Dedicated to the Tar Creek Monster, who as she writes “was the initial inspiration for this book.” Her poem begins with that line, " I didn't always look this way." I know that feeling. After crossing that Neosho River for 43 years, it is certainly a thing I can truthfully say. My career in Miami started when Max Buzzard, then head of the Indian Education program listened to his Indian Parent Committee recommendation to hire me as Indian Counselor. Lee Whitecrow and Kay Condren, were two of the members and I regret not remembering the rest of the slate who approved my application.
Crossing that river and then for the last 10 years in the Miami School system, I was required to cross Tar Creek to get to work at MHS. I have been crossing those waters all these years.
When I retired in 2002, it would have been simple to stay home on the prairie, but life has kept me crossing those waters since. Was it the water that kept me, like Maryann Hurtt would say, she was drawn to water? It was really the people and the needs for justice that kept me coming.
It is personal. Each of us have our own story. Mine? The children I got to see make it through school, or not make it through. Some succeeding beyond expectations, some longing to find peace and solace by making it through a single day. Now seeing them figure how to face another day often in pain or in dialysis. Some now leading in elected positions, a few-some made professional positions.
Maybe it is the puzzle, the questions that need to be answered that keep me crossing these bridges, why are our community members sick? Why do so many die much younger than the national average age of death?
We figured out one of the reasons that made school hard for some of our children, why so many were identified with special needs, why so many needed Ritalin or some other prescribed medicine to help them deal with their ADD or ADHD and be more compliant and more able to listen and learn in school. It was and has been the exposure to lead for generations. That discovery is what got EPA to cross back over those bridges and come back to Ottawa County to reduce the numbers of our children being lead poisoned. EPA keeps sending the funds cross those bridges to remove contaminated soil from residential yards, playgrounds, parks and daycare, soil that was loaded with lead from our Tar Creek name-sake Superfund Site.
The last half of the years here have been spent in part encouraging EPA to keep coming because our kids are worth every penny spent to protect their futures and their grandchildren's children.
Once Upon A Tar Creek, Mining for Voices by Maryann Hurtt is a volume with our stories, generations of our stories are waiting for you to discover, to hear. This book should be read out loud, so our voices are heard. From the miners, to the Quapaw Indians who were wrongly institutionalized and ripped off. "Miner-con" and the military road came through these tribal lands, when ore was discovered, wealth was made and taken.
Ms Hurtt's poems are not her stories, they are her words written with our voices, our memories, our stories woven such you will long to read the next barely before you finish the first.
Maryann knocked on LEAD's front door and interrupted the last few minutes of a Toxic Tour with health professionals and students. Maryann keeps coming back, returning to revisit our orange water and hopes to see her Tar Creek monster one last time, wondering what words told will be haunting her to write her next volume of poems.
What would she write now? She would be seeing the people lining up to sign the petition for Clean Water, empowered and passionate people wanting that orange to go away, the monsters to sleep and our lives to improve.
"I didn't always look this way." I was a young woman when I first came cross your bridges and now I am not. But now I am believing it was all worth it.
A creek is a terrible thing to abandon and now she has friends. Tar Creek will be saying what those who are my age know to be true, "she didn't always look that way."
Ms Hurtt knows us because she listens with heart and she has captured our voices and those who have gone from us already. Once Upon A Tar Creek, Mining for Voices is a treasure.
We are recommending this must read book!
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim