Back in the school days

Published 5:44 pm Friday, July 8, 2022

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Back when I was in grammar school. — not long after double desks with inkwells and teachers who wrote on blackboards and children who read about Dick and Jane and Spot. Back then the world was a wonderfully simple place.

Most of the rural roads were dirt, the bridges were wood and the fence rows along the roadways were covered in honeysuckle and outhouse roses and ditch-dasies claimed the road bottoms

Plum trees and blackberry bushes offered afternoon snacks and water from a faucet washed the berry stains from our teeth.

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Young saplings gave us high flying rides and  bees chased us from the hive. We caught tadpoles in cups and lighting bugs in jars. Seeing a “lizard” throw its money was excitement enough and doodling a bug was just as thrilling.

We had china berry wars and splashed through mud puddles with our bare feet.  We made fishing poles from bamboo and with strings and safety pins. We dug for fishing worms and turned over rocks looking for crickets. We slapped our fishing poles at water moccasins that were after our strung fish and at stinging bees with tree branches. 

We played baseball with a rubber ball and a stick for a bat. Most often we played in the cow pasture where cow patties were ready-made bases. Other times, in our granny’s yard where a bush, a rock or a wayward shoe marked the bases. If there weren’t enough of us for teams, we played flies, hops and skinners or shot marbles in the dirt.

Sometimes we played games like farmer in the dale, squirrel-in-a-tree and drop the handkerchief. Other times we raided the garden or, other times, we sneaked peaches drying on the tin roof of the corn crib.

Late afternoon rains dampened the sand just enough to shape frog houses around our feet. Before our mamas called us in for supper, we gathered all the dead critters we have found throughout the day — a butterfly, a frog, a snakeskin, a bird or a mouse or a toad and prepared for the mass funeral.

Some of the dead were buried in matchboxes or soup cans; others were laid to rest wrapped in a rag and placed in the dirt. We sang songs; one of us preached; and we prayed for their souls to keep.

After supper, we played games outside in the dark — hide and go seek and ain’t no boogers out tonight.

When we got hot enough and sweaty enough, we would sit on the porch and listen to the grownups tell stories. Whether we took baths before going to bed, I’m not sure. Bathing was not a healthy thing for little children. Why, a little dirt between the toes would grow better corn, my granny would laugh and say.

Some time after those lazy days of summer, the dance called progress came along  and everything changed.

Kids don’t shoot marbles anymore or make slingshots from tree branches.

They don’t play hide and seek at night or count the stars or bury butterflies in tin cans …or slide into a cow-patty to score at home.