Up until I was in the 4th grade, we lived on ranches in the northeast part of Wyoming, the Moorcroft/Rozet area. I began first grade in a one-room schoolhouse not far from the Devils tower. I was a first-grade drop-out due to health, a long, steep hill, and circumstances beyond my control. My dad worked in a sawmill, and we lived in what would now be considered a tarpaper shack.
Then dad got a ranch job and we moved, so once more my schooling began in the fall of 1948. Of course, we walked five miles up hill both ways to get to and from the school. Sadly, I learned later it was only 2 ½ miles and not all up hill. It was grades first through eight and my three older brothers were my escorts. Oh, the stories I could tell of tin jam cans to carry our lunches, Arnie and Kenny adding strange bugs and animals to them on the way home from school. The screams heard round the valley when mom had frogs, snakes and assorted bugs jump out at her. But they are tales for another time.
I loved sitting on daddy’s knee when he read to me, but I loved even more when I could sit on his knee and read to him. Or with mom as she tucked me into bed, the light from the kerosene lantern flickering, and her gently helping me to sound out words.
Words on paper, with pictures were magical. The temptation to make up my own stories to go with the pictures were re-directed to learn to read the words as written. Books of Dick and Jane, with Spot the dog helped pass the time when I had to be in doors. Which in the summertime was very little as there was much exploring for a little girl and her brothers to do when the countryside is their playground. I’m not sure how happy the boys were with their tag-along baby sister most of the time. I know they would sneak away without me when mom wasn’t watching, only to hear her voice calling them back, “Don’t forget your sister and don’t go to far.” I now believe that making them take the sister was her insurance that they wouldn’t go too far.
That winter we were snowed in from late October or November 1948 till May of 1949 so the walk to school was done. But education was not. We were stuck in a two-room house, with four children, mom and at times dad. Dad was a ranch hand, and the fear mom must have had when he’d be gone for days at a time, with the snow falling, winds blasting it against the house, drifting high up to the eves by spring. The relief when he’d make it home and the fear when he’d leave again.
Mom channeled her fears and frustrations in caring for us children and making sure we would not get behind in our studies. Somehow, they’d managed to get all our books from the school and I’m assuming here, what lessons we’d need to study. Every weekday we had our school time and mom was the teacher, my oldest brother Joe was an 8th grader, Arnold, 7th, Ken 6th and me first. Mom was not an easy task master and she made sure we didn’t sluff off. At the end of the school year, we all passed with flying colors. Joe even graduated from the 8th grade and would be attending high school in the fall. Which may have been the reason we made, yet another move, closer to Rozet so we would be able to catch a school bus to take us into the little town where there was both grade school and high school for the children of the ranchers and businesses that surrounded it. Also, it would be our first home with electricity and water piped to the house from the windmill, with a small hand pump by the kitchen sink.
By this time, I knew one thing for sure. I loved books, words on paper that could take me away, keep me company, give me a place to hide out or simply keep me entertained. There were no electronics or television, we finally had a radio, but only for special times when we’d gather around to listen to the news, the Lone Ranger, the grand Ole Opry and for mom during the day when the first soap operas came on. She and I would listen to these together as I got older. But at the age of eight, having an electric light to read by was heaven. I also loved to gather my dolls and stuffed toys to tell them stories of lands far away, of strange animals and people who lived so different from us. Though I never wrote those stories down, nor could I remember them, I do believe it was the author in me exploring my own imagination and the places I could go without leaving home.
6 thoughts on “Learning”
Good job writing those memories I still thrill reading the few things my mother wrote. I’m working to do the same for my daughter, her son, his children (God willing) ….
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thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate your support. I’d bet your children would feel blessed to be able to learn more about you and writing it down is such a good way to do that. They may not show much interest now, but the day will come when they’ll be glad you did it for them.
Oh, how I loved reading this post…a beautiful reminder of all that I take for granted and of the joy of learning to read and tell stories! What fun!
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Thanks for your kind words Vicki, so glad you enjoyed it.
Thank You for your stories it not only helps me to get to know you better but also my Dad ❤️
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Thanks. I’m glad you’ve joined me on my journey.