Thursday, January 17, 2013

Education

I apologize (again) for the delinquency in my posting, but I have some kind of good reasons this time. Not that good, but here they are: First, I seem to have contracted some sort of illness that just won't go away. My friend Allison would call it 'the croup'. In reality it is just a ridiculous cold. 13 days and counting I have been sniffling and coughing all over my two guitars (if you are one of the to-be owners of these instruments, don't worry, I just said that for effect, I have tried really hard not to actually cough on anything.) Anyway, there is one reason, and another is that I have been working very hard on the aforementioned guitars, hoping to finish them up this week. So far so good, the necks were fitted today so now it's just a sleigh ride into finishwork! (Sleigh ride because several inches of snow is predicted in Rugby today.) My third reason for not posting is that I haven't been able to think of any good stories to tell you. But that changed today.

This afternoon a fellow walked into the shop and plopped a picture down infront of my dad. Now, I don't know if this man knew my dad or that the building he entered was a guitar shop before he walked in, but he didn't introduce himself or anything, just asked directions to the place in the picture, assuming my dad knew. He did, as he knows most things, and started telling tales of his past. The picture was of Rugby in about 1950. I glanced at it while I was cutting frets and pressing them into a fingerboard. I saw a large bus, two grainy figures that looked to be teenage boys, and two buildings. My dad named the boys, and mentioned that one of them grew up to be his bus driver. I inquired about the bus, and he said that was the book mobile. (What?!) Apparently it drove around delivering books to folks who lived far from town. As many people used their feet for transportation, this was a pretty useful service. But let me get this straight: in 1950, in Rugby, VA, the smallest place in existence, there was a bus that took books to people?! I never considered that education was all that important to folks in this neck of the woods. Farming took hard work and consistency, not book learning, so I just assumed people didn't focus too much on that. That was an incorrect assumption. 

Rugby, circa 1950. Bookmobile waits in front of general store. 
Thinking back on my time spent with my Granny, I remember she was very proud of her handwriting. Her cursive was made with strokes so beautiful and sure. She wrote out lovely letters and when I asked her to teach me, she gave me a pencil and we sat down at her little houndstooth patterned table in the room off the kitchen, aptly positioned next to the tall metal coal stove that held the tea kettle. On her paper she scrawled endless loops; I remember thinking they looked like the bends in Slinky, only stretched out a little. She said she used to practice for hours and hours when she was a young girl. I thought I was doing it for hours and hours too, but in hindsight, my practice probably lasted about 5 minutes. I remember she mentioned that she went to school until the seventh grade, which was admirable and rare in those days. She said she had to walk to school, carrying her books bound with a leather strap, and looped through her arm a metal lunch pail filled with a biscuit and a vegetable, and if she was lucky, some ham or other type of cured meat.

Granny's dad was very well educated for being born in 1879 living in very rural Virginia. My dad said that Grandpa Orren wrote in that same intricate cursive, called Morgan hand, that I watched my Granny use. He said he was also fascinated by it, and tried to emulate his grandpa's handwriting as well. 

My dad told me today that his dad, Walter, never did go to school, but he could read a little bit, and write his name, and balance his checkbook. My dad said he never really thought about how he could do that, but later assumed that Granny taught him how to do those things. I bet she did. He said that both of his parents valued education, and knew that it was important for him to finish high school, even though they could always use more help on their farm. I think it is great that they encouraged that, and being creative, and playing music. My dad, uncle, grandfather, and my dad's grandfather all played an instrument, but that is a story for another time. 

My dad has many stories to share about his school experience. I remember him telling me more of them in the past, like the last day of school picnics, where each child was given a soda which was a very rare, and very welcome, treat in Rugby. Another time when he was playing baseball and Lauren and Leah's dad came running behind him right as he swung the bat and John got caught in his backswing. That blunt force trauma to the head laid John out cold. My dad thought he had killed him. But he regained consciousness eventually and made a full recovery. But the story I want to tell most is about Mr. Slabey. 

Mr. Slabey was the teacher at my dad's school who taught the older students. My dad said he was scared to death of him because he would take spells of screaming at his students that were so loud they shook the walls. My dad said he was petrified of him, and hoped never to have to have him as a teacher. One day as he was sitting on the rock wall that segregated the school from a cow pasture, my dad decided to see how far he could jump from the wall into the grass. As he landed, he fell onto his hands and slid forward in the wet grass. As he was sliding, his hand caught on a broken Pepsi bottle partially hidden in the earth and cut a large flapping gash in his hand. He said Mr. Slabey took him into the school and looked and the wound and quickly and expertly taped the wound shut and immediately soaked it in a bowl of water saturated with epsom salt. He then bandaged it and put a sling on my dad's arm. Mr. Slabey instructed Granny on how to soak the wound each evening, and when my dad arrived at school, Mr. Slabey checked it and replaced the gauze bandage. My dad was grateful for the teacher's kindness and the episode eased a bit of his anxiety over having to go into that room where the walls shook with each angry shout. 

I think it is incredibly interesting hearing about the folks around here, how they lived and worked in their community. These stories were particularly interesting to me as I have always enjoyed reading and learning, and it warms my heart to know that my family, and this community, does as well. 


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