information about my father and his family, do I think I “know” Oklahoma? Of course not. The words of the musical are indelibly linked in my mind and have not been erased or subsumed by my visit.

 

 “Little Italy” Krebs, Oklahoma

In Tulsa Oklahoma in the 1925 probate records of my grandfather, E.S. Hutchison (the murdered “Love Pirate”), I discovered that W. Lon Hutchison, my father, the firstborn child, had been disinherited by his father. Many decades later, my father did the same to his firstborn child – me. In this family history, I found a pattern of revenge and rejection that I want to change.

That’s why I went on this journey – to uncover the mysteries of my father’s life as a basis for reconciliation. The journey has an end point: writing a novel, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, based on events in my father’s life.

Continuing my search for information, I left Tulsa, Oklahoma and drove to Krebs. I could hardly tell where the larger town of McAlester Oklahoma ended and the tiny town of Krebs began, except for a sign, The City of Krebs welcomes you.

My father was born in Krebs in 1907, when Oklahoma was still Indian Territory. Today Krebs is a very small town in what was once coal country.

The population of Krebs is about 2,000. Because of several restaurants and a specialized grocery story, Krebs has chosen the nickname “Little Italy”.

According to Wikipedia, Krebs was founded in the late 1800s. The first post office was established in 1886. The town began as a coal-mining camp, housing European immigrants who came to work in the mines.

Street scene, Krebs, Oklahoma

On January 7, 1892, an explosion in the Osage Coal & Mining Company’s No. 11 mine killed 100 workers and injured another 150.

Here’s a photo of the memorial to that explosion listing all those killed in the coal mine explosion.

I visited the Krebs Heritage Museum, a hodgepodge of stuff from peoples’ attics. I found a record of the birth of the Gilpin girls – my grandma’s maiden name, but nothing more. I bought a tee shirt of the Krebs Heritage Museum and went to look for a cheap motel to spend the night.

 

The next day I left Krebs to drive back to Vinita to find out if the woman at the Forensic Center had found any records relating to my dad… She hadn’t.

Weary of travel and digging for information, feeling somewhat frustrated, I drove back to my friends’ home, outside Lawrence, Kansas.

Talking to the Dead

I had gone to the Tulsa County Court House to try to find out more about my grandfather’s killer. Instead at an annex, I found probate records of my grandfather’s estate. I was surprised by the size of my grandfather’s estate, (over $200,000, a sizable fortune in 1925) and that he had disinherited his first born child, my father.

Disappointed that I hadn’t been able to find out more about my grandfather’s killer, my next stop was nearby – the Roseville Cemetery.

Through online records I found out that my father had been buried at the Roseville Cemetery. I got there while the cemetery was open, but the office was closed. In the very extensive grounds, I could not find my family’s burial plot. There was no guiding information posted. It would have to wait for the next day.

Hutchison plot, Roseville Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The next morning, the office was open and I got directions to my family’s burial plot. With some difficulty, I eventually found the Hutchison family plot. The Hutchison plot was  right next to the Purdy family plot, which was the surname of my grandfather’s killer.

I avoid cemeteries and have never attended a funeral, but I stayed awhile, talking out loud with everyone who is buried there, including my dad. There were gravestones for my grandfather, grandmother, great uncle, uncle, aunt and my father.

Gravestone of my grandfather, the murdered “Love Pirate”

I went from grave to grave, greeting each person. I spoke with each of them and shared what I was doing. I told them I was researching my father’s history to understand the man I didn’t know and that I was writing a novel, Tracking the Human, based on events in his life. I explained to them that my project was a work in progress for reconciliation for all of us.

Gravestone of my father

Driving out of the Rosehill Cemetery, I noticed a gun shop and firing range directly across the street.

Gun shop across the street from Roseville Cemetery

My next stop would be Krebs, Oklahoma, a very small town just outside McAlester Oklahoma, where my father was born in 1907. I had no particular leads, but thought I would go and take a look at his birthplace.

Disinherited

Having gone to Tulsa Oklahoma to find out about the death of my grandfather, I was shocked to learn how he had died. On January 14, 1925, in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, my grandfather, E.S. Hutchison, age 43, had his brains blown out by a jealous husband, Charles Eugene Purdy,  (see Blog 18: Love Pirate Murder).

To try to find out more about my grandfather, I went to the annex on the outskirts of Tulsa where probate records were kept.

                                           Tulsa County Annex Building

I shook my head in disbelief at what I found in the probate files. I was astounded that the estate of my grandfather in 1925 was worth over USD $200,000!! A fortune in those days.

There were pages and pages of disputes about who should get the money – the children of his first wife, my grandmother, who had three children, (the first born was my father, W. Lon Hutchison), his second wife, who had four children and was living in Arkansas or the woman Helen Purdy, who was with my grandfather when he was shot and killed  by her estranged  husband, Charles Eugene Purdy.  A  handwritten will left specific sums to his mother, sister and children from both wives, and made Helen Purdy his executor.

The story became more complex reading through over 70 pages of charges and counter-charges, mainly between E.S. Hutchison’s second wife, Mary Hutchison and Helen Purdy, who had been his employee and personal secretary prior to his murder.  In the depositions included in the files, Helen Purdy is accused by Mary Hutchison of conspiring with her ex-husband Charles Eugene Purdy to defraud my grandfather of his considerable fortune.

The issue of why Charles Eugene Purdy shot my grandfather, despite the “Love Pirate” stories, became less clear because the documents state that Purdy had filed for divorce from his wife some months prior to the shooting.  Also at one point, according to the probate documents,  he had received tens of thousands of dollars from my grandfather because Purdy had somehow contrived to have my grandfather  briefly put in jail.

The probate files included a copy of my grandfather’s  hard-to-decipher handwritten will that I forced myself to read and re-read. My grandfather wrote that his firstborn son, my father, W. Lon Hutchison, would get $100 from his estate, but only if my father never returned to Tulsa until after his father had died!

My father, the firstborn child, had been disinherited by his father. Decades later he did the same to his firstborn child – me. I was beginning to get the picture. The more I found out, the more I wanted to try to stop the passing on of rejection generation after generation within this family.

Have you found a pattern of rejection in your family?

What have you tried or are trying to do about it?

Your comments are most welcome!