Cool temperatures. Lights dancing through the evening sky. I took my time strolling the Choctaw Capitol Grounds on Friday evening after watching the powwow Grand Entry. (See video snippets on my Facebook page.)
As I passed the large old brick Council House, I turned my head to follow its clean lines, the red mansard roof contrasted by the fading blue sky as night crept over the Potato Hills surrounding Tuskahoma, Oklahoma.
I hadn’t been away from our booth much in two days. It felt good to stretch my legs, to take in the sights and sounds of the four day Choctaw Labor Day festival. There in the distance was the Ferris Wheel at the carnival, and I smiled, thinking about researching Mr. Ferris’ Wheel last year for my novel (Traitors) set in 1893.
Along the road, children scampered around people with their dogs, and I thought of being a little girl at this festival with my brother, Mama, Daddy and our little black Chinese pug, Coal Younger. All night gospel singings where I’d fall asleep on the cool bleacher under the covering of the huge amphitheater. Living memories.
I moved along to what I still consider a new building, though it's been there for years now. I called the Arts and Crafts building “home” for five days: set up on Thursday, then three full, twelve hour days Friday through Sunday, before wrapping up a great morning and tearing down Monday afternoon.
In that building, I met wonderful people. I reunited with people we’ve met along the journey. I told stories. Lots and lots of stories. Then someone interrupted me.
“Don’t you believe a word she says!”
I turned to see who was harassing me, only to find Chief Gary Batton. I chided him while shaking his hand and told him he should give me some kind of rousing endorsement, which he did. I appreciate his support over the years.
I loved getting to see Francine Locke Bray and talk about the Choctaw horses. Choctaw artist Carole Ayers and her husband of 57 years, Don, are two people I always want to hug more than once.
There was Rebecca Good at the worship service in the Bertram Bobb Memorial Chapel. Ms. Rebecca speaks such beautiful words to me, like these: “Every time you open your mouth, it reveals a piece of your heart.”
At the Choctaw Code Talker Association Meeting that Sunday, I was able to meet most of the board in person and share about my upcoming novel. I so appreciate their willingness to help with research and give me feedback on the manuscript.
During that day (Sunday) I was able to run around with my second cousin, Stacy, who is working on her first book. We went up to the second floor of the Council House to breeze through the Art Show and see my mama’s piece. A winner in my eyes.
Sunday night, we stuck out the “Be Back Soon!” sign and stepped out the side door to catch snippets of the Jason Crabb concert. FYI, Choctaws are a little Crabb crazy. Every year, Jason says that the Tuskahoma concert is the one he and his band most look forward to. We love us some Jason Crabb. ’Nuff said.
Monday morning was the first time I missed the ceremonies, State of the Nation address, and Mr. Tim Tingle’s storytelling. But thankfully, it was streamed live and available for me to watch the next day at home when I couldn’t get off the couch.
In summary: four nights in a tent, lukewarm showers in the bathhouse, five packed days of non-stop talking, laughing, stories, and hoarseness. That was the 2017 Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival for me.
P.S. Did I mention how much I love my mama and the path God has given us to walk together?