Harold Verne Keith (April 8, 1903 – February 24, 1998) was a Newbery Medal-winning American author. Keith was born and raised in Oklahoma, where he also lived and died. The state was his abiding passion and he used Oklahoma as the setting for most of his books.
Rifles for Watie (1957)
- Few Americans know how savagely the Civil War raged or how strange and varied were its issues in what is now Oklahoma and the neighboring states of Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. Rifles for Watie was faithfully written against the historical backdrop of the conflict in this seldom-publicized, Far-Western theater.
- Author's Note, p. xi
- "I jined up fer a frolic," laughed a tall fellow from Republic County with warts on his face. He turned to his messmate, a blond boy from Fort Scott. "Why did you come in?" "Wal, by Jack, because I thought the rebels was gonna take over the whole country." "I joined up because they told me the rebels was cuttin' out Union folks' tongues and killin' their babies. After I got here, I found out all it was over was wantin' to free the niggers," complained another, disgustedly. "I decided I'd jest as well be in the army as out in the besh. Now I'm about to decide I'd druther be in the bresh," snorted another. They were nearly all frowsy-headed, boot-shod, and lonely-looking, fresh from the new state's farms, ranches, and raw young prairie towns. Before the war ended, Kansas furnished more men and boys to the Union forces in proportion to its population than any other state. And all of them were volunteers.
- p. 22
- Jeff smiled to himself and went on eating. He had heard his father discuss the issues so often that he knew them forward and backward. But he saw no need for injecting himself into the conversation here. Besides, he was too busy with his supper. The food was good, and there was lots of it. In bed that night in the barracks, Jeff turned on his stomach and sighed with satisfaction. At last he was in the Army.
- p. 22
- When one of the surgeons motioned him outside, Jeff was glad to leave. "So long, kid," the sandy-haired man called after him. Then noticing Jeff's stricken face, he added apologetically, "I don't care, kid. I never could dance worth a darn anyhow."
- p. 71
- The day before the army left Rhea's Mills, Jeff was surprised to hear his name called while the company was lined up at a morning inspection. Noah's name was called too. Obediently each took two steps forward and saluted. With a measured stamping of feet on the drill ground, half a dozen officers approached. Out of the corner of one eye, Jeff spied Clardy among them. Recoiling, he felt his insides tighten. What had he done now? The tramping stopped. A big man with black whiskers and two curved rows of brass buttons on the front of his blue dress coat, ambled up to Jeff and Noah. He was short and heavyset, with a thick neck and sloping shoulders. He walked with a roll, swaying his hips and planting his feet carefully, like a sea captain. In one hairy hand he carried a piece of paper. Everybody saluted. Then Jeff recognized General Blunt. Dumbfounded, he wondered what this was all about. In a bass voice sonorous as a bell, Blunt began reading from the document in his hand: "...for gallantry beyond the call of duty... distinguished themselves conspicuously at the risk of life... voluntarily assisted a battery that was hard pressed, although it was their first experience with artillery and they had already participated intrepidly in the infantry charge... the Medal of Honor, presented in the name of Congress."
- p. 141-142
- Then the general stepped so close that Jeff could smell the pomade on his thick black hair. Leaning forward, he passed a ribbon around Jeff's neck and underneath his collar. Suspended from the ribbon was a tiny piece of red, white and blue fabric. And dangling from the fabric was a shiny bronze star and eagle that flashed more brilliantly in the sunshine than even the general's gold shoulder bars. Noah got one, too. Just as Jeff began to realize that he and Noah were being decorated, the general was shaking hands stiffly with each of them. Jeff couldn't hide the embarrassment and the unbelief in his face. Somebody had made a mistake. He hadn't done anything in the battle but follow Noah. If this was the way the army handed out decorations, then something was wrong with the system. "Shoot, General," Jeff blurted in protest, "all we did was load her and swab her."
- p. 142