Monday, January 16, 2017

Confessions of a Writer

The man in this picture was not only a writer, he was an orator - a speaker of great power and prose. He was Temple Lea Houston, son of the great Sam Houston, our country's legendary hero. So why would I be interested in this man - well, besides being talented both as an orator and a writer, he was Oklahoma's premier lawyer of the frontier. I don't know the exact count, I used to know the numbers, he represented the little guy, the downtrodden, the poor - and without asking for much in terms of payment, because he was set from his father's wealth, Temple Houston brought true legal justice to a group of people who otherwise would have faced jail time or worse - a noose, if he hadn't been gracious, generous, and giving.

That said, I also think the man was really hot and when I first found out about him all I wanted to do was read everything I could about him, trying to weasel my way into his life long enough to really get to know him intellecturally. I used to tell people that my main goal once I actually got to Heaven was to track this man down. The fact that he's now had over 100 years to get to know the territory up there gives him at least a fighter's chance - but I do have time on my side. Eternity is indeed - eternal.

I think the statutes of limitations has run out on what I am about to confess - and if you've read this story before somewhere, it may very well be that you have relatives in Western Oklahoma who have sent it to you after a version of my tale was recorded in the papers - making it legend itself. Truth can be stranger than fiction, and in my case, in this case, it is in deed quite strange - but I had my reasons.

It was at the time that I was reading about Temple, getting to know him through one of the only two books written about his life - Glenn Shirley's book "Temple Houston: Lawyer with a Gun". I found myself mesmerized by the very spirit of this compelling pioneer who would not only choose to leave the life of luxery that he had been given, but to avoid politics in general after having been nominated for such high offices as senator, govenor, even once being asked to run for the vice presidency - he declined. After getting to know him, knowing that his temper was a firey hot as his silver-tongue oratories, he made the right choice. He would have been arrested probably for outrages in public that you and I would consider manic at best - firing guns in the courtroom for instance, bringing snakes in baskets to public schools to prove which ones bit and which ones didn't - you just can't do that anymore without licenses and surety bonds, letters of recommendation, and all the red tape Houston would have thrown out the door as being unncessisary.

I wanted to know the man, I wanted to hold his gun, wear his hat, sit at his desk, breathe in the air of the city he lived in - which at the time of his death was Topeka, KS, but he lived in Woodward, Oklahoma for many years prior to the actual event of his demise. To think that the museum of history in Woodward, OK was not only NOT displaying his things, they were saying they wouldn't be getting around to organizing them either.  What I did wasn't exactly criminal, as I was not told I couldn't be on the premises, I was never asked to leave either. I simply didn't leave when they ladies closed down the museum for the night.  I set out the tables in a fine and organized way, still in the back room, as I felt that there may be cameras in the front lobby. This being 1987 or so, I wasn't sure what type of technology to expect. I wanted to be safe as possible, but do as much good as I could.

When the ladies returned the next morning to open shop, the display I had created using almost all of Temple's belongings at the museum, were in fact in order and on display - even if only in the backroom.  I was careful to use gloves, and I recorded everything in a fine and meticulous fashion. The only thing I didn't use in the display was a book owned by Temple Houston, one he had personally drawn in. I took that book home, again, not breaking any laws because it was never mentioned (or warned) that I could not. I returned it after I had cleaned it properly, so that it too could be displayed.  When I returned it I looked the front desk clerk in the eyes, handing it to her, and I said "I believe this belongs to the museum."  She looked at me with a sparkle in her eyes. It had been a few weeks since I had organized the display.  She took the book easily, gently, and she said to me "Why, yes, it does belong here. Was it a good read?"  I answered that it was. She then said "Thank you by the way, the display couldn't have been more tenderly created."  I smiled back at her, not wanting to betray myself, and I said..."Well, I don't know what you mean, but if I did know, I would say you're welcome."

How did I manage to evade the ladies that day, you may ask? When they went to close the museum I was the last patron. I excused myself to use the bathroom, then called out "good night" before retreating to the men's restroom. There was a bell on the front door, so I let the door close before sneaking back to the men's restroom. They never looked in the restroom for me, I never came out. It wasn't exactly against the law, but I wasn't exactly going to take the chance.  

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