Posted tagged ‘Pecos Bill’

“Education is the movement from darkness to light. “

April 10, 2015

This morning I noticed webbing between my toes. It appears I am beginning to adapt to a wet world where it rains every day. The sun is supposed to return, but I have become a skeptic worn down by snow and cold and rain.

In elementary school my day was chock full of subjects, some every day and some once a week. Many of them have since disappeared.

Back then no school room was complete without those green writing alphabet cards running atop the blackboards. On each was a single letter in both small and capital cursive forms. I always liked the capital Z and the capital Q. They were odd-looking and uncommon to use. We had penmanship a couple of times a week when we practiced the Palmer method. I remember the circles and the lines. I also remember mine were usually messy and didn’t resemble the examples we were following. The nun always stopped at my desk to show me how my hand should be moving up and down as I practiced. Many schools don’t teach writing any more. Cursive is disappearing.

Geography was always one of my favorite subjects. I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about knowing that Columbia produced coffee or that Costa Rica led the world in bananas, but I loved the pictures and the articles. I used to dream about visiting some of the countries in my book, but I never really believed I would see so many of them. When I was sixteen, we went to Niagara Falls and saw the falls from the Canadian side. I was visiting my first foreign country, and I was thrilled. They don’t teach stand alone geography any more either.

We had music a couple of times a week. We learned the fundamentals. I still remember every good boy does fine and face: the mnemonics for the names of the scale’s lines and spaces. We sang songs. I remember every nun had a mouth tuner like a round harmonica. She’d blow the note, and we were supposed to start singing the song on that note. I doubt we ever did. I was in the rhythm band in the first and second grades. I remember first year I did sticks and second year I did triangle. I always wanted tambourine.

Reading was a subject unto its self. We had reading books with stories then questions and new vocabulary at the end of each story. I always liked those books. Each year the stories shared a theme. My favorite was American folk heroes. I loved Pecos Bill and his riding the tornado. It was the only time he was “throwed” in his whole career as a cowboy. I learned about Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox, John Henry and Sally Ann Thunder who helped Davy Crockett and wore a real beehive as a hat and wrestled alligators in her spare time. There was even a sketch of her and the alligator. I got my love of reading from those books and those stories.

I was never bored in school. We went from one lesson to another quickly enough to stave off ennui. I looked forward to most of them but only tolerated the rest. I still don’t like arithmetic no matter what you call it.

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

April 29, 2012

Oh, spring, where have you gone? Last night was winter, and today is only 52°. The sun is warm through the doors and windows but not enough to make being outside on the deck inviting. I got cold when I was filling the bird feeders this morning. Even the house feels chilly. The heat turned itself on early this morning which meant it was lower than 62° in here. No wonder I slept in under the warmth of my down comforter.

This is a new week, and I have high hopes it will be a good week. It’s my Pollyanna moment.

When I was in high school, I took four years of Latin. I have no idea why, but I actually liked it. The Aeneid, my fourth year text, was my favorite. I still remember the first line, ” Arma virumque cano.” I sing of arms and of a man. I think the story appealed to me because I loved all the tall tales, stories of people like Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill. I can still see in my mind’s eye the illustration of Pecos Bill riding that cyclone. In my library those tall tale books were on a short shelf to the left of the door. I used to sit on the carpet and look through them and read a few tales before I’d choose the books to take home. I think I read all of the books from that section.

I never read any of the science books in my library. They were in the shelves in front of the windows. I did read some of the biographies of scientists like Madame Curie, but the actual science itself never interested me. I loved mysteries and historical fiction, though, when I was little, I didn’t know that’s you called it. My favorite of all was Johnny Tremain. It took place in Boston so the novel felt personal for me, and I could actually visit the houses of characters like Paul Revere. It made the story real to me. I remember the horror I felt when Johnny spilled hot silver on his hand.

That book led me to read more stories about the Revolutionary War. I think that’s what books are meant to do. They take you to one place which leads to another and another and on and on. It’s like a family tree filled with the names of books on branch after branch.