Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

SCHOOL DAYS IN THE CARIBOO

1975 07 03   Sense and Nonsense

Today is the last day of school before the summer holidays. The little kids will soon come home loaded down with bags of workbooks, drawing paper, leaky pens, chewed pencils and crayons and tiny pieces of erasers.

In amongst this stuff, encased in a beautiful folder, rests the Report Card. This card informs the parents exactly what kind of a person their child realty is: Whether he is intelligent, ambitious, talented, friendly, clean, neat, co-operative, obedient and athletic; or the opposite of these good traits.

It must be tough to be a kid nowadays. In the old days all they needed to be was smart. Now a kid can get straight “A’s” in reading, writing and arithmetic and still be ashamed of his report card if he is not good at making friends, drawing or deep knee bends.

It has always been tough to be a teacher. When l went to school they called attendance for the teachers as well as the kids. They had to have a few spares on hand in case the regular teacher had a nervous breakdown or was suffering from malnutrition or frostbite.

When I was in Grade 3 our poor old lady teacher was unable to hold classes for three days because somebody hid the axe. The one-room school was like an ice-box with no wood for the wood stove. She made us march through the woods, ostensibly searching for the “lost” axe. We all knew where the axe was hidden, but although we younger kids were cold and tired during our three-day search, we never tattled. To be a tattle-tale was the ultimate sin.

Almost everyone remembers their first day of school. I will always remember my first day in the second grade. We had moved up from the Coast to an isolated farming community in the Cariboo. I had to walk two miles to school by myself. That day I didn’t arrive until recess time because of my encounters with cows along the road. I had only seen one cow in my life before and she was safety fenced in and very friendly anyway.

My mother had told me bulls, especially dairy bulls, were very dangerous. I had no idea what a dairy bull looked like; in fact I was totally ignorant of how to tell any kind of a bull from a cow. There seemed to be a herd of these animals on the road around every corner and they all looked dangerous to me. I ripped my coat and hat to shreds diving under barbed wire fences to avoid being gored to death. That most of these animals had no horns meant nothing to me. I didn’t know what being “gored to death” meant, except that it was a terrible way to go.

When I finally got to school a tough-looking big girl immediately took me under her wing. I thought this was great until lunch time when another girl informed me that my new friend was the school bully and had thrown one little girl’s hat and coat down the girls’ outhouse.

The shape that my hat and coat were in, I preferred to have them thrown down the outhouse. I was terribly worried about what my mother would say when she saw them. I waited all day for my new friend to throw my hat and coat down the outhouse, but she seemed to like me and continued to be kind to me.

On the way home from school, I was startled by a growling noise which came from a clump of bushes. I noticed the tell-tale red of my friend’s coat and realised she was trying to frighten me. She followed me all the way home, making these strange noises from various hiding places along the way.

Actually, I was relieved at having her company although mostly unseen. I pretended to be afraid to encourage her in case we ran into any more of the “bulls” I had seen that morning. When I arrived home my mother scolded me for ruining my coat and hat. My father informed me that there were no dairy bulls in the area at all. He said all the farmers kept their bulls at home. He also explained to me the difference between cows and bulls.

I walked to school for many years. I remember seeing moose, deer and even an odd bear. However I never again felt the absolute panic that I did when I first saw all those “bulls” lolling about and chewing their cud on the road.

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