Just west of Brookside, where the wild has returned to grow over the manicured lawns in neighborhoods that were wealthy once upon a time, there is a magic burr oak tree that has grown ancient, that towers over the other trees who strangle the water lines with their roots, that brushes branches against apartment buildings. The story goes like this: When the Trail of Tears marched the Muskogee and the Creek and the Delaware and the Choctaw and every other tribe across the Oklahoma plains, they rested there. Prayed under its branches. A shaman told the white men that if they were allowed to stay where they were, close to the river where they could thrive, he would bless the tree, and the Great Spirt Kishelemukong would protect the area from the storms that twisted across the grey Oklahoma sky. The white men lied. White men do. The shaman blessed the tree anyway before he was marched further and further north away from the waters of the Arkansas. No tornado has ever touched down in Tulsa.
My husband tells me this story on our first date. We walk hand in hand through the trendy, shop-lined streets of Brookside and then veer west. He says, there are things no one tells you about Tulsa, but I’ve lived here long enough to be fascinated with the way that Oklahoma’s iconic red dirt is drenched in history. And blood.
BETTY STANTON is a writer who lives and works in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is currently a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso. Her work has appeared in various journals including Siren, Silver Birch Press, and Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry and is forthcoming in several other publications. @bfstanton