How do you say it again, Jerry? This word?
I understood the reason prompting it but fielding such a question on my home town’s Main Street felt strange.
With a smile their way I began.
We spell it P-E-C-A-N. Pronouncing it once, then a second time, I continued. Notice the two syllables. We stress the last one – in this part of the country, anyway. Now, I coaxed them, your turn; let’s hear you say it.
In his Asian accent, one of these our new friends, offered up his version, Pih-Kahn.
Great!, I praised him. Spoken like a true Sooner!
A true what?
Our group of twenty – a mix of Tulsa area volunteers and university students from abroad – lined the sidewalk to sample the largest desert-serving they may ever see. Our campus ministry group had planned the June outing. To introduce our bright, young visitors – most engineering students – to a piece of North American culture. And a piece of pie thrown in.
Xiao’s spoon entered the Styrofoam dish for her second bite, Mm, this is a very new flavor to me!
As we meandered the town square, taking in music, seeing parents laugh as children ran squealing to an amusement-park ride, my thoughts wandered to an acreage north of town. A memory there.
Boys, there’s a way to earn yourselves a little spending money. Pretty easy. We turned to our father’s voice. The idea he offered was straight-forward and – like our dad himself – sensible. Tim’s dark eyebrows lifted, signaling his eagerness to give it a try. As little brother, I was fully in.
Next afternoon we visited a pecan-merchant at the west end of town – Dunhams – our half-filled burlap bag in tow.
Bring your gunny sack over this way, boys. The man moved to a set of scales. Let’s see now, he pondered, weighing our mini-crop. Taking up a pencil he calculated, At twenty-eight cents a pound. . .
Rewarded for our labors, our spirits buoyed, we all but strutted from the store. Pedaling the bicycle home with me balanced on the handle bar, my brother spoke and I could hear the smile in his voice behind me. Some of mother’s pecan pie is out on the table. A glass of milk will go good with it, huh. My mouth moistened.
I was still smiling when the student’s voice returned me to Okmulgee’s Pecan Festival.
Jerry, do we visit inside the old building now – where you said there is more about culture?
Sure. First, let’s take a look at the marker over here.
One of the newer-arrived students still navigating American English, studied the plaque. Her words came with some effort, but deliberate, distinct. Mm, I think I can pronounce, ‘Creek. Nation. Council. House.’ I nodded and she went on, Now, how do you say this word, M-u-s-c-o- – One of our volunteers came to her aid.
Directing our special guests to the city’s venerable landmark, I mused.
By bedtime tonight they’ll have plenty to write home about.
©2016 Jerry Lout