A new educational series will bring Opal's story to Post Bulletin readers. Beginning Sept. 25, the Post Bulletin will run "Opal and the Secret Code" in nine installments.
Newspaper subscribers can read the story of Opal Fleming in print. Local schools can also access lesson plans, historical information about the American School for the Deaf and sign language graphics.
I grew up on the Oklahoma prairie in an old log cabin with Pa, Ma and my older brother and sister. We mostly traveled on foot to the nearby town. Once in a while Pa would hitch up our old gray mare to the wagon and we'd visit Ma's relatives afar off.
I always seemed to be in some kind of trouble, without really knowing why. My older brother often had to pull me off one of the other kids during a knockdown drag-out fight. That's how I got kicked out of school. The teacher told Pa I was too much for her to handle even though I was a tiny, scrawny, seven year old girl.
All my crying and kicking did me no good. My brother and sister, hand-in-hand, would travel down the dusty narrow path day after day on their way to school. Ma kept a tight grip and a careful eye on me.
But today was different. It was just me and Pa. We made our way down that dusty path hand-in-hand with a carpetbag in hand. I waved goodbye to Ma and my brother and sister. This time there were tears in their eyes as they were left behind. I looked back, smiled at them and skipped alongside Pa. I didn't know where I was going. I was just glad to be going somewhere with Pa.
Pa didn't know how to tell me where we were going because I am deaf. Born that way they say. I never did hear a word—just a loud noise every now and then. It was the greatest thrill to see lightning, to feel the ground rumble under my feet and every now and then hear the sound of thunder.
Soon we got to town. I saw a big, long train. As we got closer I wondered was Pa taking me on that train? Could it be!
Then we walked right up the iron steps of that train. I leaped into the air and tapped Pa, pointed to myself, then to Pa, and to the train. Pa laughed and nodded his head. He lifted me up onto the train.
There were so many times I had seen the train and begged Pa to let me go for a ride. Now here I was getting on that train. It felt almost too good to be true.
Soon the train rumbled on its way. I pressed my nose against the window and pointed out to Pa every house and every animal I saw along the way. There were so many horses, cows and sheep scattered across the Oklahoma prairie. I'd never seen so many houses and animals in all my life.
Not even when Pa took us in the old wagon to visit Ma's relatives afar off.
Pa sat quietly. He looked sad, his mind was somewhere off from the excitement of the ever-changing view. I didn't know what Pa was thinking, just that it must be something important. Maybe even something to worry about. It wouldn't be until almost a year later that I'd understand the story behind us taking this trip together.
Next week: The Big Stone House