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Roots & Wings

June 29, 2011

Jim Bailey’s stunning photograph captures a storm cloud over Baxter Springs. See more of his work at

We’re heading to the beach next week to spend the 4th of July holiday in Siesta Key, Florida. And it’s reminding me of where I watched fireworks (in spirit) for several years growing up. While we didn’t take many vacations as a family, we did annually stay in my dad’s hometown of Baxter Springs, Kansas for a pow-wow to celebrate Independence Day with lifelong family friends and tribal leaders. In lieu of bottle rockets, oohs and ahs, there, we were surrounded by drumbeats and feathered regalia in ceremonial dance.

Ottawa Nation pow-wow in Quapaw, Oklahoma

My family has strong ties to that three corners region where Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas intersect—my great-grandparents Raymond and Fey, met and married in Baxter Springs. It’s just 13 miles from where my father was born in Joplin, Missouri’s St. John’s Hospital, which was hit by the tornado that devastated the area on May 22.

Movie star Tom Mix visiting Baxter Springs, riding my great-grandfather’s horse, Diamond.

All of this reminds me of how much has changed in my life since the last time I’ve been and how much folks in that part of the country are still sifting through. But, I know energy and ancestry runs deep in the land, so I’m hoping for a little tribal dance, a flutter of hope in their honor.