The sudden flash of lightning and clap of thunder woke sixteen-year-old Luke O’Brien from a deep sleep. Dressed in a long-tailed shirt, he lay quietly, listening to the rhythmic pounding of the raindrops on the roof of his second floor bedroom.
It was late April of 1890, and the rain had been constant and non-stop for the past two days. The room was muggy and he got up to open a window. Peering outside, a bolt of lightning flashed to reveal the swollen Caney River of northeastern Oklahoma overflowing her banks about 300 yards away. Thunder rumbled with another flash of lightning.
Something in the dark raging water caught his eye. A mammoth black silhouette rolled and turned in the choppy waves. Luke squinted, hoping to make out the darkened form just a few feet from the bank. Within minutes lightning streaked across the sky, darkening the monolith even further.
His twin brother, Mark, stirred in the bed next to his and came awake. “What’s going on?” He rubbed his eyes and came to stand next to his brother.
Luke made room for him at the window. “I just saw something. In the water---.”
Suddenly the room lit up behind them. They turned to see their mother, Nakoma, with a kerosene lamp standing in the doorway. Both boys had inherited their father’s lean, muscular body and blue eyes, but their angular facial features, dark hair and russet Native American coloring came from their mother, Nakoma, a full-blood Osage. Nakoma had married Scott, an Irish American in 1873, allowing them to build a cattle ranch in Indian Territory.
“Luke, Mark, are you all right?”
“It’s nothing, Mom.” Luke answered for them. Fifteen minutes older than Mark, Luke took being the oldest seriously. “Just couldn’t sleep with the storm.” He spoke softly, not wanting to alarm her of his concern with the rising water or the mysterious dark object in the river.
The boy’s father had put them in charge when he left in March to help herd cattle along the Chisholm Trail up to Kansas. He wouldn’t be back until after Labor Day. Being a close family they missed their father, but knew they needed the money he’d earn on the drive since the blizzard of ‘86 had almost forced their ranch into bankruptcy.
His mother joined them at the window. “I know, I’ve been praying.” She held the curtain out and let the wind sweep into the room.
The boys stood a good four inches taller than their mother’s petite frame. Luke kissed her on the forehead. “Sometimes I wish I had your faith, Mom.”
“Luke just said he saw something. In the water.” Mark offered.
Luke shot his brother a warning glance. “It was nothing, Mom and I’ll see to it tomorrow.” He paused. “Mark’s more worried than me, but sometimes it’s hard understanding why God allows the storms.”
She touched his cheek. “I know, but God’s ways are mysterious; His blessings renewed each morning. Trust Him.”
“Rainbow after the storm?” He asked, ruefully.
“Yes,” she smiled.
“Well, I’ll grant what’s in that river is a mystery, but you’ll need to keep praying for that rainbow because the cattle are going to need it climb out of the muck tomorrow.” He kissed her on the cheek. “Good-night, Mom.”
Mark followed his brother’s example and kissed his mother.
After she left, Mark said. “You still look worried. You think everything’s okay?”
Luke drew back the curtains one last time. “I don’t know.” Lightning flashed, briefly flushing the shadows out of the room. Thunder boomed and the rain pelted harder than before. “God’s mystery or no, I did see something out there.”
Morning offered a startling clear blue sky. After breakfast, Luke and Mark saddled their horses, to ride the banks of the river to tend the cattle and scout the mysterious form seen outside their window.
Their search was quickly rewarded as they came around a bend in the now slow moving river. “That’s got to be it,” Luke exclaimed jumping from his horse to stand next to a gigantic oak imprisoned on a once pristine white sandbar.
The trees massive branches had impaled the riverbed and a dark sticky, foul-smelling substance oozed from its wounds. The boys watched in wonder as the dark liquid trailed to a shallow pool of water to create a mysterious oily rainbow sheen to float effortlessly over the surface of the water.
“Oil,” Luke said in awe. “Oil.”
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