Several things recently caught my attention regarding a person's early teaching.

Several things recently caught my attention regarding a person's early teaching. I heard a man being interviewed on radio about his youth as a Mormon. Even though he has left the church, he is still influenced by it. The interviewer asked if when he left the church did he "go wild" and break all the rules of the church. He said he didn't do that. He thought that he could now drink alcohol, smoke and do the other things that Mormon's teach against, but he didn't. He said no doubt his upbringing stayed with him, and he still enjoys going back home and attending church services with friends and family.

Although it is a different story, I find I have been molded by my youth in so many ways. That was brought home to me this week when I read about the death of Maria Tallchief.

Maria Tallchief was a wonderful ballerina who was born in Oklahoma. She lived there until she was about eight years old, and then her wealthy family moved to California, where they sought better training for their dancing daughters.

Maria's father was an Osage Indian who gained great wealth with the discovery of oil on his land. With that money, he was well able to afford his daughters an opportunity to pursue their dancing. In fact, two of his daughters gained acclaim as ballerinas, although Maria was the most prominent.

As a child growing up in Oklahoma, I immediately latched on the story of Maria Tallchief and made her one of the women I truly admired. And, of course, it was solely a result of her being born in Oklahoma as I was.
Another effect of my childhood was an attachment to Mickey Mantle, a fellow Oklahoman. I was just a young kid when Mickey and the New York Yankees were on top of the baseball world. I didn't know a thing about New York. I had never been there and didn't dream of ever going there, but Mickey Mantle was an Okie and that was good enough for me.

I am influenced by so many things Oklahoma related, that I am beginning to wonder if my seventh grade social studies teacher isn't a big part of that.

In my school, we attended "grade school" up through the sixth grade in one building. When we became seventh graders, we went to the three-story "high school" which probably sat 50 yards to the south of the grade school. The younger you were, the lower your classroom, so I had seventh grade social studies in the basement. Mrs. McAdoo taught Oklahoma history. She made us kids so proud of our state. We learned about all the prominent people from Will Rogers to Alfalfa Bill Murray. We had colorful maps on the wall which had symbols for almost every town in the state. I went to school in Rush Springs and the symbol was a watermelon, since we fancied ourselves as the "Watermelon Capital of the World," and the town still does.

In school I was taught to be proud of being an Okie and of being an American. That has stayed with me ever since. And I'm glad for the lessons and now I am equally proud to be a Missourian.

Kay Hively writes a weekly column for the Daily News.