When we are walking, Jackie loves to check out the ditches just in case some slob has thrown out anything edible. Unfortunately they often have and I wish they wouldn't for when I try to pry a chicken bone from her mouth, it's worth my hand all the way up to the elbow. The other morning all she could find was an old picture in the ditch so she treed that and had a baying fit. The scene was "Washington Crossing the Delaware," probably torn from a calendar which was long past its prime.
That happening took me back to my early school days, way long ago. (We had a 55-year reunion last week and not a soul turned up but me, and I know they are not all dead, because I see one or two at Wal-Mart every once in a while. That hurt my feelings because I had done a lot of telephoning. Oh, well, we had a lot to eat at the big supper and I loved that.)
It seems that the older I get, the more early school days come back to me, and I recalled how much I enjoyed reading all the stories about our country's past. Back then, folks, the writers gave us heroes to emulate. Yes, they flat laid it on us. Nearly broke my heart sometimes.
Now I was known as a tom-boy and hard-hearted to boot, so you can understand why I was careful to hide my feelings when the teacher had us reading such tear-jerkers as "Washington at Valley Forge." Almost by strength of personality alone the man pulled his troops through that terrible time.
I asked to be excused to the restroom when someone started reading of how the soldiers could be tracked by their bloody footprints in the snow because I knew without doubt that I was getting ready to bawl right out loud. And I did down there in the basement where no one could see or hear me. I bawled right out loud. The teachers probably knew my weakness but they never mentioned it.
For many years, I rated George right up there just a few steps below God, and when I was older and studied what was supposed to be "the rest of the story," I must tell you I was disillusioned. Mighty disillusioned.
Another time I had to unobtrusively blink back tears was when I read of Abe Lincoln, thinly clad and seemingly perpetually hungry, walking 10 miles in raging blizzard to return a few cents to a customer he had over charged. I remember wondering why he didn't just wait until the lady came back on her shopping trip to make good the mistake, but I did not see fit to voice my bewilderment to the teacher for fear of her displeasure at my question.
In those days children tried hard to keep on the good side of their teacher for parents were, for the most part, supportive of the school system. At our house we heard more than once, "If you get a paddling at school, you'll get another one at home." (Never did we hear, "If you get a paddling at school, I'll sue!")
Getting two for the price of one always seemed a bit unfair to me, but I need to say, right or wrong, discipline was a good bit tighter when I was a kid. Never in my educational career did I see a teacher slapped, spat upon, called obscene names or used for target practice in the 30s and 40s. Such a simple time.