‘First things, first!’ Ma always used to say. I never quite knew what that meant. Of course, if it’s first… it’s first!
But I’m older now, and I take it to mean that the important things in life should be attended to, first.
A lot of my family couldn’t read, or if they could- it was in a very limited way. Of course, my family knew a lot about life and how to put food on the table through hard work and family sharing while looking out for each other (except for a few members, that is).
I had to go to school just like my brothers, but we often had to help out at home especially in haying season (“Gotta make hay when the sun shines“, like they say) and we all missed some school each year. West often took off to fish in the creek with his friends or laze around at the trailer. He always had strange dreams; maybe he didn’t need to read about stuff. I learned to read and write in that one room schoolhouse. I can’t speak for my brothers, but I liked reading right off the bat. I could learn things I didn’t know about at all or about things that I didn’t learn about at home. Funny thing is, Nana Lou who is and always has been a pretty sharp cookie would read us stories from her old book collection and fill our minds with fantastic tales woven in with her bits of family lore. What she could remember of it- that is. Sometimes she sang to us. Nana Lou did tell us about the cute family ghost too, Little Boo.
Ma and Pa were too busy to help us out with schoolwork, but they kept saying we’d better go to school for a better future.
Our teacher was Mrs. Yarima from Yuma, Arizona. She was kind and told us about some of her travels to Europe and South America. She put up that picture of Venice I showed you, and she showed us pictures she had taken in Italy and France and other places I had never heard about before. I still remember some of the foreign songs she taught us like “Frere Jacques” and “O Sole Mio”. When I sang these songs to the chickens and thought no one was listening, Ma and Pa laughed til their guts split. Once Mrs. Yarima even took us to her house and showed us how to make French crepes.
We had 5 different grade levels in that one schoolhouse. We all helped each other out when Mrs. Yarima was too busy doing her grading or other things. Sometimes she had to meet with the district supervisor in the small trailer just a little ways off from the schoolhouse. Writing with the pen and ink was hard for me; I kept messing up and getting really blotchy pages, so it took me about 2 years to get better. I loved art. We did many projects, and it was the most fun if we could go outside for art projects- like try to draw the flowers in the field near the schoolhouse. One time I remember, I helped West draw a steer we saw in the distance.
Here is a picture of some of the hot sauce you could buy in Bovine County at a little grocery store we used to stop in on the way to school. If Ma asked us to pick out some hot sauce for dinner, we would always sneak a little onto our lunch sandwiches, and it sure helped that we could read the labels to see if we were buying stuff that would pretty well knock everyone out or not.
I also put up a picture I still have of the little wood stove we had in the corner of the schoolhouse.