Choctaw Woman from Mashulaville walking to her mailbox
Choctaw is pronounced, chata. We have a prominent Choctaw Indian tribe who live on the Choctaw Indian Reservation near Philadelphia. Mashulaville, Mississippi is between Macon, and Philadelphia. If you went to Macon, which is closer to Starkville, you would go West and then turn South. Mashulaville is a tiny spot or very small community in our wonderful state of Mississippi.The Choctaw Indian tribe is a member of a Muskogean people originally inhabiting Mississippi and Alabama. The Choctaw language of these Indian people which they still use today is an unknown and very difficult language. “They say," during one of our wars the Choctaw language was used as our "secret language" as "pass words," and this is the way many Choctaws served our country as soldiers during the wars we have had. The Choctaws are members of the aboriginal people of America. The are a proud and wonderful tribe of our Mississippi people.Every summer when our three children, Frank, Jr., McReynolds, and Elizabeth were growing up, we tried to take them down the Choctaw Indian Fair which was always held during our hot, hot, very hot month of July every year. It was a colorful event every summer time, and Frank, Sr., and I wanted to expose our children to all of Mississippi, and to especially experience the world of our Choctaw Indians. One summer we got to meet and talk to a real Choctaw Princess, all dressed up in her beautiful Indian dress with her crown on her head. She was a princess from Oklahoma. Years ago, many of our Choctaw Indians walked towards Oklahoma by foot, and it was called, "The Trail Of Tears." This Choctaw Princess was a descendent of this part of our American history. We got to witness a famous Choctaw Stick Ball Game, and for lunch we ate in white Styrofoam cups, the famous Choctaw Hominy which is maize— corn hulled, ground, and prepared for food by being boiled with water or milk. Ours was boiled with milk. We had hot corn-bread and crackers along with our steaming Hominy. Our now grown children often mention our experiences we all had down at the Choctaw Reservation, and they will still tell us... “how much fun they all had during those hot and very humid days of July when Moma and Daddy would pack them into the car, and head down to the annual Choctaw Indian Fair” ...always making an extra stop at an old very typical general grocery store near by Williamsvillei ...where they still slice bacon with the rind still on it, and one can purchase shoes, boots, clothes, and even jewelry here. We plan to take our grandchildren down there one summer time too! We think it is very important to know and love the area in our own backyard, and to experience different lifestyles and cultures we have right around us in our great state of Mississippi.The year was 1970 that I had the great opportunity to paint this particular painting. This is 40 years ago, and I loved and am inspired and influenced by...one of America's greatest artist, Andrew Wyeth. He was the highest paid living American artist. He recently died in his 90's, a year or so ago, and was still painting into his 90's. He lived in Chadds Ford, Pa. area along the Brandywine River. He was nurtured by his own famous father, N. C. Wyeth who was an illustrator of children's classics of Robin Hood and Treasure Island. Andrew's sons are also artists, and we can all be so proud of the entire artistic Wyeth family for their contributions to America through these generations of artists. I was honored to go to the New Orleans Museum of Art to see, “taste" and "drink in" Andrew Wyeth's, The Helga Pictures, which were there in this fine museum April 25-June 29 in 1997. What a enlightening experience I had to see his original paintings! This particular painting of mine I am sharing with you today is one that Andrew Wyeth might have created too. He would have loved this subject and scene, I think! I was riding along the highway which led me to this tiny spot in the road, Mushulaville, MIssissippi...40 years ago in the cold winter time of the year...when I suddenly spotted this great possible portrait waiting to be captured on my canvas walking down to her simple mail box with a brick at the end of a wooden plank holding the crooked mail box on top of an old log looking post. She was an old Choctaw Indian woman. The day was gloomy and it had a dismal, melancholy feeling about it, except for a white cloud or two floating above our heads in a slightly Cerulean Blue Sky above. There was definitely a feeling of gloominess about this day. I saw her face and her very expression appeared to have a feeling of dejection about her facial expression ...or maybe she was simply tired of this cold, bare land she was living off of... and living on...in a place called, Mashulaville. What a name for a small town!I admit it was surely a dreary day, but suddenly to me, as an artist, it became a happy, glorious sunshiny day! I had discovered a painting in what we might call the "boon docks"...riding along..and suddenly "I was singing a song"..when I spotted her... and whispered to myself..."Oh, my gosh, what a painting to be painted right before my eyes! I almost wrecked the car with all my art supplies moving forward into the front seat from the back seat when I pushed on my brakes to a dead stop! I quickly got outside and met her as she was making her way to her mail box that cold winter's early morning...introduced myself to her, and ask if I might paint her portrait, her home, and the landscape around "her world!" She seemed to understand me, and with a slight smile, agreed! I was, as the 'ole Mississippi expression goes, "in high cotton!” I had found a treasured discovery on this 'old dirt road filled with pot holes and mud from recent winter time heavy rain storms...of one of our very own old Choctaw Indian Women who definitely belonged right here in this funny sounding name of a community and a tiny, "itsey bitsey" town, Mashulaville! It was if I had found at the end of this miserable bumpy, wet, rocky road, there was a rainbow, and this now... colorful rainbow was "an old Choctaw Indian Woman!Just look at this painting with me, and you now too, enjoy sketching and painting it all over with me again...but this time...we shall do it with words as if my pencils and brushes were again "dancing" along the 100 percent cotton stretched 18" X 24 canvas. Let's start from the top and let your eyes along with mine read it left to right...sentence by sentence..as if we are reading this story and my painting as...a book...sentence by sentence. The first thing... see at the top are the bare, "leaf-less" trees of a winter's day! Some far dark green trees, probably pine trees in the far distant background. Then you come to the modest white typical sort of, Jim Walter home, that often dot our landscapes around Mississippi, but it really looks more like a typical just plain "old house!" It has a tin roof with a chimney on top to burn the stacked up wood on the left side at the end of the porch. Look first at the sagging and leaning foundation of this little house. It has standing underneath the house... of blocks that look like triangle concrete blocks, and spot the one plank or pole propping up the last concrete triangle block to the far right end of the foundation. Four columns, which are simple posts, hold up this porch. Two windows on the front part of the house and porch, and maybe two windows on the left side of the house. Look at the old brown/gold looking arm chair that she has probably drug out of her house to become a piece of "porch furniture!" The old sagging, worn out, with holes in it red couch... "takes the cake." This old red couch has character for sure, agree? I love it! Here in its "permanent home"... this old red couch is the absolute perfect touch for this entire painting, because to me...RED... is my favorite color, and this same red is picked up in her poka-dotted dress and red scarf as well as touches of red in the dirt and foreground. The odd number three is found in the red couch, the red scarf and the red clay dirt! Keep going with your eyes to the golden sage grass...behind this sage are the dark green pine trees which make a nice back ground to this useless sage grass not gone to "pot" as we say...until you get to her biggest old bare tree limbs and trunk of the tree nearer to her shoulder. It gracefully goes up to the blue sky with those clouds floating by as if maybe the sun might be attempting to possibly peep up behind a hidden sun and sunshine... we merely wish...sunshine... for that dreary winter's day back in 1970.This old sage grass is worn with feet, and maybe an old car or two, has beaten down the path way to her house. See the almost golden hill side which takes your eyes down the path she has made with her own feet as they trod along each day to that mail box to check and see if she has any mail for the day!Look at the is sad and very dismal looking land itself. As we say in Mississippi, "this looks like sorry, good for nothing land, but to merely exist and maybe live on!" This sentence is questionable, however, my now subject...my old Choctaw Indian woman is existing on the land, for sure! Look at the red clay dirt land mixed in with the sage and shadows of the day, as they cast themselves down on this "sorry good for nothing or I could spell it, "nuthing" land!We come to my portrait of my old Choctaw Indian woman. Her very facial expressions have a sort of gloom and a frown about them. Does she have a melancholy dismal feeling inside her heart and soul? I wondered, or is this her regular facial expression every day? She has greying hair which told me she is getting older. Her tired black eyes and her thin lips match her reddish/brown Choctaw Indian skin color. Her shoulders even seem to be drooping too... as if she has toiled and worked for years and years, merely by simply existing off this tough and hard land... she was placed on earth to live on and find happiness every day of her life! Her pretty very spotlessly cleaned, starched, and ironed dress has a square collar with ruffles on the white and red polka-dotted pattern, both on the entire long sleeved dress with ruffles on the bottom of her sleeves and the bottom of the long dress too which is hanging just below her knees. Look at her waist, half white apron tied around her waist. I just bet you that she has just fixed her dinner (at high noon) for the day of a hot bowl of Hominy and hot buttered maize bread (corn-bread) and maybe a cold glass of sweet tea or maybe a hot steaming cup of coffee with lots of sugar and cream on such a cold winter's day! Look at her wonderful black soft leather moccasins she is wearing on her feet. She definitely has on a very typical Choctaw Indian dress, on her body, apron on her waist, red scarf on her head and black moccasins on her feet... after all she is a true Old Mississippi Choctaw Indian woman. To me, that day, she became my Indian Princess, trudging along her path in life headed to her mail box. Look now at the bottom of our journey together (traveling along together ... you as "my viewer"...I as "the artist") to the old mail box. This was her destination, the mail box at the end of her path. I really love it cause both the brick at the back on the plank give this entire box its stability as it holds it in place and anchors it down to the plank. It is reddish like the red clay dirt in the front of her house mixed in with the sage as well as the red clay path she has just taken to get to the mail box itself.Look at the front of the mail box and see the same reddish clay like color caught up in its reflection from the red clay dirt. The old weathered post that this mail box is standing up and nailed on is clinging on to the land just like she is clinging on for her mere existence to life this day and living each day in her own Choctaw Indian world because she is simply happy inside her own heart and soul to be alive on this dismal, dreary Mississippi winter day...she is an...Old Choctaw Indian Woman, Mashulaville, Mississippi, checking her mailbox!