My family roots are strong throughout Oklahoma and Kansas – especially in the small oil town of Ponca City, Oklahoma – more recently made famous by the Food Network Chef, Ree Drummond and her TV show, “Pioneer Woman”.
As a child, I remember going to family reunions in the city park which has a statue of a woman and her young child, appropriately called “The Pioneer Woman”. The Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City is “dedicated to preserving women’s history and showcasing the historical and continued influence of women on the development of Oklahoma and the United States. The pioneer spirit embodied by the phrase “I See No Boundaries” is prominent throughout the museum. The museum’s exhibits showcase Oklahoma women who were pioneers in their respective fields, both on a state and national level.”
I grew up along-side strong women including my grandmother (one of 13 children), her many sisters, my mother and my sister. Although there were also men in the family – they were always either working the ranch or serving overseas in the military – it was the women I remember most who were creating a constant flurry of activity. The women ALWAYS worked hard. One owned a restaurant, one owned a hair salon – others ran the ranches and farms which kept us all fed, clothed and nurtured.
I recently ran across my grandmother’s Cherokee Nation card from the state of Oklahoma, declaring her one-eighth Cherokee blood line. I recall her lamenting that “when the government bought the land from the Cherokees, all the money went to those having at least one-quarter Cherokee blood – all I got was a bag of flour and a big box of raisins!”
Looking back, I see now where I get MY perseverance and drive. My elder female role models walked the Trail of Tears, lived through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. More often-than-not, they raised their families without a male partner around to help. They just did what needed to be done and occasionally sipped a bit from the still out back.
If you are ever in the mood for a road trip, take a drive to Ponca City, OK – originally part of the old Route 66. Stop by the Pioneer Woman Museum – although my relatives may not be pictured there, they will be there in spirit . . . the pioneer spirit.