Part of the Mare Herd at the 4DH Ranch in Oklahoma. For More Works by Debra Coppinger Hill Click Image.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


If you turn off of Route 66 west of Vinita and head south on highway 69 and drive until you get to the Chouteau area, from quite a distance away you will see a flag. As you get closer you will notice that the flag sits on the top of a tall hill in the middle of a pasture on the east side of the road. In the daylight it is an inspiring sight with the red, white and dark blue set against a crystal blue Oklahoma sky. Lit at night it is a landmark in the middle of nowhere and a beacon waving against the darkness. Folks around here call it the Parker Flag.

So long ago I cannot clearly recall all the details my Dad told me how Mr. Parker owned a drilling company and a ranch and how he placed the flag on top of the hill at his ranch for folks to be able to see from a long way off. I asked him why Mr. Parker did that and Daddy said “Because he is a patriot and he loves America.”

In my life I have driven past the Parker Flag thousands of times; on my way to the lake, to go to my favorite bead shop and many, many times on my way home from places far away. Each time it comes into view (especially on those long, lonesome night drives) I know I am close to home and I hear my Dad’s voice repeating; “Because he is a patriot and he loves America.”

We passed it just this weekend and for the first time in my life I stopped and took several photos. When we got home I tried to look up some information on the Parker Flag. Other than as part of directions for some real estate for sale in the area, I found nothing. It is important enough to be a part of directions, but there is nothing to speak of when it comes to it being an attraction in the area. In an age where everything is on the internet I was surprised by the obvious lack of information.

While I was pondering this my pal Duffy called. He was wondering how we were fairing with the thunder storms that had been popping up and he needed a phone number. While I was looking through my phone book we chatted. When he asked what I was up to I told him I had been on the internet trying to find some information about the Parker Flag. I asked him why he thought I couldn’t find anything and he said, “Folks don’t do things like that for publicity.” I had to agree. Whereas I would love to have the whole story and share it with all of you, I will have to leave you with just those things I know from the memory of that drive with my Dad. I will also leave you with the last of my conversation with Duffy which pretty much summed it all up and left my Dad’s voice echoing in my heart.

I asked Duffy why he thought Mr. Parker had put the flag up there for the world to see. I heard him take a deep breath and then he said, “He probably had a very personal reason. I pretty much figure he did it because he loved America.”

In honor of Independence Day and in honor of Mr. Parker and the Parker Flag: God Bless America.

**RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net


Dressed in our best clothes, our shoes shined and holding bundles of small flags in our hands, we sat quietly while he drove. He too, wore his best, including his Sunday Stetson. The silence was uncharacteristic; usually he was full of stories and jokes that kept us laughing and chattering. This day, however, was a reverent day and our first time to join him on this yearly trip.

As he pulled to a stop and put the truck in neutral he said, “You all just follow me. You both know what your jobs are?” Having received instructions at home, we nodded. He got out and took a bushel basket from the bed of the truck. We followed him through the gate of the cemetery and along a path by the rock fence. He stopped, looked out across the graves, sighed then nodded his head and stepped forward to the headstone in front of him. Taking a wreath of red, white and blue flowers from the basket he placed it before the stone and stepped back. As he removed his hat and held it over his heart, we stepped forward and each placed a flag beside the stone. As we stepped back beside him he looked down and nodded his head again and the three of us said out loud, “Thank You.”

Each time we ran out of flowers or flags, he fetched more. We repeated this ritual 36 times. When the last grave was decorated we followed him back to the gate where he seated us at a picnic table. He brought one more basket from the truck and laid out a picnic lunch before us. While we ate he told the story that I would hear each year for 35 more years.

“When they called up the men in our town, I working in the oil fields and when I went to enlist they told me I was needed at home. I stayed and worked hard, but I never felt quite right about it. These men went and never came home to their families. Many of their families no longer live here. They deserve to be remembered and for as long as I live they will be remembered on Memorial Day. Never forget that we would not be free to live our lives if it were not for them. Never forget that they have earned our respect and that their sacrifice for freedom, is the greatest of gifts.”

He never spoke of the things he did at home besides working. He never took credit for keeping a garden and fishing and hunting to help feed the families of the men overseas. Nor did he ever speak of the home repairs or farm and ranch labor he did for free or the money he gave to help with rent, mortgages and things needed by the children of those families. These are the things we would learn about after he passed away. These were the stories they would tell us; of how he stepped in and became a provider for many of the families left behind. He too, sacrificed; and yet, remained humble as he honored them.

Today the baskets sit in the back of our truck. My daughter and I will take my grandson to visit his Great-Great-Grand-Father and the men he honored each year. We will place 36 wreaths and 72 flags just as he did. Then just before a picnic lunch, we will place one more wreath and two more flags and we will say, “Thank You”, to a man who not only did his duty, but taught us ours.

**RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net


Everyone has a claim to fame. Perhaps you have met someone famous or are a celebrity in your own right. It could be that you invented something, saved someone from a bad situation or donated a substantial sum to a charity or school. My claim to fame came in first grade, Rodman Elementary School, Poteau, Oklahoma, 1963.

Our class was small, less than a dozen children our desks in a semi-circle. Our teacher, Mrs. Miller assigned every student a job that they carried out each week. Some of the jobs included cleaner of the erasers, person in charge of passing out milk at lunch, holding open the door coming and going from recess and note carrier to the office. This is just to name a few, there were others and we all did them with pride; after all, each job came with a title and a title made us special. Each week the jobs rotated and we took over a new responsibility. Each week I waited for my turn at the most coveted job of all; Flag Bearer.

I wanted that job and I wanted it bad. Being in charge of the flag came with perks; your desk was moved to the front of the room next the flag stand and you sat closet to the door and got to be first in line for recess and lunch. It was a premium position for a first grader. I knew it was special, but I had no idea how special.

On Fridays Mrs. Miller would announce our jobs for the next week. This particular Friday she asked me to please move my desk to the front of the room next to the Flag of the United States. After doing so she dismissed the class and I, excited beyond words ran ahead of the neighbor kids I walked home with. When I told my mother I was going to be Flag Bearer she told me it was a great thing indeed and that I would have to wear my best clothes and make sure I stayed clean and presentable. When my father made it home I was standing by the door ready to share my news. He too let me know that I must take my job seriously and listen to my teacher because this was a special position.

Come Monday morning I didn’t walk to school. Mother and Daddy drove me and walked me to my classroom. Mother had french-braided my hair and I was wearing my Sunday dress and shoes. They, along with my younger brother, stood at the back of our classroom. We students took our seats and Mrs. Miller called roll. Then she looked towards me, and said, “Debra, will you please present our Flag?” I had practiced for this moment all weekend with my mother’s broom. I now rose and walked to the Flag, saluted it as I had seen all the other children do and raised it from its stand. I turned and faced the class and as I did so everyone rose. I raised the end of the pole to my hip and walked to the center of the room.
Mrs. Miller led the class in reciting the Lord’s Prayer. As we raised our bowed heads she said “Class. Salute. Pledge.” In unison they placed their hands over their hearts and along with Mrs. Miller and my parents, together said The Pledge of Allegiance. I watched the other children. The looks on their faces from this angle gave me a different perspective and my eyes followed theirs to the flag hanging above and before me. I glanced to the back of my room to where my Mother stood in her blue suit-dress and heels with her hand over her heart, my Father beside her in his suit jacket and tie, and holding his good hat over his heart; my young brother between them with his hand on his heart also. As Mrs. Miller led the group in singing ‘America’, I saw pride in my parent’s eyes; eyes fixed firmly on the Flag.

Not for one moment did I believe then or now that is was all for me. It was for our Flag, our Country and those things most sacred, God and family. They were looking with pride and respect at the Flag. I looked up at the colors I held high and knew then, what I know now; that nothing I would ever do again would ever be as important as this moment. When the last note was sung and everyone had lowered their hands, Mrs. Miller said, “Debra, would you please place our Flag.” I turned, marched the Flag back to the front of the room and placed it in its stand, stepped back and again saluted. Then I turned and looked towards my parents and saw them looking back at me and in their eyes I saw a different look of pride, and love. Mother smiled and nodded her head. Daddy winked at me and wiped his eyes. It was a defining moment in my life; a moment frozen in time and preserved forever in my memory.

Later, my parents would tell me that they were proud of me. They would tell my Grand-parents about how well I did. All my life all of my family would tell me they were proud of me for many things. But only one thing stands out for me. It is my one big claim to fame and every time I see the Flag, every time I stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance, I am reminded of that shining moment when I, Debra, daughter of Sham and Gayle Coppinger stood in honor as Bearer of the Flag.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible
With Liberty and Justice for all.

**RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tech Challenged

Just about the time I figure it all out something changes and I have to start all over. When it comes to computers, digital cameras and recording equipment, even toaster ovens when I get where I can opperate something with a fair amount of accuracy it all changes. That includes this blog. I won't go into it now, cut I will share with you this piece of knowlege...we can never win! Someday when I have a great deal of time I will write about it. For now, I will tell you that I have read enough tech manuals to fill the New York City Library. Enough is enough and I must go. I have to read how to make my grandson's DVD player work!

Ride Hard! Laugh Often!

RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net