I think this may be my last post about my time at Gift school. For alas, today I will have exhausted my memory banks of those joyful days of my youth at that fine institution of learning. I don’t even remember what grade I was in when these memories took place, nor which one came first. So, without further ado, I present the last episode in this series.
One day, when it was time to go home, as we were waiting for the buses, a group of older students picked up a teacher’s Volkswagen Bug, and wedged it in between a big Dumpster, and a Gas tank. When she came out to leave, she was furious. There was no way for her to go forward, nor backward. She started asking who did it. I didn’t say a word. When she started demanding that whoever did it, undo it, the parties responsible came forward, and moved the car back for her. She got in the car, started it up, and drove away, smiling.
Another time, when we were gathering outside to go home, I did something stupid. For some reason I just tossed a small rock, and hit the bus. The Principle saw me, and grabbed me by the arm. He told me I was getting a paddling. Since the buses were about to leave, he said I was to come to his office first thing the next morning.
Well, I didn’t want a paddling. I had heard they had an electric paddle in the office, and I thought I had seen it one day when I was walking past, and the door was open. It was bright green. Since I had only seen wooden paddles before, it had to be the electric one. I could imagine how painful it would be. Getting shocked with electricity with every lick. I might die. So, as soon as I got home, I jumped off the bus, and ran inside. I ran to my grandmother, and told her what had happened. I poured out my heart to her, and told her about the electric paddle that I might be subjected to the next morning. I begged her to write the Principle a note telling him not to paddle me.
Kids learn early how to manipulate, and I was no different. I don’t remember what all I said to my grandmother, but she wrote the note. I do remember thinking the teacher would be more likely to listen to her if she addressed him by his first name. It just so happened that I knew his first name. It was George. I had heard a teacher call him that one day, so I told my grandmother to start the note with, “Dear Mr. George.”
I took the note to his office the next morning, and handed it to him. After reading it, the first thing he said was, “How did she know my name was George?” When we’re in danger, human nature kicks into the “Fight of Flight” mode. Children often don’t have that option. They can neither fight, nor run, so they lie, and that’s what I did. I shrugged my shoulders, and said, “I don’t know.” Well, I don’t know exactly why, but he didn’t paddle me, and I was sure glad.
I remember a Fall Festival one year, where we had some sort of pageant, with a King and Queen. I remember standing in line behind the stage in an auditorium full of people. I must have been pretty nervous, because I don’t remember walking out. I know I did, because I have a picture of me standing on the stage with a brown suit, and the paper pumpkin with the contestant number on it. My sister ended up being chosen as Queen, and Mark, the one who almost drowned in the pond, was the King.
It may have been the same night, but I’m not sure. I just remember having games, and playing outside in the semi-dark. We bobbed for apples, and fished behind a curtain, using a fishing pole with a clothes pin instead of a hook. We caught some cool prizes. I do remember not wanting the fun to end that night, but as with all good things, it did.
Another time we took a field trip to Tishomingo State Park to visit “The Swinging Bridge.” I’ve always had a vivid imagination, so when I first heard we were going there, I imagined the bridge was like a swing in the schoolyard, only bigger. I was excited, and nervous at the same time. The day finally came, and we were on our way. I still remember how awesome it was when the bus was pulling into the parking lot. When I saw the bridge, it wasn’t what I expected. It was even better. A huge, majestic arch stood before the bridge. It was amazing. The whole day was amazing. Even eating my brown, paper-bagged lunch there was amazing.
The thing I’ll never forget though, is something that happened on the bridge. A girl named Kelly was already scared, and she was holding on tightly to the side of the bridge. I was just about to walk onto the bridge when, all of a sudden several of the older boys started pulling, and swinging on the cables, and the bridge started swinging, and rippling, and Kelly started screaming as she was hurled back and forth trying to hang on for dear life. The look on her face told me she was terrified. I wanted to help her, but there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t believe anyone could enjoy causing another person so much turmoil. Those boys thought it was funny; that is, until one of the teachers came and made them stop. I know that was a terrible experience for Kelly, but it could have been a lot worse.
There was a large area in the basement, beside the lunchroom, where we sometimes played when it was bad outside. A while before the school closed down, they started having old people come for a few hours each day, and play games, and visit, and whatever old folks do. Most of them were friendly, and we got to know some of them pretty well. A few of them even come outside, and played with us at recess. The first day back to school in the fourth grade, there wasn’t enough students to justify keeping the school open. So, we had to go to Kossuth school, and they closed Gift school.
After the school closed, they still had the old folks center for a while, and other local things were held there from time to time. Now, there’s nothing left of the school, but a cracked, grass covered basketball court, and a few old memories. Memories that I cherish.
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