92 Years of Extraordinary Stories

Written by Teddy Burch in the June 2008 Issue

This story begins during the heat of an August afternoon in Paden, Oklahoma, in a one-room cabin with a dirt floor, in the year of 1916, when Oma Checotah was born. The doctor “whipped” her behind, welcoming her into this world, a trend that continued for many years.

“I found a way to get in trouble for just about everything,” Oma said. “I remember my mother, she used to dip snuff, and one time, when I was about three, she sent me for it. Well, I spilled it on the way back. I just knew sure enough that I was getting a whipping. So I filled up the can with sugar and cocoa, thinking she wouldn’t know. Well, she did, and I sure enough got a whipping.”

At an early age, Oma attended Scrougout School where she continued to stay in trouble. “I had a teacher named Ms. Sheets. She always disciplined us. I had to find a way to get even with her. One day we had an assignment to write a little essay. Well, I misspelled her name on purpose, you know so it would sound almost like her name,” she said. “As you can imagine, I got a whipping for that too.”

Growing up poor didn’t stop Oma and her siblings from expanding their creative side. “When we were little, we didn’t have anything. We would get some of Mama’s sugar and mix it with mud. We would eat those things and Mama would beat the fire out of us. I don’t know if it was because we ate mud or that we used her sugar.”

The world was a different place in those days. Her daddy was a bootlegger who enjoyed his product. Her family would take a horse drawn carriage to church and when they did get their first car, it was a strip-down. “It was just a floor with running gears,” said Oma. “The seat was a box and when it was cold, all of us kids would climb inside and wrap up in blankets to stay warm.”

Her family moved to Edmond in 1928, on the corner of Danforth and Highway 74. The next year they lived in tents during an oil boom in Seminole. However, the boom went bust, and within one year they were back in Edmond.


Oma’s dad worked many farms around town and some of his works are still visible today. “When we moved back to Edmond, we lived in a chicken house, on Pete Holmes’ farm. My daddy built a lake on that farm.”

That lake was named Pete Holmes Lake and has since been renamed Mulholland. Her dad also took a job building a brick wall. You can see it today. It’s the border around Gracelawn Cemetery.

As the years passed, Oma grew up and eventually married. In 1934, she began having children—a total of eight. She divorced and remarried in 1964. Her second marriage was to a man named Samuel Checotah, great-great grandson to the Confederate Lieutenant Colonel, Samuel Checote, and the man whom the Oklahoma town Checotah is named after. “Some years after the Battle of Honey Springs, the town name of Checote was changed to Checotah, and it has stuck ever since,” she said.

Years continued to pass and soon she became a grandmother. “Of all the good memories of my life, I would have to say that becoming a grandmother for the first time would have to be the best memory of all.”

It didn’t take long for more memories to arrive. In a few years, she would become a grandmother 20 times over. “Well, there got to be a lot of them, but I always remembered every name and birthday,” she said.

Her memory continued to get tested. Within just a few summers and a few springs, Oma was a great-grandmother. “If you will give me the time, I’ll tell you everyone’s name, but I have 56 great-grandchildren!”

Living outside of the city limits, Oma has the luxury of 320 acres. In years past, she and her late husband enjoyed bountiful crops of tomatoes, onions, beans and whatever else their gardens produced. They had cattle, barns and equipment to maintain the parcel of land. Fortunately, she has plenty of space because today, Oma has 32 great-great grandchildren. When her immediate family gets together, they need to set the table for 116.

“We used to have Christmas gatherings here for everyone. We sure had a lot of fun,” she said. “We’re spread out all over the country now, and I just love to travel to where a few of them live and see all of them.”

This 91-year-old great-great-grandmother continues to live life to the fullest, singing her rendition of “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” at a karaoke bar. “I like to bring a little religion into a place like that,” she said.

For Oma Checotah, those whippings for getting into trouble stopped many years ago; but if you ask her daughters, they will tell you that when it was deserved, Oma had no trouble handing out a whipping or two herself.

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