One of the most frequent questions I am asked about Cobwebs is why I chose the setting of Pawhuska, Ok., the historic background of the Osage Nation and the horrific events of the 1920s (The Reign of Terror.)
The best answer I can give is simple. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Several other non-fiction and fiction books have been written about the events of that time. I had read them. And they stuck with me. I worked in the Pawhuska area for several years and spent a lot of time in the town conducting training sessions. I learned about the history and visited local spots and museums over and over again on an annual basis. I saw all of the great photographs which used to be on display at the Osage County Historical Museum and saw photos and displays at the Tribal Museum as well.
The faces of the pictured Osages spoke to me. I saw pride and honor in those faces, as well as a stoic acceptance. They were not complainers. In the 1920s, a great bounty came to them – the riches of the oil and gas fields beneath the surface of the land they lived on. With the bounty, came tragedy.
The tragedy got under my skin. When I learned more about my own Native American blood, even though it was a mere 6 percent and not from the Osage Tribe, I felt a kinship. I am part of the line of indigenous peoples. The Indian Nations of North American were flourishing here long before European settlers came. They lived on and loved the land, but never regarded it as ‘their’s’ in the sense of property. I have always tended to feel that same way.
At the same time, I was thinking a lot about all of the secrets that families keep. We are often not truthful with family members – and yet our kinship binds us to one another from birth to death, despite everything that can happen in between. I regard it as a great omission that my parents and grandparents did not tell me enough of their family stories. It will be impossible to discover most of them now that they are deceased.
Cobwebs may not be my personal story, but it is the story I was told to write, and it could be somebody’s story. Is it yours?