Hometown Memories

Grandpa Ela T. Swift was one of the cowboys in the group that hung out with Will Rogers when he came to visit Vinita, Ok. in 1934. He told them, “Have a rodeo in Vinita next year and I’ll come back.” But he and Wiley Post died that year in an airplane crash, and the rodeo was held as a memorial to the beloved “son” of Vinita who attended school here.

The Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo which is held each August holds many memories for us Vinitans. It is the finest rodeo in Oklahoma, maybe in the whole United States.

We always attended the Rodeo parade, guaranteed a front-row seat on the curb of Main Street, where the main feature was the Rodeo Queen, decked in her finest, with the rhinestone crown. Following her and the grand marshal of the parade was the rider-less horse, representing Will Rogers.

Horses, horses, and more horses, teams of horses and mules pulling wagons. Vinita High School and Junior High Bands, and bands from surrounding towns.  The football boys and cheerleaders riding atop the  fire engine. Tractors and semis with trailers filled with hay and 4-H kids. The sheriff’s and police chief’s cars. Vintage cars, old cars, and beautiful convertibles with people waving and throwing candy. And always the kids on bikes trailing along. Then horses and more horses.

I remember sitting out in our front yard in the heat hearing the voice of Clem McSpadden, the rodeo announcer, booming across the creek. The bright lights of the rodeo grounds lit up the sky clear over where we lived.

Our uncles and cousins from Wichita came in and took us to the rodeo, which always began with the Grand Entry. All the horses and riders from the parade and then some rode around the arena. We stood when the horse and rider presented the US flag and then with our hats in our hands, we listened to the song, Empty Saddles, sung by Vernie Glenn.

We sat in the bleachers—cheapest seats there. Cotton candy. Popcorn and weak fountain pop. Standing in line to go to the bathroom in a dirty little wooden building with no toilet paper.

Every town needs at least one very special yearly event to make memories.

Tearing Down the Old

Downtown Vinita building burning
Downtown Vinita building burning

I stood with the townsfolk at the corner watching the burning building, my heart heavy remembering.

I was born there, in Dr. McMillan’s office in that building on the hottest day of the year in 1949.

When I was in junior high school, we girls stopped after school at a café on the corner, where we ordered a bottled Coke and package of salted peanuts to drop in the Coke, to make a tiny volcanic eruption, and then eat them after we drank the Coke.

When I moved back to Vinita in the late 1970s, I had my hair cut by Rusty Daugherty who had his barber shop in that corner. Other businesses in the past have occupied that building—the cable TV company, a flower shop, a karate gym, and most recently a pool hall.

In addition to the building that burned, other downtown buildings have been demolished, replaced with parking lots. I understand owners may not be financially able to repair old buildings, but what a shame to see buildings destroyed that could be revitalized as other communites are doing.

My hope and prayer is that buildings left in our downtown area will be restored and rebuilt. Our next generation needs to see a vital, alive, active downtown area, not just parking lots; a mixture of historic downtown buildings and modern architecture.

Many of our churches are also lying in waste. Very low attendance, coupled with church troubles, has caused churches to barely get by, week to week. Wouldn’t it be a shame to turn our churches into parking lots?

Rather than tear down old churches and build new ones, rather than rip churches apart so we can start over fresh, maybe it is time to rebuild, raise up, repair, and restore.

Isaiah 58:12 in New King James Version, “Those from among you shall build the old waste places: you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell in.”

Will you be the one who builds up the waste places? Will you be the workman who repairs and restores? Or will you just give up, tear it down, let it go, and start all over again somewhere else?

I want my title to be changed from “Huggy lady” to “The Repairer of the Breach.”

Downtown Vinita building

Redeeming the Time

our mother, the school cook
our mother, the school cook

The Hightower family’s year started in September, the day school started when I was a kid. Our mama worked at the school cafeteria. We Hightower kids lived our lives by the school and church schedule

If it was October, we celebrated Columbus Day, the day that Columbus discovered the New World. In November for Thanksgiving, we studied the Pilgrims and the Indians who helped them survive the harsh winter. If it was Monday, we went to school. If it was Wednesday, we went to school, then to church.

When May came and school was out, we played all summer, then started our Year over again—in school.

The calendar year we use in the United States is the Christian or Gregorian calendar, which starts in January. Using another calendar, the Jewish calendar that our Lord Jesus used, the one instituted by the Lord God Almighty, the Jewish year starts in the month of Tishri, which corresponds to September /October on the Christian calendar. So you might say that the Hightower family has followed the Jewish calendar for many years.

Now it is almost September, 2009.

Paul said in Romans 13:11 NKJV “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

And in Ephesians 5:16, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

High time, redeeming the time. Translated from the Greek word ‘kairos,’ this means ‘the right time, the opportune time, the appointed time, God’s time.”

We are entering the Appointed Time, God’s time, the Opportune time, according to the calendar that God gave the Israelites.

The Strong’s Concordance defines the word ‘redeem’ as, “to buy up, to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are as it were the purchase money by which we make the time our own.” Are you making the very most of every opportunity to do good?

It is the Appointed Time to wake up, spiritually and mentally, and redeem the time. What calendar are you using for scheduling your life?

Set Apart For Destiny

Grandmother claimed she was a quarter Cherokee, but her family was not on the Indian Dawes rolls of 1894-1914. Grandmother Hightower looked like an Indian—black hair, brown  eyes, high cheekbones, but we were her little blond white grandchildren.

We have been working on our family tree since 1973, athought our uncle worked on the maternal line before that. While Grandmother was still alive,  Daddy and we questioned her at length and began the search, which continues to this day. One of my sisters has been “into” genealogy all these years, with my other sister and me taking it in spells. Right now we are all three “into” it.

I am so thankful that I was born into a Christian home. Thank God, I had parents and grandparents on both sides who were faithful Christians. However there came a day when I had to put my faith in Christ Jesus as my own personal Lord and Savior. I could not inherit eternal salvation.

Frequently the question comes up about what Paul wrote about genealogy. In I Timothy 1:4, Paul said, “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith. . .” Does Paul say not to research genealogies? No, the ‘endless genealogies’ spoken of by Paul were the Jews’ claim to salvation. You were nobody in that society if you could not trace your family tree back to Abraham.

The Jews as a matter of great pride pointed to their family tree to show that they were descendants of Abraham, God’s chosen people. Their genealogy represented salvation to them, because as Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Salvation is of the Jews.” John 4:22.

The Jews depended on their genealogy and keeping the law for their salvation rather than depending on faith alone, as their father Abraham did, according to Romans chapter 4. However the Jews’ genealogy gave them an identity among the heathen as a special people set apart by God for a purpose.

Romans 5:1 “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

Your genealogy gives you an identity.  Who you are in this natural life and who you are in Christ Jesus sets you apart for your destiny.

Just a Shell


here is a June bug in case you don't know what it is
here is a cicada, what we used to call locust when I was a kid


My 8-year-old grandson and I found empty cicada shells on the patio, split down the back, with the feet still attached to the columns.

“Oh, the poor bug is dead,” he said.

“No, he is still alive,” I told him. “He grew a new shell and slipped out of his old one and left it behind as he flew off on a new adventure.”

I picked the shell off the post and laid it down on the patio table for a lesson on insects.

“See this split on his back? That is where he escaped the old shell.”

“Why did he do that?”

“His old shell was wearing out and getting too tight, like the way you outgrow your clothes, so he grew a new shell while he was still inside the old one. When it was ready, he took off his old shell, like taking off a coat, and left it hanging here on the patio post.”

This explanation seemed to satisfy his curiosity and we went on to other things, but I couldn’t get that shell out of my mind.

Some day my old shell will be worn out and too tight, just like the June bug. When the time has come, my spirit—the real me inside—will step out of my physical body.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “So also is the resurrection of the dead….. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. ….As we have borne the image of the man of dust, [meaning Adam] we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man [meaning Jesus Christ.] So when ……..this mortal [body] has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” I Corinthians 15: 42-54 NKJV.  (Inserts added by Lavon for clarity. Read it all for yourself.)

When you see my unoccupied body lying there, you will know it is only my shell. It isn’t me; I am off to a new adventure in my new body.