Forget those resolutions, just do something nice!
By HERMAN BROWN
Okmulgee Times editor
New Year’s Day upon us.
With the arrival of January 1 comes the annual onslaught of resolutions.
We’ll promise to diet more and lose weight.
We’ll promise to stop smoking ... or drinking ... or both.
We’ll promise a lot of things. In reality, we’ll slip back into old habits by February - or March at the latest.
But maybe 2014 will be different.
Maybe we’ll follow through with our resolutions.
Perhaps we should change our approach this year.
What if we list a few things that will enrich other lives? Maybe we won’t get any thinner or healthier. But just maybe we’ll feel a little better about ourselves. Maybe we’ll feel better about our place in this world.
Here are a few things each of us could do to improve our little corner of the universe.
- Think of someone you know who is lonely or alone. Call them just to say hello and ask how they are doing. Let them know that they are not forgotten. Remind them that someone cares.
- Write a personal letter to a close friend. Don’t send it on FACEBOOK or by e-mail. Put a pen to paper and tell them why their friendship is important to you. Jot down a wonderful memory you two shared once upon a time. This personal message will do their heart a lot of good.
- Take a casual stroll in the fresh air at a local park or walking trail. Put away, for the moment, the stresses of your life. Forget the job for a second and remember some wonderful experiences in your life.
- If you have a little free time, volunteer to stop by a local nursing home. You can sing a few songs, read a book or just talk to the elderly people who live there. They will love you for the wonderful act of kindness.
- Call the local animal shelter and volunteer an hour or two some weekend. Maybe you could help clean up the shelter, or answer the phones, or do whatever these amazing people need from you. The pets they rescue depend entirely on human kindness - and the current volunteers are stretched way too thin.
- Send a thank-you note to the police department or fire department for their daily services that help to keep us safe and out of harm’s way. Don’t forget the other city crews who come out in the worst weather to restore our utilities.
- Visit the public library and get yourself lost in an exciting or peaceful book.
- Smile and be friendly to people. It cost nothing to be nice ... and you can make someone’s day by being friendly to them.
- Stop and reflect on the friendships you have in your life. Don’t take them for granted. Realize that in this busy, crazy world, time is the most precious gift we are given. Sharing this time with our dear friends makes each day a blessing.
- Be thankful for what you have. Maybe you are not rich in terms of money. But, just maybe, you are wealthy because of the people who share your life.
The best resolution is to do some little thing each day to make someone else happy. In December, you’ll look back and realize this was the best year of your life.
Loving bond with pets
remain over the years
By HERMAN BROWN
Okmulgee Times editor
I pulled into my evil mother-in-law’s driveway the other day and parked the car. As I exited the vehicle, I saw a friendly little yellow and white kitten coming my way.
“Wow, he looks just like Chipper,” I told my wife.
I reached down to pat the cat. I was instantly transported back over 50 years to my childhood. I can’t always remember where I leave my car keys. But I have no trouble remembering my own little Chipper. He was the first pet that ever owned me.
As a little boy, I remained at home while my siblings went to school. I would walk around all sad and lonely. But that changed one day when I was given this tiny yellow and white kitten. His name was Chipper and he won my heart.
I would spend the day playing with Chipper. We would go on walks together and have magical adventures. Best of all, I could tell Chipper secrets and know his lips would be sealed. He was my little buddy and was a one-boy cat.
I thought we would always be together. But, sadly, life doesn’t work like that. Chipper died one day and left me with a broken heart. I cried when we placed him in a shallow grave in the field beside our home. Many of our adventures had played out on this same patch of land.
“I will never forget you,” I promised on that horrible day so long ago.
And I never have!
There have been countless pets in my life over the years. Each one was special for different reasons. Each had won a piece of my heart. But, for many reasons, Chipper will always be my favorite pet.
I know first-hand the pain of losing a pet you love. That’s why I felt so bad the other day for my longtime friend Chris Freihofer and his wife, Beth.
Chris and Beth lost their pet dog, Fancy, on Jan. 25. Fancy was a terrier mix who would have turned 17 years old a few days ago.
Fancy was born in Beth’s lap on February 1, 1997 and passed away two weeks ago in Chris’ arms.
The gentle old dog was very much a part of their family. She gave and received a lot of love to and from her humans. I know their heart is aching for this loss. I hope the memories they made with Fancy will provide them with a little comfort in the coming days, weeks and months.
On a related topic, I have heard people express surprise over the pain owners feel when they lose a family pet.
“How could you feel that bad?” they say. “It was just a pet.”
I strongly disagree.
Fancy was far more than just a pet.
Chipper was far more than just a pet.
These sweet little animals gave us so much love and joy. They never judged us. They never wondered if our house was as big as the house next door. All they needed was a bite to eat, a bowl of water and a liberal dose of patting.
They were always happy to see us at the end of the day. Unlike my adorable children, our pets never developed a case of teen-angst.
I hoped that Chipper would live forever. When he died, it was real pain that I felt deep in my heart. I was a little boy who was crushed at the loss. Seeing the little kitten the other day was a jolt to my senses. He looked exactly like my Chipper did all these years ago.
As I petted the kitten the other day, I lived up to my promise. I have never forgotten Chipper after all these years.
People who don’t own pets will never understand the bond that develops between the animal and the human.
If you’ve ever had a Chipper or a Fancy, you get it. Those bonds will remain long after our pets are gone from this earth.
From my viewpoint, complaints of town being ‘Little Chicago’ are far off base
We’ve all heard nasty comments about Okmulgee.
The town is ‘nothing but a Little Chicago.’
While there is crime here, it is still NEWS in Okmulgee when we have a murder. The same can’t be said Chicago. The ‘Windy City’ records slayings on a daily – almost hourly – basis.
How about public corruption?
Chicago is famous for jailing power-hungry politicians. The state prison there could set aside a separate wing for officials doing time.
How so does Little Chicago compare? You can count on no fingers how many Okmulgee city officials have been sent to the pokey for corruption. Even so, public figures here are peppered with allegations, accusations and charges.
Rumor and gossip are often sufficient evidence for small-minded people to attack from the bushes. Okmulgee’s court of public opinion often hands down ‘guilty’ verdicts with little or no evidence.
Don’t get me wrong. If someone has evidence of crime or corruption, they should report it. There will be cases where civil or legal action is warranted. If you know of a crime or misdeed, step forward and use the proper forum to report it. Let the system work to pluck the bad apples from the community barrel.
Most annoying are the mean-spirited and unfounded complaints about Okmulgee. To hear some tell it, this town is a horrible place to live. I could not disagree more.
I am not a native of this town. However, I have lived here for 25 years and am proud to call it my home. If the Lord’s willing, I will take my final breath in the 74447 zip code.
I am so proud that my children grew up in this community. They know no other hometown and that is fine with me.
Over the years, our family has generated a million wonderful memories in this little town. I smile when I recall loading 4-year-old Emily into our Toyota and driving up North Miami to her Head Start classes. She met other tiny people who would become her classmates and lifelong friends.
Emily was quite the socialite, even back then. She would spend her entire day with her friends. Afterwards, we’d pick her up and drive her home. Emily would go into the house and within seconds she would get on the phone and call her Head Start friends.
“So, what have you been doing?” I heard Emily say. I was thinking “She couldn’t have done much. You left her just five minutes ago!”
I learned a lesson that day: Girls love talking on the phone.
My son Aaron would follow that same path to Head Start three years later. He was a lot more bashful than Emily and his first trip was far more emotional. I can still see him walking stiff-legged into the classroom on his first day at Head Start. Watching from the doorway, my heart broke when I saw my scared little boy sitting in class – with a single tear rolling down his cheek. He did not want his mom and dad to leave him there with all these strangers. Luckily, he had two wonderful teachers in Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Hammon. They quickly turned his experience into a joyful daily route.
The only trouble Aaron ever got into at Head Start was his determination to not eat certain vegetables at lunch. The Head Start rule was that you did not have to eat all of your vegetables, but you were required to taste them. Aaron balked at that rule. The teacher told me of the incident and asked me to encourage Aaron to follow the rule.
As we walked to the car, I told my son to try real hard to at least taste the vegetables. I said we don’t have to tell mom about your incident. It would be our little secret.
Our little secret lasted about two minutes!
As we climbed in the car, my wife glanced back at Aaron and innocently asked “how was school, buddy?” His gaze shot straight down at the floorboard and he muttered in a very guilty tone “I didn’t get in trouble today.”
Terri immediately learned of the Great Vegetable Incident of 1993.
As for me, I learned that Aaron is no better at keeping a secret than his dear old dad!
Our youngest daughter, Amber, skipped the Head Start experience. We chose to wait until she was old enough for kindergarten to send her to school. Our baby was ready to go … but we were not ready to let go.
Amber is what some folks call a social butterfly. She loves people – and loves talk to them. It is not as important that they talk to her, only that they be willing to listen.
She never avoided the spotlight in school settings. Some kids are terrified to step up to face a crowd during a program or show. Not Amber … as she was perfectly comfortable in the spotlight. This was evident during her first Christmas program. She was chosen to hold a microphone to sing the songs. The other students stood back slightly and performed as backup singers.
Everything went along fine until a boy attempted to move in front of Amber - to get close to her microphone. Amber was having no part of that. She got an elbow in his chest and gently eased him back into the background.
Amber has pretty-much been in the spotlight ever since kindergarten.
These memories of my children were all made right here in Okmulgee. The memories provide roots and glue that will forever link our family to this town.
My kids walked the halls of every school in this town. They were students at Banneker, Westside, Eastside, Okmulgee Middle School and Okmulgee High School. They each collected a diploma and earned alumni status in the Bulldog club.
Many of our Okmulgee memories have included the kids and the schools. However, these memories extend far beyond the school buildings. We have spent hours at Kiddy Lake, fishing for those pesky little fish, playing on the playground equipment, and eating picnic sandwiches and then throwing the left-over food to the geese.
We have bowled many times on the lanes of the now-deceased Beeline Bowling Alley.
We have huddled in the darkness of the Orpheum Theater to watch entertaining movies.
We have watched countless football games at historic Harmon Field – from OJFL action to the high school showdowns of our beloved Bulldogs.
We’ve cheered our young people in baseball and softball at Bateman Park.
We’ve attended a ton of basketball games at the middle school and at Brock Gym.
We’ve also sat inside the YMCA to watch our children compete in the indoor soccer leagues.
Our kids have splashed around in the Aquatic Park swimming pool.
We have walked more than a few miles on the path at the community park.
We’ve walked the route around the Creek Nation Council House in support of the Relay for Life event. We’ve also done the same at Harmon Field and Brock Gym.
We’ve watched our daughters and countless other students perform in Craig Bridges’ OHS Theater Department plays.
We’ve tapped our feet to seemingly a million school band concerts at various locations.
We’ve quietly watch our children compete in academic meets in junior high and high school.
We’ve been nervous wrecks while watching spelling bee competitions at our local schools and at OSU-Okmulgee.
We have attended and enjoyed a bunch of Pecan Festivals in downtown Okmulgee.
We’ve check out a ton of books at the Okmulgee Public Library. We’ve also paid a few overdue fines and maybe even bought a lost book or two (or more).
We’ve invested a small fortune at the Pecan Festival. We’ve carried home awards in the youth turtle races and hula-a-hoop contests. We’ve been face-painted. We’ve bought our share of those tiny bottles filled with colorful sand. We’ve collected festival tee-shirts and other must-have items. Each time I come across one of those items, it brings a flood of memories about our life in this little town.
Do we have problems in Okmulgee? Sure, we do. But the same could be true of every town in America. I suggest we do what we have done in the past – come together and find solutions.
This is NOT Little Chicago. This is a wonderful place to live. It’s a wonderful place to make memories … memories to cherish for a lifetime.
I failed to get them cards for Brothers and Sisters Day or National Sibling Day
I recently saw an item that mentioned Brothers and Sisters Day. I know there are a million holidays, but I had never heard of Brothers and Sisters Day. It is observed on May 2 for those actually aware of the holiday.
My research of Brothers and Sisters Day made me feel pretty dumb. Come to find out it is “similar to the National Sibling Day held on April 10th.”
So there’s a National Sibling Day, too?
Is that right?
In all my years, I have never once bought a National Sibling Day card. But then again, I have never received one either!
It’s not like I didn’t have plenty of brothers and sisters. I’m the youngest of Lawson and Ollie Brown’s seven children. My entry into the world followed siblings Mary, Bernice, Leon David, Irene, Clayton and Jerry.
I’d like to think that my parents had me and stopped with perfection. It’s not true, but I’d like to think it.
My brothers don’t remember it that way. They recall my parents muttering ‘never again’ while gazing upon my adorable newborn face. Perhaps the comments were misunderstood during the wild celebration that surely accompanied my birth.
In any case, I grew up in a home short on money but long on love. Our neighbors lived in similar circumstances, so we never realized we were poor. Our little town of Holdenville was a magical place for children to live. It was not perfect – but it was close.
We packed a million memories into those childhood years. We spent countless hours catching crawdads in the creek running beside our house. We built secret forts in the open field next to our yard.
We raided Mrs. Gale’s backyard garden and made off with watermelons and cantaloupes. We thought we were clever swashbuckling pirates. Come to find out, Mrs. Gale always knew of our visits. She canned some of her harvest, but gave away most of it to her non-pirate neighbors.
Looking back now, I realize that my brothers and sisters were there for every important event in my childhood. It was something I took for granted back then. Now that I’ve lost Leon David, Mary and Bernice, those memories are what I have left to cherish. Thankfully, I still have Irene, Clayton and Jerry.
As we grow older, we all realize nothing is stronger than family. We are grateful to share those memories of our childhood.
My brothers and sisters made me laugh … and they made me cry. They would fight with me. But they would also fight FOR me. I never, for one second, wondered if they loved me. I hope they were just as certain that I loved them.
I was so blessed to have Irene for a sister. She was the youngest of the girls in our family. As the older siblings, Mary and Bernice would sometimes have to enforce the family rules when watching us boys. Irene was more like that grandmother that gives you everything - and always treats you like a king. If she had money, you had money. If she knew you wanted something, she would do her best to see that you got it. She has the kindest heart and, to this day, she always puts others ahead of her own needs.
Irene liked to take her brothers with her – one at a time – when she went places. That was always fun for Clayton, Jerry and me. My favorite memories are when she landed a job in the concession stand at the Grand Theater. Her boss (Granny Gwen) would allow her to bring one brother to the movie theater each night she worked. We’d take turns going with her. Each trip would involve a bag of popcorn and a soda to enjoy while watching the latest movie on the big screen. Man, I felt like the mayor of movie-town.
One of the saddest memories I have of being with Irene happened on the trip home from the movies. She was nearing graduation from high school and looking ahead to her future. She was telling me about those plans when she broke me the news. She was going to leave home to attend school in Oregon. I was a little boy and had never even thought about our family breaking apart. I never dreamed of seeing my brothers and sisters growing up and moving away. I don’t recall how I took the news that night. I can’t remember if I cried when she told me – or later when I was alone.
As for Clayton, I have always looked up to him as my big brother. He taught me so many things in our childhood. He taught me how to play baseball and how to ride a bicycle. He taught me how to fold the newspapers for his paper route. He taught me how to swim. He taught me how to drive a motorcycle … and finally taught me how to drive a car.
One of the more painful lessons was when he taught me and Jerry Lynn how to box. In fact, I recall seeing him bringing a pair of boxes from the car. I was sitting on the porch and thought he was carrying toys. Instead, he had bought two pair of boxing gloves and was “more than happy” to teach me the fine art of boxing. Being the baby of the family, I took ‘lessons’ from both older brothers. I ate my share of leather before the boxing gloves somehow disappeared. I’ll admit nothing.
Clayton was never one to shy away from a fist-fight during his teen years. He was not a big, strong guy. Even so, he more than made up for any shortcomings by his speed and raw strength. He had a little of a reputation for a guy who would take on just about anyone. My buddies thought he was something special because of it. One night, we were at a baseball game and some big, strong dude was pushing around some kids my age. We were in the parking lot being intimidated by this guy when Clayton drove up in his 1949 Chevy Deluxe. He saw me and came over to talk. That’s when he noticed the guy pushing around some kids half his size. Clayton was about a foot shorter than the bully. But he took immediate steps to end the bullying. He told the guy if he was so tough that maybe he’d be interested in fighting him later that night at the river bridge. The guy stopped in his tracks and stared at Clayton in shock and disbelief. The bully sneered he would be happy to fight Clayton and asked what time they would fight.
“Midnight,” my brother told him as the bully stepped into his car and started to drive away!
“You had better be there,” Clayton said. “Don’t make me come looking for you!”
All my buddies were thanking Clayton for saving them from the bully. I, however, was more worried about my brother fighting that big, strong guy at the river. I asked if he was really going out there at midnight.
“No,” he said, laughing. “That guy would beat me to death!”
I just smiled and shook my head.
My big brother was really something!
Clayton later taught me how to drive a car in his ’49 Chevy. It was a 3-speed standard and I was so short that I had to look through the steering wheel to see the road. Each time I would shift gears I would drop down to push in the clutch, and then come back up to see the road again. That was some of the happiest times of my life.
A few months later, we were at our home on South Creek Street. Clayton told me he had something to tell me. We walked in a strange silence about a half-block from our house. He stopped on the sidewalk and turned to face me. I did not know what to expect – but sure didn’t expect what was coming.
“I’m moving out,” he said. “I’m leaving home.”
I was stunned. I could not imagine my life without him on a daily basis. I remember turning to a big tree next to me and starting to cry. I covered my eyes with my arms and leaned into the tree. I had not been so heartbroken since Irene told me she was leaving home. Luckily, he remained around Holdenville for a while so I did get to see him from time to time.
In 1970, my oldest brother (Leon David) died in July. My father died in September. A horrible year got even worse in October when Clayton went off to the Marines in Oceanside, California. Our family would never be the same.
With the changes in our lives, it was now pretty-much just me and Jerry Lynn at home with my mother and two adult sisters.
As for Jerry, he is the brother everyone brags about. In school, you always heard classmates saying ‘my brother can beat up your brother.’ In my case, it was TRUE. Jerry Lynn could really beat up almost anyone close to his age – and many others older and bigger. From our earlier boxing lessons, I quickly learned diplomacy was my best option in arguments with Jerry. If he was getting angry with me, he’d offer a simple warning of “I will hurt you and I will not play!”
Jerry was also a far superior athlete than me. I would make the summer league baseball all-star teams each year. Even so, there was never any question of which Brown was the real star. Each time I would accomplish something grand, my brother would upstage me. We played on different teams in the same league. One week my team went to Wewoka and I hit a long drive to left field that came inches from going over the fence for a home run. Sadly, the ball hit the railing on the top of the fence and bounced back inside the field. I was about 14 and was really proud of my longest hit. Jerry’s team went over to Wewoka later in the week. He showed up little brother by hitting two home runs over the center field fence in the same game. News of his accomplishment reached me at my game in Holdenville. All I could do was shake my head and smile.
While I was a little disappointed in being inferior to him, I was still very proud to be his brother. I realized that Jerry was more talented than just about everyone – and not just me. That made playing second fiddle to him a whole lot easier to accept.
He is still my hero.
These days, Jerry and I both live in Oklahoma. We have the opportunity to see each other fairly often. Irene and Clayton live in distant states, so we stay connected mostly by talking on the phone. Each conversation is one that I cherish more than ever.
As we grow older, we realize how much it means to be family. I am so blessed to call Irene my sister and Clayton and Jerry my brothers.
I didn’t get them anything on National Sibling Day in April. Nor did I get them anything on Brothers and Sisters Day in May. Even so, I hope they know that I love them more than life. I am honored to be their baby brother.