BARE BONES


BARE BONES

by Sharon Stevens

 

I inherited so many cases of books this past week. A friend with a passion for history and heritage was moving and needed to unload instead of transporting to the new home. We packed them up into boxes and I took them to our Buffalo Bookstore until I could sort them out. The actual number of tomes doesn’t matter. My husband says there are too many, and I think there is never enough. But he didn’t see all the treasures I put in the box.

One of the books in the mix was Don Taylor & Jeanne Smalling Archer’s book, “Up Against The Wal-Marts.” This wonderful book was written by a man who was strong in the Canyon Economic Development Corporation in Canyon Texas, and works toward helping small businesses compete with the mega-giants by simple and basic means. I found an interesting quote in the chapter on survival strategies… “Remember that when you misspend one dollar you really wasted two-the dollar you misspent and the dollar you could have spent well.”

Another gem I found was the 75th Commemorative Edition Special Anniversary Issue of the July 1997 New Mexico magazine. One of the stories was written by Sheila Tryk with photography by Ralph Looney. “O’Keeffe’s World” celebrated thoughts of O’Keeffe with interviews and insight into her life. The story briefly mentioned when she taught in Amarillo, but didn’t mention her time at the college, which is now WTAMU or where she found her passion in Palo Duro Canyon. I found it interesting that later on after she married that she left her husband in New York for months at a time while she pursued her passion at Ghost Ranch.

Each year, when O’Keefe went back into her husband’s orbit, she took mementos of the West. Stones, weathered and worn smooth. Artificial flowers, (“They were popular then, and there were some very lovely ones being sold in the country stores here.”) And desert bleached bones. “To me they are as beautiful as anything I know,” she once wrote. “To me they are strangely more living than the animals walking around—-hair, eyes, and all, with their tails twitching. The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the the desert even tho’ it is vast and empty and untouchable—and knows no kindness with all its beauty….I took back a barrel of bones,” she says now, her eyes amused at the recollection. “I remember it cost me 16 dollars by freight.” One wonders at her husband’s reaction to this delivery.”

O’Keefe was able to find her passion within bleached bones. Anyone who has ever seen her paintings of skulls knows what she sees within. Just like my boxes of books, I can find treasures among the words. Whether its a quote, passage, or sentence…all pull me to a story or memory, a sweet reminder of what touches my heart day in and day out. I take nothing for granted, and never overlook a single moment.

I truly believe that to me if I leave a stone unturned, that it represents a misspent dollar that I could have spent well. As a writer, just like O’Keefe as an artist, I can take an object and use my imagination and creativity to weave it into a story with tangible ties.

Even though O’Keefe used bare bones and stones to express her soul, I just happen to cherish anything I find in a box of books.

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ADDRESS UNKNOWN


ADDRESS UNKNOWN

By Sharon Stevens

I was putting the finishing touches on my husband’s Santa coat for his performance as Cowboy Santa for The Hide Out. Earlier in the day I had read the Canyon News article about Gene Vaughn Morrison and Bill Anderson and the musical drama TEXAS. This instantly brought me back to another time and place years ago.

The Canyon High School drama department was performing “Becket” as their one-act play, and Kathy Gist and I were working on the costumes. The art teacher, Charlotte Brantley, had bought all the material and we were sewing the final pieces. I will never forget Gene standing beside me while I hand stitched the final button on his cape for his role as the Bishop.

On the spur of the moment Kathy and I decided to take the opportunity to ride the Greyhound bus to see their performance in Odessa. We got off the bus and caught a cab and gave the cab driver the address of where we needed to go at the college where the one-acts were being performed. This driver meandered through the campus and drove into this entrance and that, taking the scenic tour on our dime. We had no clue where we were going, but we thought he did. He truly knew where he was headed, but was hesitant about getting us there.

When we finally pulled up to the theatre entrance he told us the charge was twenty dollars. In 1971 this was good money, especially for me as I was living on my own, paying all my expenses while working part time at the nursing home. This money represented probably a week’s worth, no maybe a month’s worth of groceries for me. We had no choice. Kathy and I divvied up our dollars and gave it to the cabbie. Even worse than losing so much money was that we were so late we missed the performance, which meant we didn’t get to see all our hard work come to life onstage.

Kathy Gist sat beside me again at the Panhandle Professional Writers Frontiers in Writing Conference as she won Best of Show for her story. The judges stood in front of all of us gathered and excitedly told Kathy to send her story to several different magazines. They even listed the addresses of where to write for writer’s guidelines as well as where to submit her stories. Kathy went on to have this story published with Guidepost Magazine and her award was to attend the Guidepost Short Story conference in New York.

As writers we have so many opportunities to send out our stories. And with the Internet the possibilities are absolutely endless. But we can never forget to research our destination to make sure we go in the right direction. We may think we know EXACTLY where our thoughts need to go, but in all honesty we ourselves are missing the point. This is not saying we shouldn’t stray from our intended path now and again, but it is very important for us to weigh our options before embarking down what appears to be a promising road. At all times we have to be mindful of the correct address in case our bread crumbs are eaten before we can retrace our steps. We can’t expect the post office to deliver our message if we don’t have the write destination. They are not Santa whose only address is the North Pole!

I came across “The 1941 Reader’s Digest 20th Anniversary Anthology” at our Buffalo Bookstore. In it was the most wonderful story called, “ADDRESS UNKNOWN” by Kathleen Kressmann Taylor. The story involves a time before World War II and the rise of Nazi power. This powerful message revolves around both sides of the horror and tragedy of this time, and totally reverses the meaning of the address of the soul.

I will always miss Kathy. She was so kind to me over the last several years with our heritage project in Canyon, and our storytelling at The Fountain on the courthouse square. I don’t have her correct address in Heaven, but I have no doubt this message will be delivered without any problems. I was very careful as I wrote where I thought my words needed to go.