Thursday, July 14, 2011

Leaving Oklahoma

Too Many Mornings

By Fred Owens

Too many mornings I woke up in different places, because we kept moving.

We lived in Kansas, Chicago, Mississippi, Texas, Los Angeles, the Skagit Valley in Washington state, Boston, back to Chicago, then to Africa and back to the Skagit Valley one more time

It doesn’t make much sense to move around like that. It was poor thinking on my part, but at least we got out of Oklahoma.

That’s why this story starts in Kansas in July of 1976, the day we crossed the state line and got out of Oklahoma.

But I have to back track a bit.

We had done a lot of traveling before that – hitchhiking around the country and riding freight trains, but in February of 1976, Susan Simple and I got married. We decided to settle down and live like normal people in a house and have children and get jobs. We decided to do all that stuff.

That was our plan. This memoir is the story of how that didn’t happen. We tried to stay in one place, but we kept moving anyway.

City Hall in Chicago

We didn’t spend much time in the big cities, but we liked them. We got married on February 14, 1976 at City Hall downtown in Chicago. Two or three hundred couples got married that day – they bring in extra judges for the occasion. Reporters with TV cameras came to cover this annual wedding extravaganza.

We didn’t know that, but everybody wants to get married on Valentine’s Day. Susan said it would be easy to remember our anniversary. My sister and her beatnik husband had come in from Venice Beach in California and they served as witnesses. My mom was there too.

Susan wore a black embroidered Choctaw wedding dress – her Oklahoma heritage. I wore a brown corduroy jacket and tie.

After the wedding, after waiting in line for two hours as the couples got married one after the other, we drove back to the suburbs and had a fancy lunch at the Tower Restaurant in Skokie.

A day or two later, we got on the train for Durant, Susan’s hometown in Oklahoma.

Durant was a town of 10,000 people. They grow peanuts in the red-dirt countryside. They had a large granite peanut as a statue on the courthouse lawn.

We stayed at her parents’ ranch. Bill Simple was a vet and they own
ed a hundred acres or so and some Hereford cattle. Her folks put us up in the guest bedroom in a separate wing of the house and they loaned us an old black pickup truck.
Her Dad put me work, but I didn’t take to it. We mainly slept late and smoked pot. I should have worked harder. I don’t know what was wrong with me. We didn’t want to deal with her folks on a long-term basis, but we were there, and since we weren’t planning on staying forever, there’s no reason we couldn’t dance to their music.

So I should have gotten up early every time and gone out to the field – that would have made the old man happy. He could have said good things about me in town, without lying too much. And poured me a drink after work, and we could sit in the easy chairs in front of the TV and talk.

I could have put up with that for a month or two.

But Susan had issues with her parents and it was troublesome and complicated.

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