Don Locke: Looking Through Bifocals
As I have aforementioned, I received my early education at a two-room school at New Cypress, in Muhlenberg County.
We didn't have many embellishments when it came to learning - no high-tech stuff. Just books, pencil and paper, and blackboard and chalk. And a coal stove, which we were allowed to hover around at times in winter. But now, we did have one piece of high-tech equipment - for that day anyway. It was called an abacus. It was a frame of sorts, with beads or balls sliding back and forth on wires: "you have ten beads - slide away three and you have left, seven."
The boys wore overalls; some carried aluminum folding cups in the overall bib pocket. We got a water break once in the morning; once in the afternoon. The teacher always left one of the older boys operate the bucket and chain at the well.
Oh, I almost forgot. We did learn how to spell a difficult word by taking the first word in a difficult sentence. The word was GEOGRAPHY. George Eat Old Gray Rat At Pap's House Yesterday.
There are always some memorable people from school days. Strother was one. Strother Holmes.
Strother caught a skunk on the way to school one morning. He turned it loose before he got there. Too late. Not soon enough. The skunk had done what skunks do. The teacher made Strother spend the day in the school coal house.
Strother could play the guitar and sing. His forte was the, "Crawdad" song: "Here comes a man with a sack on his back . . . with all the crawdads he can pack."
Somehow the crawdad got out of the sack - the song wound-up with " . . . see them crawdads backin' back."
Had it not been for a slight speech impediment, Strother might have had a shot at the big time. The hitch was, he called a crawdad a "cawdad."
My cousin Ruby Todd had the guts of a bank robber and the brain of a dull chicken.
Our teacher was a spinster - not a raving beauty, yet in retrospect not bad looking. But she was fortyish, and the sands in the hour glass were not as plentiful at the top as before. One day she panicked, latched onto the first available pants passing by, and married a drunkard - a mean one. He came in late one night on a roaring drunk and nearly sliced her toe off with a straight razor. He meant to cut her throat; luckily she had switched ends of the bed in order to be next to a cool window.
When our teacher came back to school (with a slight limp) my dim-witted cousin, Ruby, asked her how her toe was. Then he poured gasoline on to the fire, and asked her if he could SEE IT. She clobbered him.
Evidently, Ruby gained a few smarts along the away. Not long back, he retired from NASA in Houston.
The passing parade . . .
Kindest regards . . .