Jack and I live rather close to the local school, and it is a great joy to hear the kids screaming and yelling in delight at recess. However, I feel blessed at not having to supervise these small ones in their play time. In my teaching career I much preferred the classroom to the playground.
Often my memory goes back to my own school days (you may have noticed that) and I recall how back then time just seemed to hang around. When we were growing up the school year lasted 13 months and summer vacation was a small eternity. Time just seemed to move slower than it does now, perhaps because there was so much for us to do.
When all the chores were done, we had long summer afternoons to while away in such lands of enchantment as the town junk pile, conveniently located within easy walking distance of our home. Happy hours were spent there in the extreme contamination retrieving all manner of wealth such as old whiskey and wine bottles, our idea being to recycle the few drops found in the bottom as a gift for our local drunk, Old Hayden, and make him happy for a couple of minutes.
Early in life, we had received explicit instructions from our parents to never go within a stone's throw of Old Hayden for in his drunken stupor (we were told) he might grab us and run off. We didn't give much credence to the story. As a matter of fact, we sought him out at every opportunity and enjoyed talking with him. Most of his conversation was not brilliant and more than a little garbled, but we liked him a lot.
We spent a lot of time with another town character, Billy Pat, who had a mule and drove an old wagon around town to pick up trash. Of course, this was before the time of the sanitary landfill and he just dumped it wherever he wanted to, sometimes out at the junk pile and sometimes in a ditch. Occasionally he would get upset and burn it on the spot. We were permitted to ride on top of the trash to keep it from falling off in the downtown area. The merchants tended to be a little bit particular down here about trash falling off on Main Street.
We spent a lot of time in the cemetery, too. It was built high on a bluff and, without doubt, was the coolest place in town. The loose soil provided a home for any number of yellow jacket nests. If you found anybody stupid enough to stir them up with a stick it made for a fair amount of excitement, as you can well imagine.
One slow afternoon we found somebody stupid enough to stir them up with a stick. Perhaps I should not say "stupid" because it was a small child and the little fellow was almost unrecognizable for days after he made use of the short stick we thoughtfully provided.
I can personally testify to the fact that a little kid's eyes will swell completely shut from such an encounter. For days I did my best to help out with him because I knew it was partly my fault. In all probability I'll spend some time in punishment over my involvement in that incident. My only excuse is ignorance and the fact that it was a slow afternoon.