Friday, May 30, 2008

Rubber Balls, Dirt Clods, and BBs

Most schools have now been dismissed for the summer or soon will be. I still have fond memories of my years at Elnora High School. I was one of the lucky ones who looked forward to school each day. Unfortunately, some students made life very rough on the teachers and seemed to have a penchant for getting themselves and some of the rest of us into trouble. In today’s zero tolerance academic environments, kids would probably be expelled or even worse for some of the things that happened when I was in school.

A favorite spot for rowdy behavior was the Study Hall. It was a big room, and each student from grades 7 through 12 had a desk with a flip-top lid in which to store books and other learning materials. The desks all faced the front where there was a stage with a large, theater style curtain. At the rear of the Study Hall was the door that led into the school library. The north side of the room exited into the main hallway, and the south wall contained a row of windows where it was easy to stare outside while lost in a daydream.

However, those daydreams (or even my study time) would sometimes be shattered by the sound of a bouncing ball tossed by someone craving a little excitement. The school’s personnel staff was small, and one teacher would often monitor the Study Hall and Library at the same time. So, when the teacher wasn’t looking, the offending student would bounce a small, rubber ball to another student who would then bounce or toss it to someone else and the round robin would continue until the ball would be flying hither and yon. For a little variation, they would sometimes bounce the ball off the walls instead of the floor. This would continue until the students grew tired of antagonizing the teacher or until she caught one or more of the rowdies and hustled them off to the office for appropriate disciplinary measures.

Since Elnora is a rural community, when I was in school all of the boys were required to take Agriculture classes from 7th through 9th grades. Some chose to continue them through high school. As part of the agriculture curriculum, Mr. Robertson would occasionally take his students on field trips to local farms to see first-hand how things were run. Following one such excursion when I got knocked on my backside as the water hose I was drinking from came in contact with an electric fence, some of the boys came back with a supply of dirt clods for the afternoon’s festivities.

It was springtime and Mrs. Pate was conducting play practice behind the curtain on the stage. One brave soul heaved the first clod which hit the heavy curtain and shattered onto the floor at the edge of the stage. Others followed. For the next several minutes, Mrs. Pate was in a dither, torn between continuing play practice and nabbing the perpetrators. Mrs. Pate was a great teacher, but she wouldn’t hold with monkey business of any sort, especially something like dirt clods being thrown at her stage. I wasn’t one of the kids involved, and the punishment wasn’t pleasant for those who were.

Lastly, there was the day when the Study Hall came alive with the sound of rolling BBs, the same kind used in Daisy air rifles. BBs are much smaller and more difficult to see than rubber balls or dirt clods. And, they really do make a tremendous racket when a bunch of the tiny metal objects are rolling together across a hardwood floor. With all of the noise, it didn’t take long for Mr. Earles to come out of his office and tell all of the boys to come with him for a BB search. He looked at me and said, “Jim, just stay in your seat. I don’t need to search you.” Not wanting to be treated differently than the others, I told Mr. Earles I would be glad to participate since I had nothing to hide. During the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, most boys wore their jeans with the pants cuffs rolled up. This made a perfect place to hide small objects. While I was awaiting my turn in line, someone must have secretly loaded up my cuffs with BBs, because when Mr. Earles bent down and unrolled them, at least a half tube of BBs rolled out onto the floor. Everyone in the office, including Mr. Earles, howled with laughter. Needless to say, I didn’t see the humor.

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