The Author’s Billboard has done a set of “Unforgettable” Romances, with Unforgettable Suspense and so forth, so I wanted to do 10 Unforgettable Memories. Here is #2.
Unforgettable Memory # 2 A One-room Country School
This really dates me, but I attended a one-room country school that had one large room that could be divided by a wooden accordion-type door. I had the same teacher for all eight grades. During the morning, grades 1-4 were on one side and grades 5-8 on the other side. In the afternoon the teacher who taught the upper grades left, and the full-time teacher opened the doors and we were all with her in one classroom. She would play the piano as we sang. I remember “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” being a favorite of the boys, as they would stamp their feet in time. We sang patriotic songs like “God Bless America,” and religious songs, like “The Old Rugged Cross.” Maybe that’s why we never had many problems at school.
We usually had around eighteen to twenty kids in the entire school, with some grades not having anyone in them, while other grades might have as many as four. As you can see, our bus wasn’t very big. I went through my grade school years with one other girl, my best friend. In a large classroom, you heard everyone’s lessons, so that by the time you reached the upper grades, you pretty well knew all the answers. My friend and I would study together, correcting our own work. When we were finished, we would help the younger kids with reading or math or spelling. It was like a large homeschool. No politics were pushed, and there were some things we learned, like diagramming sentences and cursive penmanship, that have been dropped by our “busy” teachers today.
At the beginning of the year our dads would burn off all the cheat grass, so that we played in ashes for a week or so before it got trampled into the dirt. We all wore jeans to school, and those of us who had horses would sometimes all ride to school on the same day, so we could play King of the Mountain on horseback. I doubt it would be allowed today, but we rode bareback, two on each horse, with one kid guiding the horse while the kid behind would try to pull the other team off their horse. Nobody ever got trampled, and I don’t remember any broken bones.
Most of our games were running games of tag. To have a baseball game, you needed everyone. The first time I was catcher as a first grader (no gear except for a glove), the eighth grader who was pitching knocked me out with his pitch. Hardball. Some of our eighth graders took a while to go through school, so we had some eighteen-year-old eighth graders. It was years before I could watch a baseball coming toward me and not flinch.
We had a large 8-foot high merry-go-round that our dads had made out of iron bars and machine parts. The eighth graders would get it spinning so hard that we could hang onto the upright bars, about six feet off the ground, throw our feet out, and fly parallel to the ground. If you let go, you would fly out into space and land on the ground, hard, or hit a nearby tree, so most of us just pulled ourselves back down to the seats again. Last I looked, that merry-go-round was still standing.
We had Farm Bureau meetings about four times a year, or more. Once the meeting was over, the men pushed back the desks, got out the fiddle and opened the piano, and we square danced. Since there weren’t very many of us, any kid old enough to walk got pulled into the squares and guided around from one adult to the next. Lots of fun. Even today, there are certain songs we used to dance to, where I remember the calls, rather than the words of that song.
I wish kids today could have that kind of schooling. We all accepted each other, and were like a big family. There may have been problems, but none I was aware of. We had chores to do around the schoolhouse, including putting wood into the big kitchen range that put off a lot of heat in the winter. If your shoes and feet were soaked and cold from the snow, the teacher would drop open the oven door and put a chunk of thick leather on it, then we would put our feet on the leather and get warm while we read a book.
I actually “wrote” my first few books while going to that school, even illustrating them. I never dreamed that years later, I would write so many. My book in the Unforgettable Suspense set is called Spirit of a Champion, a story about a woman who is trying to save her brother’s life. He is a prize fighter, and she is trying to stop the fight in Las Vegas. Everyone is against her, even trying to kill her. The hero is her brother’s opponent, who thinks she is trying to distract him from preparing for the bout.
Nancy Radke grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in SE Washinton State. She attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade. She learned to ride bareback at age 3 (Really! It was a common practice.) and when she got off or fell off, she would pull her horse’s nose to the ground, get on behind its ears, and the horse would lift its head so she could scoot down onto its back. She spent most of her childhood exploring the Blue Mountain trails that bordered the ranchlands. She and a friend once took a trail that turned out to be a two day trip. They always rode with matches and pocket knives, so made camp and returned the next day. These long rides worried her parents, but provided plenty of time to make up stories. Her first novel was set in the Blues, and is entitled APPALOOSA BLUES. TURNAGAIN LOVE was the first one published. It rated a four star review from Affaire de Coeur. Scribes World said “Turnagain Love has some fascinating twists and turns, unexpected complications, and charming scenes.” It is light and humorous.