Square Hands DNA, But My Okie Pride Was Awhile in Coming

blacksmith closeup

It’s always been cool to be “Sooner born and Sooner bred”, at least on the football field. (Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Selmon).

But as for being from Oklahoma, well, that was a different story. 

I left Oklahoma when I was 20. And except for occasional short visits, I stayed gone, long gone — Texas, Washington, D.C., Singapore and, since 1993, New Zealand. 

All up, I worked in journalism and P.R. for four decades and, for half that, I didn’t really miss the red dirt of my past.

My attitude started to change at the turn of the century, when the Y2K computer bug threatened to bring the world to its knees.

It made me feel a need to return to my roots, to reclaim a heritage of firemen and gunsmiths, of cowboys and Indians. People who could actually do stuff with their bare hands, without computers.

My great-grandfather, Charles L. Moore, photo above with my grandpa, was a full-blood Indian (Sac and Fox by birth, Potawatomi by marriage).  

On my wall hangs his “Second June 1887” certificate from the Oklahoma Industrial School. Great-Gramps got 100% in Obedience, Honesty, Industry and Neatness. Racist? I’d call it an amazing achievement.

He become known as a blacksmith par excellence who could build or repair anything with his powerful, square hands. I’m told that, for fun, he once made a scale model, horse-powered hay-bailer that was displayed in two World Fairs.  It’s supposed to still be in the Smithsonian.

I still have the big wooden shotgun that Great Grampa used as his sign when he had a store on Main Street in Norman. It now has pride of place over my workbench in our shed in New Zealand. 

Covered Wagon

His son, my grandfather, George Henry Moore, came to Oklahoma as an infant, riding in a covered wagon. No kidding. And he absolutely had his father’s DNA.

When I was little, I often spent Friday nights at Grampa’s house on Dakota Street. 

I remember spending countless happy hours in his shop. I played with blanks and skeleton keys from his locksmith days, sawed wood and drilled holes, while Gramps was methodically working on something.

He was forever tinkering, repairing or maintaining. That’s why his stuff, like lawn mowers and window air conditioners, lasted forever. He took care of them because that’s how he was raised, and because there wasn’t much money.

Even when Gramps was old, and working as a janitor at OU to pay the bills, I knew he was an amazing craftsman even if the world didn’t.

My Dad, Gene, no middle name or initial, also had the “square” Moore hand and the fix-any-damn-thing DNA.

From what I understand, he was an outstanding fireman. At home, I remember him always being under the car, or in his shop, using ingenuity and bailing wire to build or repair something, for no money. Because money was short.

I’m immensely proud of the many, hand-forged tools that were passed down to me by my Great-Grampa, Gramps and Dad. They are proudly displayed in my shed, even though I lack the skills to use any of them, except the sledge.

I’m pretty sure the fix-it gene skipped my generation. Or maybe it just never fired because I was born with one hand.

Okie DNA

But Okie DNA is active again in my adult son, Eli.  He’s a professional musician by trade (pianist/songwriter), but he’s always had the innate ability to do stuff with his hands.

When he was young and wanted to understand how a transmission worked, he built a working model with K-nex.  Once, in his early 20’s, he needed a microphone stand and was short of cash, so he got out his old K’nex and Lego blocks and built one.

How Okie cool is that?

Which brings me back to MY Okie-ness. Even though I’ve lived overseas most of my adult life (Singapore and New Zealand),  I’m proud of my Potawatomi blood and being from Oklahoma, a place where hard-working people get stuff done.

With their square hands.

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