Donate, cry, pray, then read

Do you know what it takes to be an Oklahoman? You probably don’t because to be an Oklahoman is to be nuts, balls-to-the-wall crazy, off-the-charts insane. You have to be.

In Oklahoma, when you pop out of your mama, the doctors give you the once over. They check your eyes, because they know you’re going to have to stare down EF4 tornadoes and not flinch. They check the gravel in your guts, because true grit’s making a living from hard, dry land — molding a life from red clay. And they check your heart, because to be an Oklahoman is to be the smack-dab center of the Heartland.

Then you grow up in Oklahoma with your “Yes, ma’ams” and “No, sirs” and “Ranch, pleases,” and you learn how to drive in a place where you reserve one hand for waving to the neighbors you know and the neighbors you don’t know just quite yet. Your sentences are peppered with words like “hook echo,” “vortex,” “Pushmataha,” “biscuitsngravy” and “might could.”

You go to school and you learn the history of your state, from the Trail of Tears to the land run to the Dust Bowl to the Tulsa Race Riot to April 19, 1995 to May 3, 1999. You understand that you come from misfits and mistakes and pain. A lot of pain. You realize you come from underdog stock. You listen to a lot of Woody Guthrie, and you really get what it means.

At some point, life punches you in the gut for the first time. You watch the hand of God come down, and an entire town disappears off the map.

You fall to your knees and you cry and you spit and you cuss the day and night. And then you get up.

You don’t waste your time asking the heavens why. There’s work to be done.

You see someone else shaking their fists at the sky, so you reach your hand down. And then they get up.

That’s what being an Oklahoman is. Being so goddamned resilient and perseverant that ain’t nothing or nobody can keep you down. I’ve been a lot of places, lived in a few of them, and met many great people. Without minimizing anyone else, Oklahomans are a different breed. When you’re a little guy used to getting kicked, you not only learn to pop back up but you become the first one to reach out to others.

Oklahoma isn’t a place. It’s something in your blood. It’s something that you do. It’s the shirt off your back and a tear in your eye and the giddyup in your soul.

As we watched the wreckage from this latest prizefight with nature, several people asked me if I had people there — in Moore, in Shawnee. The answer is unequivocally yes. Every ever-loving, bless-your-heart mumbler in that grand land is My People. And God help us, My People don’t give up and don’t give in.

I love you, Oklahoma, and I thank my lucky stars that I’m one of yours. And if you don’t start installing storm shelters in every public building, I’m fixin’ to raise some hell.


49 thoughts on “Donate, cry, pray, then read”

    1. Hi…..I was born in Carniage, Okla, but moved to California when I was six month old due to who knows what. But went back there over many times to where I was born and I have the red clay blood in me. So what you have shared is right on with me. I am 67 years old………and have a beach house and do all the California stuff and people ask me if I grew up in California and I tell them yes, but I was born in Oklahoma and depending on who it is I ask them if they have a problem with that……….and no problems yet.

  1. “And if you don’t start installing storm shelters in every public building, I’m fixin’ to raise some hell.”

    You need to raise all hayell right now. Those people didn’t need to die in the first place. Demand safe rooms immediately. Get your bond issues, get your regulatory agencies, get your city councils and school boards. Don’t let any new construction pass inspection without a safe room. Don’t let any school re-enroll kids in the fall without a safe room. Demand this.

  2. Thank you for this! I’m not an Oklahoman by birth, but I lived there for two years and married into an Oklahoma family. It’s my home and they are my people and I’m so proud of how they have rallied together again like they always do.

  3. Thank you. Amazing blog. I am an Oklahoman but now reside in Oregon. Couldn’t have said it better!

  4. I loved reading this! I have family/friends in Oklahoma and while not in the path of this terrible tragedy, my heart goes out to everyone! I always wondered why there were not basements/safe areas for tornadoes in tornado alley. I pray for those precious little souls and the families devastated by this. It was great to see how the people were looking to see where/who they could help. I hate to watch the news as sometimes they ask the people the most asinine
    questions(i.e. How are you feeling…Can you comprehend what happened). I say do your quick report and then help out. Love the way you put it all and sharing!

  5. As a Texan, I know where your heart and soul come from. Prayers and blessings for our Oklahoma family. Sometimes there are no state lines, just love and respect for our brothers and sisters north of us.

  6. Just moved from Oklahoma after living there 23 years. We were there for both of the previous tornadoes although we lived in Edmond. We were there for the OKC bombing. You are so right, these are very special people and we were blessed to live there and raise our kids.

  7. Us Oklahomans are some crazy mofo’s and we stand together when mother nature tries to destroy us. Proud to be a bred and born Oklahoman. Ma’am you got it right!

  8. I am an Okie and proud of it. Thank you for this article. God bless Oklahoma right now and I have a safe cellar next to my home and would not buy one in Ok without a safe room or cellar. Amen!

  9. I don’t know you, but you sure hit the nail on the head with this one. I’m fixin’ to help you raise some hell about the lack of shelters in schools!

  10. Appreciate this blog — great explanation of why us Okies are a breed apart. Oklahoma will always be home to me.

  11. I have said for years that our schools spend too much money hiring architects who are more interested in winning awards than designing schools with basements too save our precious children. I hope school boards will now focus on our kind and not awards.

    1. As someone working in the field of architecture, specifically school construction, I would like to inform you that it even baffles us that school boards/towns would rather save money than build safe rooms.

  12. I claim Oklahoma by birth and Texas by blood… they’re each their own unique people and inversely strong. Though I can’t be there this weekend, we’re living through it in our hearts minds and through donations, crying and praying.

  13. Please let me know how I can help you lead the way to making changes and getting storm shelters put in all schools, new homes, public buildings, etc…and make it law. I want to help lead this charge!

  14. I too claim Oklahoma by birth, although it has been decades since I lived there. My family is in Blanchard, I have cousins (safe) in Moore,. I happened across this on someone’s facebook page, and I shared it too – it’s excellent! We in Ohio are also thinking of you.

  15. Great post Nicole!!!! Now email this baby to Governor Fallin because that was my first thought that came to my mind when they started showing the pictures of the two schools. “Why in the Hell did they not have a storm shelter. This is Oklahoma for Christ sakes.” Sincerely, SH

  16. Great job!! Now, we need to vote in a governor that lives up to your description instead of a “Mattress Mary!”

  17. Way to rally the Okie in all of us! We will not be staying in the mud, or letting our neighbors stay in the mud! There is One that lifts us out of the miry clay, and whether you know it or not He spoke through you straight to the heart about what it means to be an Oklahoman.

  18. Oh, if only the rest of this country really could experience the Oklahoma way – the gratitude, the neighborly “how ya doing/”, the constant optimism and acceptance of lives chosen in that flat, windy, hot and stormy patch of land where farmers do things the old way, and ranchers still ride out on the prairies. And, of course, each small town has it’s coffee shop where the locals meet and gossip and share news as simple as a new calf being born. I lived there for 10 years in Shawnee and in Norman. i was a hippie, and I never knew a people so accepting and gracious and darn right friendly. I’ve lived all over the world, but the first thing I noticed in Oklahoma was – they are the friendliest, nicest people in the whole world. I miss those chicken-fried steaks, biscuits and gravy, the Ou football games, the slogging through the mud after 4 days of rain, and I miss the knock on my door when I was sick with the flu,; and who rushed in with a huge bowl of soup to nurse me? My Professor from the School of Social Work at OU. believ me, you ain’t missing a thing by not living in California, where I am now. it’s like going from a Robert Frost poem to a diatribe of cursing mongrels bleeding hate for the world. DON’T ever change, OKLAHOMA. You are our example.

  19. […] people know what it means to be an okie (and if you don’t, please read this beautifully written post by nicole hill). it means not focusing on living up to hollywood’s expectations, but rather on living up to your […]

  20. Being from Miami,Florida we have experinced some of the worst Hurricanes(Andrew “92”) We know what its like to see total destruction. You pray, you cry, you wonder how your going to rebuild,you walk around your house and try to figure out what to do next to try and clean up whats left. My heart goes out to all of you in Oklahoma who are suffering. I know from attending OU what you people are made of. You are the nicest, kind people that would give you the shirt off your back!!!My memories remind me of the special people that live there. I hope America steps up and comes to your aid and helps rebuild your community like they did ours. It will make you stronger. Hopefully they will help povide safe shelters in the future especially in the schools. Keep up that great spirit you all have!!!!Life will get better.
    God Bless!!!

  21. […] Being an Oklahoman ”That’s what being an Oklahoman is. Being so goddamned resilient and perseverant that ain’t nothing or nobody can keep you down. I’ve been a lot of places, lived in a few of them, and met many great people. Without minimizing anyone else, Oklahomans are a different breed. When you’re a little guy used to getting kicked, you not only learn to pop back up but you become the first one to reach out to others.” […]

  22. […] Now that I’m home in the third floor of my apartment complex night has fallen, the sky is still, and the air is fresh.  However, that’s because I am far away from the destruction.   My heart breaks as I see the toll of dead and injured rise but what’s also rising is the number of shelters being open up, the number of organizations and businesses collecting items and donations, and the number of people signing up to volunteer.  The response is tremendous.  This is Oklahoma.  For a better explanation of us, please read my high school classmate’s explanation. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s