Grandma Cleo didn’t seem to keep photo albums. Nor did she display many photographs of the family inside her home. The ones she did have out never changed, like one of an uncle when he was in the service. She did have loose snapshots, Polaroids and such stored away inside a box. I never saw them until I was a young adult. Unfortunately by then, she was beginning to forget things about the people and places in the images.
When I would visit her, I liked getting the box of pictures out. I’d sit on the floor by her chair and one-by-one I’d hold a photo up to her. She would tell me what she remembeed. But, did I write any of that information down? No. I guess I thought she’d be with us forever. I never thought about the alternative. Even while I watched her age and noticed her memory was changing along with her behavior.
On one of these visits I had selected a 1950-ish style snapshot. It was a black ad white image with a white border. There were three men in the scene, all well-dressed. You could see the creases in their pressed slacks. The shirts were tucked inside the pants and two of them donned Western-sytled hats. One of the men was wearing a jacket.
Only one of the men was stairing directly at the camera when the picture was taken. His facial expression was serious-looking. A cigarette dangled from his lips and in one hand he held a glass bottle of Coca-Cola. Another of the other men was turned as though he had been leaving or didn’t want in the picture. The man in the jacket was sitting on something. It wasn’t easy to decipher. Maybe it was a chair or box. It appeared that he was talking to the other two. Across his face was a smirk as though something funny had been said.
I held the photograph up so Grandma Cleo could see it. She let out a faint laugh and said, “Oh, I’m not supposed to have that.”
Grandma Cleo was the care-giver of her mother, my great-grandmother Lillian. They had moved to Fairfax around 1950. Lillian was an Osage Allottee, born and raised in Pawhuska. Sometime after The Great Depression, she and her husband had moved to Arkansas due to financial issues. Much of her family was still in Osage County, Oklahoma. Her cousin who was known to everyone in the family as Aunt Sadie, one of our favorites, convinved her to move back.
Grandma Cleo would work odd jobs around town. One such job was at a hamburger place along Main Street. I always heard it called “the grill.” I grew up always hearing about the educated hamburger. (A burger with mayonnaise and sweet pickles?)
The grill to the best of my understanding was locted on the west side of Main Street across from the Baptist Church and a little north. It was at this grill that the black and white photograph had been taken. The three men were near the door that lead into the kitchen. She remembered someone from inside the kitchen had snapped the picture.
She told me the name of the man. It wasn’t until much later when I began researching the Osage murders that I realized the man’s surname belonged to a prominent Fairfax family. The reason she wasn’t supposed to have the photograph was because he had been a friend of William K. Hale, the infamous murderer during the Osage Reign of Terror in Fairfax.
I didn’t grow up hearing about the murders. Even about Great-grandma Lillian’s aunt who was an Allottee, murdered in 1918. Mary DeNoya Bellieu Lewis was killed by male companions in a scheme to steal her identity. (More about Aunt Mary later.)
So, I didn’t know to ask questions about the man in the photo. She only said that he was not supposed to be in Fairfax. Grandma off-handedly said that several people were not supposed to be back in town, anymore. With a little shrug of her shoulders, she chuckled softly and said, “They would all come back, now and then.”
The man in the photograph is gone now. His identity isn’t important. Besides, those responsible for what occurred in and around Fairfax during the 1920’s crimes are gone. Those huntsmen along with their prey are all gone now. However, their actions and the impact from said actions will always remain.