The Edmond Sun

April 26, 2013

Pint-size settlers race for land

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Thunder, lightning and intermittent rains didn’t dampen the spirits of Edmond’s third graders waiting Friday to celebrate the 1889 Land Run.

Students and their parents had spent weeks getting ready for the day’s activities throughout the district, and the results were fleets of Conestoga-style wagons lined up in the hallways of the elementary schools waiting for the weather to break so the students could run outdoors and stake their claims.  

At Northern Hills Elementary, as well as other elementary schools across the district, the day’s activities were re-arranged as teachers, students and parents waited for the clouds to clear. The students made butter to eat with biscuits, hand beaded bookmarks, learned to lasso like Will Rogers and had family portraits made with a re-enactor visiting Northern Hills Elementary.

Re-enactor Justin Hudson, known as Okie Bill and third-grader Heather’s father, told the students he was 114 as he regaled them with stories about the Land Run and the part played by the Sooners during the run.

Students visited the general store and for a few pennies could buy seed packets, leather straps, wooden clothes pins, candy sticks, jerky, taffy clementines and more.

While waiting for the rain to stop, they laid out their lunches on colorful quilts in the hallways and under the front awning of the school while the skies rumbled.

When the clouds cleared students and wagons rolled onto the school ground waiting for Trail Boss Grant Hodges, grandfather of third-grader Ashlynn Hodges, to blow the fog horn to signal the start of the run. Grant is no newcomer to signaling a run.

“I was the trail boss for Oklahoma’s 100-year celebration and when we re-enacted the Cherokee Land Rush of 1893,” Grant said. He added he has been participating in trail rides since 1978.

His granddaughter, Ashlynn, boasted her grandfather is an honorary sheriff.

“What is cool is that tanning wasn’t a thing back then,” Ashlynn said. The women would cover their heads with bonnets so their ears wouldn’t burn, and wear long sleeves because they didn’t want their skin to look like the cowboys, and the men wore hats to keep from burning their faces.

Following their land run, staking claims and filing for land deeds, the students took part in having family pictures taken with Okie Bill with colorful quilts as a backdrop. Students were divided into families with each family choosing a name that would have been appropriate during the time of the run.

Afternoon activities included square dancing and playing pioneer games including seeing who could spit sunflower seeds the furthest.

The students had just finished their year-long unit on Oklahoma History as part of their state-required PASS skills, and this past week they had completed lessons leading up to the Land Run re-enactment. The actual anniversary is April 22.

“I learned that the first Land Run in 1889 was on what we celebrate as Earth Day now,” said Jordan Flynn.

Lexie Brasher said she learned the early settlers went through a lot.

“Even though the land was free, they had to build houses and barns and raise crops to keep it,” Lexie said. “I also had never heard of Sooners until we studied about the land run.”

Matthew Entwistle said he learned there were more than 1,000 people lined up for the land run, and Troy Pearman said after the run was over the settlers would entertain themselves in the evening with rope tricks.

Even the clothing worn by the early cowboys and settlers had a purpose.

“I learned those long-legged boots protected them from snake bites,” said Lauren Hodges.