Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Very Best Teacher

Schools provide most students with the best education available in any particular area—in most subjects that communities consider necessary.  And most students learn just what they need to know no matter how begrudgingly they accessed the study.  Not many children wake up early in the morning with joyful thoughts about going to school unless the school or the children are exceptional.  That’s possible.

Not all schools rate right up there with a juvenile detention facility.  And some classes can actually be a blast.  Years ago the smaller schools in Clay County had what was called FFA classes and FHA classes—Future Farmers of America and Future Homemakers of America.  The guys got to learn how to weld, how to keep feed, weight gain, and cost charts for their ‘ag’ project—usually something not terribly expensive like a lamb or chickens.  The girls learned a little about cooking and sewing.  But there were always special situations where the students could do something that made good sense and helped the communities.  Sometimes the girls would plan a bean supper to raise money for whatever the community needed.  The girls learned to plan and serve a dinner in that way just as if they were feeding a harvest crew.  It was a very useful lesson.  The boys sometimes got to weld up cattle guards for the area ranchers—thus getting practice in doing things right while not having to put out the expense for the materials.


One year it was dry from late fall until early September of the next year.  My dad would say that it was so dry that the trees had learned to whistle for the dogs.  But sure enough, the stock tanks were dangerously low.  In fact, the crawdads had built towers so tall in digging down deep into the mud that a kid could have made a baseball bat out of one of those towers.  It was danged dry.


No one was burning trash if there was the slightest hint of wind, but the pump jacks still backfired now and then and caused a problem.  It just so happened that somehow a fire started on the range between Buster Zachary’s ranch and the Pollard farm.  I don’t know who called the volunteer fire department, but no one little pump truck was going to stop that wild fire.  So the fire department asked for volunteers from the high school boys.  The entire ‘Ag’ class and many other boys as well jumped in trucks and bumped their way out to our grandparents’ farm.


The little stock tank across the fence from the house still had just a little bit of water in it.  Grandmother gathered up all the burlap ‘gunny’ sacks from the feed barn and took them to the stock tank.  When the boys got to the farm, the fire was sweeping over the top of the hill about a half mile from the house.  They all got wet, muddy gunny sacks from Grandmother and headed for the fire.  The boys saved the farm that day and had my grandparents’ undying appreciation.  

In order to thank the boys in a meaningful way, my grandparents let it be known that any boy wanting a lamb for a FFA project had one waiting on the Pollard farm.  Oh, the FFA boys gave the grandparents a nice certificate of appreciation, but the boys were the ones who needed to be thanked.  Most of them just thought it was a neat way to get out of class that day.  But for our family, their help was the difference between having a home or a disaster.  And yes, for several years the FFA of Petrolia had more black-faced Suffolk lamb entries than any other school in the agriculture fairs.  But not many fire departments today could pay their firemen with a lamb.

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