(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 25, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previousy published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
I don't know the age of this story. I don't know if it is truth or fable. I don't know if there is anything here more than a wonderful story that shares times long gone by. But here is the story that has been passed on in my family from at least the last 70 years. Sit back, relax, and listen to the oldest story we have in our family.
The story goes that not long after the Trail of Tears ended with the Native American peoples arriving in the area now called Oklahoma, several Anglo families came and rented land from the Cherokee Nation. Among these families there was one whose name might long be forgotten but they lived in the hills out in the far eastern territory near a village called Falfa. They had a small family, and rented their farm alongside my great grandfather's place. Times were hard and life was harder. Hard work and family and friends were the basis of everyday life and not much in between.
In the dead of winter near the year 1880, give or take a year, their little girl was given over to a high temperature. People brought soup, medicines, and herbs but nothing was working on the little girl. The family called for a minister hoping that maybe the prayers might make their ill daughter well.
Early in the morning the week before the Christmas holiday that year, the little girl passed on from this life to the next. They started making plans for the burial. When he came now, the minister who had been called to pray would be called on to bury this little girl.
Local native people in the area started helping dig the grave and build the pine box that would now be her home. The women busied themselves with the work of gathering food and caring for the family. They set out to look for fresh flowers, but they could not find anything for the burial. The families in the area set out looking for anything they could find to help and comfort the family.
A small group of boys went into the woods and found the only green plants they could find: mistletoe high up in the trees. So they climbed up the trees and took baskets full of the flowers to the family and used them for the funeral of that sweet little girl. The family was heartbroken and soon after that winter, headed back for their East coast home. However, the impact of the family was never forgotten by those young boys.
Years later, when the Oklahoma state flower was declared to be the mistletoe, one of those boys who gathered the mistletoe for the little girl's funeral was a member of the state government. And in the hills out in eastern Oklahoma, they still hold that this flower was named the state flower, not for any other reason, but rather for the little girl that still lived in their memory and of the hard times long forgotten and long past.
So next time you look up and see the mistletoe hanging in your home, think about the little girl and the hard times that once lived in the back hills of Oklahoma. Think about the hardy pioneers that settled in areas that no one else would and take on the world, and remember the Native Americans that shared what they had in the depths of winter to warm one family's sadness. Thank you to Floridian for the great Plantfiles image.