Welcome to Novel PASTimes. Today we’re joined by Miss Kathryn Marie Baile—
Kathryn: It’s just Kathryn. You ain’t gotta be all fancy.
Alright. Kathryn it is. Well . . . welcome, Kathryn. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Kathryn: Like what?
How about we start with the basics? Your age? Where you’re from?
Kathryn: I’m fourteen and a half. Don’t forget the half. It’s very important. And I’m from the greatest state in the Union—Oklahoma. People call me an Okie like it’s a bad thing, but what they don’t understand is that folks from Oklahoma are some of the best folks in the world. Like in Boise City—where I’m from—us Okies created a whole doggone town outta nothing. It wasn’t even forty years ago that a couple of swindlers sold off a bunch of property in No Man’s Land—that’s what they call the little strip of Oklahoma sandwiched in between Texas, Kansas, and Colorado—promising settlers a fancy, tree-lined city with homes and stores and a railroad, only for those poor suckers to show up and find out they’d been duped. There wasn’t no town. There wasn’t no anything. But instead of heading back east with their tails between their legs, most of those folks decided to stay and build a town anyway. And that’s exactly what they did (after throwing those crooks in prison first, of course). And my pa was one of ’em.
That’s very interesting and certainly not an easy feat, especially not in that part of the country. Your pa must be an extraordinary man.
Kathryn: Oh, he’s the best man in the world. He works from sunrise to sunset, plowing and planting and tending his crops. Even these past few years, since the rains stopped and dusters started rolling in, he still goes out every day, doing what he can to coax wheat from soil that’s bound and determined to float away on the wind. He ain’t never giving up. Not like all those other quitters headin’ off to California and the like. We’re staying put.
So it’s just you and your pa then?
Kathryn: Nah, there’s me and Pa and my sister, Melissa. She’s older than me, prettier than me, nicer than me—
Aw, don’t sell yourself short, Kathryn.
Kathryn: No, it’s true. And it’s not just me. Everybody thinks so. I don’t remember my mother. She died giving birth to me. But everyone says Melissa is the spittin’ image of her in both looks and spirit. She practically raised me. Looked after me while Pa was out working, taught me to read, sew, cook, all that. And she never treated me any different because of . . . well, you know.
I wasn’t going to bring it up, but since you did . . . would you like to talk about your foot?
Kathryn: Not really, but I know you were staring.
Kathryn: It’s alright. Everyone does. I was born with a clubfoot. Don’t know why it’s called that. I don’t think my foot looks like a club at all, but that’s what the docs say it is. My foot turns, see? It ain’t straight like yours. So I have to wear this brace and special shoe to help me walk better, though it still ain’t normal like other people’s. Melissa, though? She never let me use it as an excuse. “Get up and do your chores, Kathryn!” she used to say. “Those cows don’t care about your clubfoot.” I wasn’t crippled, she said. I was special. I didn’t believe it, of course, but it was still nice to hear her say it. Golly, I’m going to miss her.
Miss her? Is she going somewhere?
Kathryn: She’s getting married. To Henry Mayfield of all people.
Is there something wrong with Henry Mayfield?
Kathryn: You ain’t from round here, are you? Everything is wrong with Henry Mayfield. The whole Mayfield family, actually. They own practically all of Cimarron County. Pretty much the only ones in town with indoor plumbing and a house that isn’t made of sod. They may live in Oklahoma, but they ain’t Okies, that’s for sure. And now Melissa is joining them.
That must be very hard for you, losing your sister like that. Not to mention the extra strain of having only two people now to work the farm.
Kathryn: It isn’t just the two of us.
Oh? Is there someone else in your family?
You say that like it tastes bad. Who is Helen?
Kathryn: She married my pa. A few years ago.
So she’s your stepmother?
Kathryn: You could call her that. But I wouldn’t. And neither would she.
Can you tell me a little—?
Kathryn: I don’t want to talk about Helen.
Er, um. Okay. Well . . . uh, what would you like to talk about?
Kathryn: Do you like books?
Yes, I do.
Kathryn: What’s your favorite book?
Well, this interview isn’t really about—
Kathryn: Wanna know mine? It’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. You ever read it?
Kathryn: It’s about this girl, Dorothy. She gets sucked up into this twister and lands in a magical world called Oz. She meets a Scarecrow and a Tin Woodman and a Cowardly Lion, and they follow this road of yellow bricks to get to the City of Emeralds, which is where the Wizard lives. He’s supposed to be able to help Dorothy get home. But along the way, there’s all these troubles, like field mice and Winged Monkeys and a Wicked Witch. Melissa used to read it to me all the time. It was my mother’s book—my real mother’s—but she left it for me. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a great story.
It is a great story. One of my favorites, too.
Kathryn: I’d like to visit Oz, if I could. But I think, if I ever did, I’d be a lot like Dorothy—I’d still be fighting to get home. Because no matter how great the rest of the world is, there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be than Oklahoma. Dust or no dust.
I agree. There truly is no place like home.
Kathryn: And if you don’t mind, I’d like to be getting back to mine. I got a broken fence to repair and a hayloft to clean out. Pa heard there was a chance of rain tonight. Ain’t likely, but we’ll keep living our lives as if it might. That’s all we can do.
Of course. Well, thank you for your time, Kathryn. Good luck with your chores. And I really do hope it rains soon.
Kathryn: It will. One of these days, it will.
About the Author
Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, and one rambunctious dachshund.