They picked me up May 20th, 1906 in the Indian Territory, which became Oklahoma in 1907. My family farmed and ranched. Although we were part Cherokee, we lived among the Chickasaws and Choctaws in Pontotoc County, twenty miles from the Railroad Town. I have lived in sod houses, log cabins, frame houses lined with cardboard boxes and news papered. We carried water from the creek about one-half mile away in lard buckets strung on a broom handle with one of my brothers or sisters on the other end from me. They had nine of us.
We walked two and three miles to a one-room, one-teacher school and children passed as they were ready in each subject to the next grade so that when a child was asked what grade he was in the reply might be, “third, fourth and fifth” or “fifth, sixth and seventh.” For the eighth grade I rode horse-back eight miles each way, then I went out near Chickasha to stay with an older married sister so that I could go to high school. We grew corn, oats, wheat, cotton, sorghum and all kinds of food stuff. We raised cattle, hogs, turkeys, chickens, mules and horses. Every summer we went “on top the mountain” where my father had grass land leased and there we camped out for about six weeks while we bailed prairie hay with a crew of 19 to 21 men. When I was six I drove the bailer team and as years passed, progressed to each of the other jobs. The mower, the sulky rake, buck rake, bailer feeder, tying, and after high school one summer I cooked for the crew. I didn’t like the confinement with my sister in this little town where I was going to high school so I decided to do it in three years so as to get away from it. Then came hail storms, destroying entirely one year of crops, droughts, more crop failures, dust bowl, bole weevils, more failures, selling and giving away stock (cattle, horses, hogs), mortgages, trying to pay, moving, moving again, trying to pay and always trying to pay.
“The grapes of wrath” to the plains to pick cotton – to Arizona to work with a hi-way construction crew. Camped on the desert. Mountain state telephone project. Camped in the mountains. Sending money back to help pay mortgage. I wanted to go to college. More places, more jobs. Always less money to put in the kitty to pay higher mortgage fees, interest, etc. Then foreclosure. Now I was free to go to college. So much time had passed, five years since high school. Now I must rush and finish college in three years and then I could start teaching. I decided when six that I wanted to be a teacher and was never able to get it out of my mind. Also, during my last year of college I discovered by accident the art department. I proceeded to take some courses. Realized almost at once that I had always been an artist.
My first year of teaching was sixth, seventh, and eighth grades in a three teacher rural school where I also was called the principal. A geologist discovered an oil pool 2 miles away and people started coming in by the thousands and we were now busy also planning new schools. My second year of teaching, after spending my summer studying at Columbia University, was in one of the newly formed schools where I was principal and also sixth grade teacher. Children, of oil field workers, were adjusted to being transferred to different oil fields and different schools several times during a year and it was amazing to see new pupils come into a class and from their ever changing experiences be able to adjust so easily to new situations. I believe much of this was due to the fact that I had a strong creative arts program in connection with the regular curriculum which afforded the pupils with an emotional and intellectual outlet that supported well being and an exciting learning situation. After six wonderful years I resigned my job in this system to come to New York City where I had my first exhibition of paintings which I had done at night and on week-ends while teaching. The exhibition received extensive review (1940) from the New York press and I was asked to take charge of the art department in the College of Education of the university system of Georgia. I had hoped to teach in a university. Although I survived “The red-neck” Governor Talmadge I strongly advocated equal rights for all. After two and a half years in Georgia, I resigned to accept a job in Delaware as state supervisor of art education. This was a most interesting experience. Schools were segregated in Delaware and 1 worked with both the negro and white schools. After my first years experience with the two state teachers annual conventions, one white, one black, I helped start a movement to combine the two meetings and the conventions were combined the third year. In both Georgia and Delaware I was told that I “got by” with my “radical ideas” because I was from Oklahoma and people allowed for an Oklahoman to be “different”. This I never believed in.
In 1945 I accepted a Guggenheim award to paint for a year and resigned from Delaware. I painted two years in Santa Fe, New Mexico came back to New York City for more shows and accepted an assistant professorship of art at Rollins College in Florida. I liked the winters there but was somewhat disappointed in Rollins as a College, therefore I left there in 1951 and went to Cuba where I stayed seven months and was then able to return to New York refreshed. I taught one term at N.Y.U. and then was given charge of the art program at Mills College where I taught until 1958. By this time my paintings were well known and selling and I was able to leave the teaching field, and give myself to painting. And I can remember many years ago (it seems like thousands) when I was a child and my oldest brother married a fine Chickasaw woman who told stories and sang songs to me in her own language, which she taught me to quite well. So long ago, now I have forgotten most all the words but they still give me energy and keep me warm.