Along The South Canadian River, Oklahoma
Mark Tate

The South Canadian River dies out quickly in the summer, but moves forcefully and unpredictably in the winter. My great-grandfather, Charles Ramsey, a 'horse and buggy' doctor and his pregnant wife, Emma, were trying to raise his two younger siblings, and three sons. His father had died young and his mother moved away to remarry, leaving her children. Such was their fixed life in Oklahoma in 1936.

Traveling along the river one afternoon, a neighbor told Charles he saw his three sons a little farther "getting into trouble with Choctaw beer." He continued at a steady pace, looking back and forth down the road and across the river. When he thought he saw the boys across the river, he got down from the buggy, took off his boots, and waded into the water. From the bend of the road, beyond a line of poplars, the boys saw their father and started running toward him, yelling for him. From the force of the water, he could not hear them. A swift undercurrent pulled him under, washing him down river; eventually he was trapped in quicksand.

The family searched for his body for weeks, but they did not find him until late August when the water level fell low, exposing his cruel death. His brother and sister buried him in the graveyard outside Canadian. Emma and the boys moved to live with her Uncle Allen's family in Texas.



First published: February 2005
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