As she browsed the Emerald Victorian’s library preparing for the day’s tour, Laetitia ran across a book that she hadn’t seen before. It was a catalog from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She never knew what she would find in the library. Perhaps the book had been there before. She knew that her grandmother and “the girls,” as they called themselves, had been to New York recently, but she didn’t know if they had gone to the Metropolitan Museum.
As she flipped the catalog pages, she saw a reproduction of Matinee de Septembre, or, in English, September Morn. It is an image of a nude young woman standing in a misty lake framed by a mountain backdrop. French artist Paul Émile Chabas painted it and first exhibited it in Paris in 1912. The woman’s arms tastefully cover her private parts, and the painting created no stir at the Paris exhibition, but when it appeared in the window of a Chicago art gallery the following year, the mayor charged the gallery owner with indecency. The art dealer won the lawsuit that followed, and the notoriety ensured the painting’s enduring popularity. But Laetitia was touring the western United States, more specifically Oklahoma, so she pulled out an Oklahoma guide book and planned the day’s tour.
Laetitia and her group visited Quartz Mountain Nature Park on the way to Corn, Oklahoma. Quartz Mountain is a part of the Wichita Mountain Range. Rising about 500 feet above its base, it is mostly granite, but has the quartz crystals for which it was named filling spaces between the other rocks. After some hikes in the park, the group went to Corn, where they were spending the evening. Corn has about 600 residents. It was settled by Russian and German Mennonites and was called “Korn” originally, until anti-German sentiment during World War I brought about its change to “Corn.”
Instead of her usual habit of going to a bar for happy hour, Laetitia found a park bench with a shade tree and sat there reading a book while she waited for dinner. A teenager named Peg walked by and stopped to talk. Laetitia asked her what she and her friends did for fun in Corn. Peg said, “There isn’t much to do here. We’re too young to go to bars to try to meet people. When we get bored, we all go skinny dipping over at Lake Crowder.” Laetitia thanked Peg and when she walked away, wrote down the limerick of the day in the notebook she always had in her purse.
Young Peg rued the place she was born
That small Sooner village named Corn
But when living got slow
In the lake she would go
With her friends dressed like “September Morn.”