It can be facile to imagine a pioneer woman or a mountain man. There might even be some curious resemblance between one early settler and a popular stereotype. But one ought not to forget that each and every pioneer was some particular person who grew up with parents in a neighborhood, and for whatever reason, went west.
So, the other evening, coming home from a lovely dinner with the f-2 and f-3 generations, Hollis and I found ourselves driving though the alfalfa bottoms, amazed at the multitudes of bugs on hand this summer night. We decided to lower the windows and slow down a bit. The cicadas were out, as well as the many tiny frogs none of us can identify. The perfume of the fresh mown hay was a transport to a time before memory.
We talked of the people who lived here a hundred years ago. I remembered what I could about a couple who had emerged from my History researches. Virgil and Jennie Dimmick were a young married couple who missed the Land Run of 1889, but pioneered the east quarter of my father’s ranch by dealing directly with the Kickapoo tribe. They were by no means predictable.
Virgil was still in his twenties when he settled where I was a boy so much later. This was, in fact, his third homestead. He was one of those Greer County hopefuls remembered in song. “Hurrah for Greer County, the land of the Free, the home of the bed-bug, grasshopper, and flea!” After a very little while, he staked a claim near Pond Creek, in North Central Oklahoma. There he established a newspaper called the L County Republican.
At the time, Oklahoma was not yet a state. Future counties were given provisional names. The paper was “republican” because its editorials were adamantly opposed to Jim Crow, and stoutly in favor of new business. But, what of Jennie?
I have in my files a picture of Jennie Goodwin Dimmick. She is more than a little prim and wearing small, round, dark glasses. It turned out that her husband made his last homestead here because his father-in-law lived on the next section to the East. He is buried here yet. I have never located the house Virgil built for Jennie. I have not found her kitchen garden. I cannot know how they got on in this mutually familiar place.
But I do know that Virgil was a fine writer. I know that Jennie lost her sight to meningitis as a child. I know that she was a featured piano soloist at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. I know that in discouraging days, after Oklahoma got its legislature, and began to make its laws, Virgil and Jennie pulled up stakes and moved north.