Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Book Review (Sort Of) - 'Creek Country' by Terryl W. Elliott

Creek Country by Terryl W. Elliott
"From the Civil War to the turn of the century Indian Territory was a wild, and much of the time, lawless place. Yet, settlers flocked there by the thousands for the highly prized land.

However, to make a home there folks had to contend with the criminal element, which was an almost daily factor of life in the Indian Nations.

This is the story of how a family, and one young boy in particular, coped with life in Creek country."

The story of all that this book entails is quite unique, so I'll start at the beginning. Not at the beginning of the book, but of the beginning of how I became acquainted with the book and all that took place after that.  

Less than a month ago I did a review of Terryl W. Elliott's book The Fifth Funeral. At the end of that review I added a personal note explaining how my daughter, Amanda, had met Mr. Elliott, how she had acquired and read that book to me, etc., etc., etc. After the review posted, I sent the link to Mr. Elliott, so that he could check it out if he was interested. He was and, after reading it, he contacted me and said that, if I liked The Fifth Funeral, I'd probably like another book that he had written called Creek Country.

Mr. Elliott told me to look for it and, if I couldn't find it, to let him know. He said that it was out of print now and hard to find, but that he might be able to dig me up a copy. Look for it I did, but I couldn't find it. I let Mr. Elliott know and, dig me up a copy, he did!

As soon as I got the book I totally freaked out. The first chapter is titled The Little House in Grain Valley. "What?" I thought. "Grain Valley, Missouri? No way!" (Grain Valley, Missouri is my home town. I was born and raised there my whole life and lived there til I was well into adulthood.) Yes, way! Grain Valley, Missouri. I was ecstatic! 

As I continued to flip through the book I noticed that there were pictures. I stopped to look at them. The first one was of "the little house in Grain Valley, Missouri (as it currently appears)". Then, a couple of pages over there were pictures of the "Mindenmines Depot, c. 1900" and "Main Street of Mindenmines, c. 1900". WHAT??? (Mindenmines, Missouri is the next town over from where we live in southwest Missouri now. We have a son and daughter-in-law and grandlittles who live there and a son-in-law who pastors a church there.) What in the world? There were a few more pictures that caught my eye...one of the Belford Home in Grain Valley (a house that I recognized...not by name, but by sight...immediately and one of the Old Royal Theater Building...a building that, once again, I didn't recognize by name, but by sight. I had walked past it multiple times as a child. There were other pictures, too, of people and places that I wasn't at all familiar with. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to get started and see how Grain Valley tied in with Mindenmines and boy! Did I have a great time doing it! 

It turns out that the story starts and ends in Grain Valley, Missouri, where Mr. Elliott's Great-Uncle Jib (James Irwin Belford) lived at the time he told Mr. Elliott this true story of his life growing up in Indian Territory in the late 1800's..."A True Story Of Outlaws, Mayhem, And Justice." 

"In the early afternoon of July 1, 1896 five young men stood on the trap door of the most infamous gallows in America ready to drop into eternity. The presiding judge of the most famous court in America had sentenced them there. -The five men were collectively known as the Buck gang; the judge was Isaac C. Parker, better known then and now as the "Hanging Judge"; the court was the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas. -Their heads were covered with black hoods while a small crowd gathered inside the gallows enclosure to witness the event. In a matter of minutes the deed was done. It would prove to be the penultimate act in the long saga of the gallows at Fort Smith, Arkansas. -How all this came about is the essence of the story to be related..."

I could hardly put the book down and read bits and pieces every chance I got until I finished it off. It was so good! 

Here's one of my favorite quotes from the book. It is found toward the end and doesn't really have to do with any of the "outlaws, mayhem, and justice" parts of the story, but it is something that Uncle Jib said to Mr. Elliott when he was a young boy, and I loved it. He said...

"You're going to meet a lot of people through the years, Silo [Uncle Jib's nickname for the boy Mr. Elliott], and they're going to fall into two very basic groups. There are those whose lives parallel your own, family and friends that you keep over the long haul, or maybe even your whole life. Then there are others, like the Derisaws, who you know only briefly, as they cross your path. I suppose my point here is that both those groups are important in your life....I'll give you an example of what I mean:

"Do you know Mr. Shippy who lives a few blocks over, in that little house behind Main Street? I think a lot of people call him 'Seth the weaver'; he makes those beautiful rugs that most everybody in town has somewhere in their house....As a matter of fact, I  think your folks have a couple in their home....Well anyway, the loom that he uses is kinda' like what I'm talking about. All the long pieces of yarn running side-by-side from the top to the bottom of the loom are called the 'warp' of the weave--they're like the folks you have by your side, accompanying you through life. The cross threads of the weave are called the 'weft'--they're akin to those people whose paths you cross only briefly. It's those cross threads that make the pattern in the rug... that make it different and distinct. The same is true with the endless parade of people you know and meet, who make up the fabric of your life....The warp gives you stability, but the weft gives you uniqueness...Love and cherish those who make up the warp of your life, Silo, but when they cross your path, take time to appreciate and enjoy those who are the weft in your life...those who provide the colorful patterns..."

Isn't that beautiful? Oh! I just loved it! 

And, even though I don't know the author of this book personally, I do consider him one of the weft people that has passed through my life because, through his writing and sharing this book with me, he has definitely added a strand or two of color to the fabric of my life. I really, REALLY enjoyed this book and all the connections to home and, even, here, close to Liberal at Mindenmines. It is truly amazing how it all fit into one neat, little package!

I could go on and on, I'm sure (as I already have), but I will stop here. If you are fortunate enough to find a copy of  Creek Country by Terryl W. Elliott somewhere, I highly suggest that you buy it...especially if you enjoy true stories about colorful, historical, western characters, stories about Indian Territory, or have roots in Grain Valley, Missouri. :)

Until next time...

All My Love,
~Rebecca

P.S. - I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment before you go! And have a blessed day! <3

One Thousand Gifts - #68 the greeting of a brand new day, #69 a nightly call to my dad, #70 the sky

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