April 16, 1996
Daisy Lemon Coldiron was a pioneer Oklahoman in the purest sense of the word. She was a homemaker on the prairie, a mother, and a stabilizing good right hand for her husband, Dr. D. F. Coldiron, one of our most respected early-day Noble county physicians. But she also marched in the cause of women's suffrage and took a stand on troublesome social issues long before that was fashionable. Perhaps equally important, she was a poet whose works sing the ballad of a young state struggling to find its place in the order of things nearly a century ago.
Carol Steichen recently showed me her copy of "Ballads of the Plains," the last collection of Mrs. Coldiron's work to be published. It was compiled posthumously by her daughter, Kara Lee Coldiron, who now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, and was printed in 1950 by Kaleidograph Press of Dallas. Glancing through its pages took me back to the time before Mrs. Coldiron's death on November 25, 1946, when she and Doctor lived in the family home on Fir Avenue, approximately where John Divine Hall now stands.
Along with rearing two sons, Kenneth and Victor, and her daughter, Kara Lee, Mrs. Coldiron found creative time to write about the history, legends and traditions of her adopted plains country. The late Hillary Ross Greer said her lines were "tanged with the salt and sorrows of (Oklahoma's) historic soil."
Mrs. Coldiron was a slender lady of medium height who walked very erect until failing health began taking its toll. She had a sweet, pleasant smile, and greeted all the children of the neighborhood with a friendly word or just a nod of the head in recognition. Our family lived only a few blocks from the Coldiron home. Her husband was our family physician and we all attended the Presbyterian church, so even as a youngster I felt a strong relationship with the Coldirons. In the years since Mrs. Coldiron passed away in 1946, those friendships have only been deepened and strengthened as all of us grew up.
In the flyleaf for "Ballads of the Plains,” Kara Lee notes that her mother was born near Marion, Kentucky, and came, as a young woman with her mother and brothers to settle on a claim in Grant county, southwest of Pond Creek, in the Cherokee Strip. Later she married Dr. Coldiron, who also was from Kentucky, and they soon came to Perry after moving his practice here from Red Rock. Mrs. Coldiron was active in the literary affairs of her state, a member of the Poetry Society of Oklahoma and in 1936 won the society's first prize for the best Oklahoma poem. Her poems were published widely and reprinted frequently, and were used often on radio programs. Many of her poems, particularly those which deal with pioneers, have been included in anthologies of both state and national interest.
"Ballads of the Plains" contains some of Mrs. Coldiron's most lyrical verses, including one titled simply "Oklahoma," which rings out with rich descriptions of the land runs, the tumultuous early days and a meaningful summation of the goodness of this former wilderness. "Bill Doolin," another entry in this book, describes the ascent of Bill Doolin as "king of the outlaws," and still another, "Zip Wyatt -- Alias Dick Yeager," gives an account of the holdup at Red Rock in 1889. A cowboy's "Mirage on the Prairie" is included. Altogether, 42 ballads are contained in the collection. Mrs. Coldiron's poetry can be found at Perry Carnegie Library.
And on Saturday, April 20, the Oklahoma Historical Society will celebrate Mrs. Coldiron's poetic contributions to the historic tapestry of this state. Adelia Hanson, historian-registrar at the Sheerar Museum in Stillwater, will give an address on "Daisy Lemon Coldiron: Cherokee Strip Pioneer, Suffragist, Poet of Oklahoma's History," during the society's annual meeting in the Holiday Inn at Stillwater. Ms. Hanson will speak during Session VII in Room A between 8:30 and 10 a.m. on Saturday. Registration for the annual meeting will begin Thursday afternoon at the Holiday Inn, and the meeting will continue through Saturday morning. Fees are $12 for OHS members and $15 for non-members. More details are available through Kaye Bond or Clyde Speer at the Cherokee Strip Museum here.
If you have never read Mrs. Coldiron's verses, or if it's been a while since you've had an opportunity to renew your acquaintance with her lyrical work, now would he a good time to sit down and treat yourself to a rewarding experience with one of her hooks. And, hopefully, Perry will be represented at the Oklahoma Historical Society's tributes next Saturday when this distinguished lady will he formally recognized.