Life & Death

on the Western Great Plains:

Part Two of Two

Photo credits given below plus recipe for the world's best tasting pumpkin pie!

The story of the woman who lived on the western Great Plains centuries before Coronado’s Spanish exploration in the mid 1500s was presented in Part One of Life & Death on... It was fascinating information but, seeing the woman’s petrified skull, took us to an experience level about North America most only have imagined.

Since then, I’ve frequently thought of this historical person. Afterall, how many of us have any visual connection to a person who lived a thousand years back in one’s history? I enlarged the photo of her skull on my computer. My focus always seemed to settle on where her eyes looked out on the world. My sight, what I imagined, meshed with hers.

In my curiosity, I wanted to learn more. What she did in a normal day? A week? Her forty plus years? Did she have a mate? Children? Was anything normal? If our time gap could have been bridged, I probably would have interviewed her for weeks with my little pocket recorder purring away. During our breaks, would she share deeper thoughts and dreams? To my surprise, there was more to this connection!

Like some characters in my writings, this historical woman requested more exposure. "Clifton, there is so much more to my story, my life. Please don't let Part One be the end!" … She made a compelling case, and Part Two took a detour.

Campfire Story:

This Native American woman, who lived over one thousand years ago, seemed delighted to give a walking tour to a writer from the year 2023.

“We live by water for many reasons,” she expressed with a warm smile.

“You’d know some of them: daily water needs; aquatic food; nourishment to plants and trees; and a draw to wildlife like birds, beaver, and buffalo.”

I nodded an understanding to these, but was surprised to hear her add, “Protection from outsiders and prairie fires.” 

“Okay,” I responded. “Tell me more.”

“Daily water need is real,” she expressed. “We only have running water or ponds. Long distance from one to another unless from the sky. Low areas on the Plains like buffalo wallows might hold it for a few days. Need water to survive. Die quickly out here.”

Suddenly, the NASA space photo view of the earth and water reports flashed through my mind. Seventy percent (70%) of the surface is water, and the USGS estimated about 68% is saline and 32% is usable for plants and animals. But—there is always a but—most of that is locked up in glaciers, snow packs and underground. Leaves less than 1.5% in streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. She would not know this. Only from her experience and the wise ones before her about water and its importance to the tribe.

NASA space photo of Earth and Western Hemisphere. Courtesy NASA.

NASA space photo of Earth eastern hemisphere. Courtesy NASA.

“When the huge buffalo herds migrated, our tribe was excited. We learned through time some would come our way to drink. The buffalo provided much for our survival. Everyone gets involved. These animals are massive, and provide much food. Everything is used.” She pointed towards the lodges. “See those coverings? It’s mostly buffalo skin. Has to be scraped and prepared for use. Notice how each higher skin overlays the lower one? Keeps rain leaks out. See the hole at the top with the flap? Allows smoke from inside to escape and not harm us. Learned from the older, wise ones before us.”

I wondered, How long were those learning journeys? It dawned on me as we walked, her educational tour turned into an experience of a life-time.

She added, "Wise ones taught us also to hunt where the fires had swept across the prairie. Old grass and weeds gone. Live, fresh grass grows and attracts buffalo and animals to hunt."

Seemed more questions came than were answered. I wondered about things she likely experienced over her forty some years.

How many times did she marvel at the beauty of sunrises and sunsets? How many times did she wonder about the moon? How it changes shape, or it’s nearness to her? Could she make out the 'man in the moon?'

How many times did she see birds in flight and wonder how they were able to fly? Ever wish to join them in the vast sky? Did she ever jump off a high place, and test her own ability to fly? From where do they come and where do they go? … And, did she ever marvel at the Glory of the Heavens? Was there a 'Great Spirit' in her life? The tribes?

Wild Sunflowers

Cactus Pear

Yucca Plant

Wild Purslain

Indian Blanket

She pointed to different wild plants and flowers as we walked. Some were for beauty, some food, and some medicine. Some were good for multiple purposes. There was the wild rose, yucca plant, pursula, sunflower, Indian Blanket, and others. Interesting how they’ve adapted to the harsh hot winds and blowing cold temperatures of the Great Plains.

Her face glowed brighter and brighter as she described the time and place where she lived and her life. Someone was listening! Perhaps, her comment of clouds after a storm and a rainbow summarized all, “The beauty of those colors of the bow are always there, and no matter which end you start from, it’s always going upward in the sky.”

Later, I wondered how she died? Her radius bone was found protruding from an embankment on the Vantine-Landess Ranch might be a clue to how her petrified remains came to be there. Flash flood upstream and buried under anerobic (oxygen free) conditions of mud and rocks? She may have gone to the Frisco Creek to obtain fresh water or, perhaps, she was gathering some edible aquatic plants or animals. Maybe something for medicinal purposes.

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We are all indebted to Bill Landess of the Vantine-Landess Ranch and to Dr. Paul Reed for sharing the story of this historical Plains Indian woman. The story contributes to our historical knowledge and adds to the lore of the western Great Plains. Without a doubt, there are many others whose own story is waiting to be resurrected from the ashes of history. May it be soon

Thanks for stopping by my campfire, and sharing a little history.


I’ll keep the campfire burning,




PS: Yes, you may share this true story from our history with someone else. They also can receive future Campfire Stories by sending an email to Clifton at or joining Clifton's Campfire writing blog on his author website: BTW, these are free.

 Photos: Thanks to all who offered use of their magnificint creations. Couldn't use all. Photos: (top down): #1 Wide-open western plains, courtesy use by A. Winfrey of Guymon, OK. #2 a 750 to 1,000 year old Native American skull courtesy use by P. Reed of Guymon, OK. #3 a prairie storm and lightening courtesy use by L. Elfers at . #4 Space photos of earth, courtesy use by NASA. #5 Bison plains vintage, courtesy use by Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge of Indiahoma, OK  #6 Sunrise on the western Great Plain, courtesy use by D. Edney of NM via Slapout, OK . #7 Western Oklahoma Plains sunset, courtesy use of Mark Roberts (MJR Photography) at #8 Blue Super Moon photo, courtesy use by K. Campbell of Bartlesville, OK. #9 Geese in Flight, courtesy use by R. McGuire of Verdigris, OK.  #10 The Glory of the Heavens, courtesy use by A. Winfrey of Guymon, OK.  #11-15 Wildflowers of the western Great Plains: Wild Sunflower (by D. Edney), Cactus Pear (by T. Bridenstine), Yucca Plant (by L. Roberts), Wild Purslain (by L. Roberts), and Indian Blanket (by K. Slade - Flickr), all courtesy use by person named within parenthesis. #16 Double Rainbow over the Western Great Plains, courtesy use by L. Roberts.   


 The original Part Two of the 'Life & Death' Campfire Story: will be out at a later time. The next Campfire Story will be about A Congressional Gold Medal Presentation with a focus in appreciation to all veterans in November.

God bless! ... cs

© Clifton Savoy, Ph.D.

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Mildred's Pumpkin Custard Pie

This is Clifton's mom. He says, "Never had a better tasting pumpkin pie! Had a second at a restaurant not long ago for Thanksgiving, but Mom's was still the best. Recipe may have come from my grandmother." A photo of Mildred later in life, fall of 2009, in front of Clifton's house is presented below.


3 eggs, ½ tsp. allspice,  1/2 cup brown sugar,  1 tsp cinnamon, ½ cup white sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 Tablespoon flour,  1 ½ cups whole milk,   ½ tsp salt-scant (or enough milk to ½ tsp nutmeg to fill the pie shell),   1 cup pumpkin


1)    Beat eggs, mix all dry ingredients together and add to eggs. Beat together and add 1 cup pumpkin and vanilla. Beat all ingredients together and add milk last and combine.

2)     Add ingredients to unbaked pie shell. Bake in a hot oven at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until center of pie is firm and does not shake, approximately 1 hour.

3) Enjoy!