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On Goldilocks, her bears, and the new “Wild West”

August 6, 2008

Greetings from the new “Wild West,” Ada, Oklahoma, the setting of my recent novel, Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story. My month-long-plus-hiatus from the MK Blog has finally ended and I’m recovering from being shot at on July 13, 2008. My house “took a round” from an assault rifle when a group of five teenagers broke into my neighbor’s house and shot up the hood. It was a kind of twenty-first century remake of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Well no, I take that back, it would have to be “Goldilocks and the Five Bears.” Anyhow the story goes like this:

On July 13, 2008 five scrawny little bears break into my neighbor’s house, eat a gallon of strawberry ice cream, drink all the sodas in the frig, then Cowboyup, (read steal all the guns out of the gun cabinet) and take to the street, 9th street, where we live. It seems after all that sugar, they were poised for a shoot out over — you guessed it –“Goldilocks,” the 14-year-old neighborhood girl.

The alleged shooters ranged in ages from 14, to 18. One bullet from the assault rifle blasts through the outside wall of my house and into the dining room (we’re at home of course) and lodges in our bookcase filled with Native history books. I’m afraid two Northwest Coast Indian texts will never be the same. I wasn’t that fond of them anyway, but it’s the principle that matters, and damn it, the books are history. Or toast. Kaput. Finis. The police had to carry them out in a plastic Wal-Greens’ sack. Evidence for the children’s upcoming trial.

My entire family was in the house preparing to sit down for a meal of spaghetti and meatballs when the bullets started flying. Thank goodness it wasn’t our heads that were shredded to pieces. I know I sound rather glib about the whole matter, but I’m not. After all I could be in Baghdad where after six years of warfare this would be considered “child’s play.” Uh-hum, I’m afraid that pun was also intended. Since it’s been three weeks, I’ve finally patched the hole in my wall.

Yet, out of the chaos and mass hysteria, (mine) something positive has emerged. A sense of community is reborn. My neighbors and I have formed the Westside Neighborhood Association. At our first meeting shortly after the shooting, we had 55 homeowners sign up to create the association. We are working with the police, Ada city council, county commissioners, mayor, police and Ada Beautification Committee to help clean up the Westside of Ada. This Saturday we’re hosting a potluck on August 9, 6 p.m. at the Cornerstone Christian Church on West 9th Street. It will be our first effort to get acquainted with our neighbors, and their children.

It’s ironic that the shooting took place shortly after Salon Ada, the literary event I held, June 27-29 2008 at my home on 9th street. Our theme was How to Live [An Artist’s Life] that is Fully Engaged? We also tried to answer other questions like: How does art and our work impact our community [Or not.]

This type of literary event was once held in the eighteenth-century Parisian drawing rooms of the salonnière’s home. I sincerely hope they weren’t dodging bullets. This year, writers from all over the country came to Ada to share their work, and the challenges of writing literary fiction, history, memoir, and simply how to tell a good story in the 21st century. It was truly a wonderful weekend with lots of good food and conversation, and chocolate from the Chickasaw Nation’s chocolate factory. On our first evening we served our guests grilled lime and cilantro chicken, new potatoes from our garden with butter and olive oil, fresh green beans, Greek salad, hummus, and Pashofa [a favorite Choctaw and Chickasaw corn soup made with oak ash. The oak ash makes it very creamy]. We also served fresh homemade pecan pie [from our pecan trees], juicy Stratford peaches and ice cream, sourdough bread, and cheeses, hors d’oeuvres and wines, a variety of soft drinks, and teas for non-drinkers.

I once read, “food is embodied gods.” If that’s so, maybe this weekend’s event will help us find ways to invoke peace and harmony through delicious foods we bring to the community table. We must stop the violence in our American neighborhoods.

As for me, I’m heading back to the University of Illinois in mid-August for an exciting year of teaching in the American Indian Studies program and creative writing program. I’m also working on my new novel, The Adventures of Fred and Ethel in the Middle East. However after this past month, I’m reconsidering the title and the setting. Maybe my book should be called The Adventures of Fred and Ethel in the New Wild West. I’ll let you know what I decide.

Pictured here are some of Salon Ada’s first participants: Chickasaw author Linda Hogan, Chickasaw Arts Academy Director Lona Barrett, and Chickasaw storyteller Lori Robins.

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