I was in the 4th grade the first fall we were on the farm, and Marj was in 1st. (They hadn't invented kindergarten for small towns yet.) We walked most of the time, both ways, about two miles from door to door.
Jimmie Knutson was also in 1st grade and had almost another half-mile to walk (from where Beaver lived when this was written). [14.78-7]
We were quite a gang when we all got on the road at once: three Van Cleves from up on the corner, four Mosengs from where Jimmy Ellingson lives, four Hoffs, three Haugejordans. (They came down a half-mile-long driveway along Woltvedt's east line fence from a log house that is gone now.) That was only the first year. A lot of them were soon old enough to quit or finish school. Van Cleves moved to Oregon, Mosengs moved to a farm up near the county line (those buildings are all gone now, too), and in two or three years, there were only four or five of us left. [14.79-1]
We had quite a bit of fun walking back and forth to school. When the weather was nice on spring mornings, the meadowlarks would be sitting on the telephone poles, singing, and sometimes on our way home we would take time to snare (or try to) striped gophers, which were numerous along the road ditches.
Some of the town boys would come out and trap pocket gophers between town and Hoff's, with lots of arguments about who had the rights to certain areas. [14.79-2]
Once in a while a striped gopher would have a hole out near the edge of the school grounds and once in a while one of the country kids would be successful in snaring it if the other kids would stay away long enough. I always carried a cotton fishline in my pocket to snare gophers with, but it was only successful once in a while.
We would put a loop with a slip knot around the top of the hole where we saw a gopher go in. Then we'd lay flat, 10 or 12 feet back, on the end of the line. We'd wait for the gopher to stick his head up and then give a quick jerk. Usually the line slipped off or the gopher would have the line on the end of his nose when he stuck his head up, or he wouldn't stick his head up at all. Sometimes he would peek out from a different, but connected, hole.
If it did work, there was some really fast action as we tried to kill him, usually by jumping on on him before he slipped out of the noose. [14.119-2]
I used to carry all the gophers home and cut the feet off there to collect the bounty. (In later years I carried tin snips along.)
August Pearson was a big, homespun, Norwegian kid from Eagle Lake township, whose folks moved to town for a couple of years. One day at school he pulled out a wicked looking straight edge razor and said, "This works the best for cutting off gopher feets." [14.119-3]
In the fall we could pick wild grapes and eat them. They grew right along the road shoulders. They were pretty sour, but we were hungry and thirsty. We carried our lunches in army surplus shoulder bags, so our hands were free for other activities; also, we could bring the mail along home in them.
In the spring we picked and ate "wild sauerkraut" (Oxalis sp.) that grew in the fields after the grain was up two or three inches. It was kind of sour, but good to nibble on. [14.79-3]
Tollef's father had a milk route in Ashby and drove to town with a mule and open buggy every morning about the time we went to school. His own kids started early so they wouldn't have to ride with him. He got mad when they wouldn't ride, but there wasn't much prestige in riding over the bridge into Ashby with Old Man Hoff and his mule-propelled milk buggy.
His mule was so slow that many times we passed him on the road, just by walking fast. All the way to town, he would keep poking the mule in the butt with a dull stick, perpetually saying, "Git up, Jinny," but it didn't affect Jinny's speed any. She never even wiggled her ears. [14.79-4]
The Van Cleves had a horse and buggy, and the year before we went to school from out on the farm, two of the grown up Van Cleve boys drove it to town. Donald Van Cleve (one year older than me) was standing in the back of the buggy and lost his balance. He put one foot through the buggy wheel spokes when the horse was going pretty fast. He twisted his leg so badly they took it off above the knee, but in a year or so he was back at school, mostly hopping around on one leg, playing football and baseball and "rassling" with the other kids. He didn't get any artificial leg or anything, and didn't use crutches much, either. [14.80-4]
(see 13 Horses for more about driving Bird & this rig to school.)
In the spring, when I was in a hurry to get home to trap pocket gophers, I would ride Bird to school and gallop all the way home after school to set pocket gopher traps. I also got up early and rode over the fields on her in the mornings and picked up the traps and gophers. (We got 10 cents bounty, which we considered a lot then, and 3 cents for striped gophers.) [14.81-6]
When I rode to school, Marj walked alone. I don't think she minded. I wasn't especially congenial company anyway at that girl-hating age. [14.81-6]
Sometimes, in the fall, Pa wanted us to ride with him in the Model T. He went to town Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with cream and eggs and I suppose he thought it didn't look good for us to walk and then for him to come along soon after in the car. We could leave between 8 and 8:30 and walk to school on time. It wasn't unusual for country kids to come later, either, but we hated to do it and walk in with every eye on us as we walked from the door clear back to the cloak hall. [14.85-5]
We were almost always late when we rode in the car, because the chores (milking and separating) had to be done first, and breakfast was a "must" in those days. [14.85-6]
Then, on cold mornings before it snowed in the fall, Pa would take a tea kettle of boiling water out and pour it on the carburetor and manifold. He cranked and choked the Model T until it finally started. (The 1921 model we had then had a self starter, but it was too weak to start it in cold weather, so he still cranked it a lot.) [14.85-7]
Then, Pa would pour hot water into the radiator and fill it up with cold water while it was running. If he didn't put in enough hot water first, or if the engine should die, then the radiator would freeze up and Ma would be frantically trying to get some more water boiling on the wood range, to pour on the outside of the radiator to thaw it out again, while we complained and hollered because we were already late for school. [14.86-1]
So we usually walked; we knew what time we would get there, then. As soon as there was any snow to amount to anything, the car was done until spring, anyway. [14.86-2]
Some years you could get to town with the car almost until Christmas, which was considered really good. After that you went with a team of workhorses on a bob-sleigh, and that was more dependable. Pa usually timed his trips to the fields around town for a load of hay or corn bundles so we could ride home in the load. This we really enjoyed, especially if the sleighing was good. We could bed down in the top of the load and really enjoy the trip. [14.86-3]
They hadn't invented snowpants for girls yet, and they had to wear long underwear and black, wool stockings and high buckle overshoes, etc. I still had to wear the "knee pants" and long, black, wool stockings, until it got really cold in the winter. Then, with good behavior, I was allowed to wear bib overalls, after it snowed, over the others. But one slip, or poor mark in deportment, and it was back to the knee pants for punishment. Ma finally had found the one thing that was even more effective than her stick for punishment when I was bad. [14.86-4]
I still had to wear all-wool long underwear, regardless of behavior. I had a tender skin and the itch for the first three weeks in the fall was almost unbearable. After that it seemed like the wool and burrs and skin would finally get compatible and the itching quit, but after going barefoot all summer, the shoes and long, black, wool stockings were also almost unbearable on those warm, fall afternoons after school started. Especially when the real country kids looked so comfortable in their bib overalls and "Rockford" socks. [14.86-5]
Each year got better, but I couldn't just turn into a real country kid all at once; it had to come a little at a time, and spring was usually much better. By then I had been wearing bib overalls all winter (along with heavy, four-buckle overshoes and shoes and/or buckskin moccasins and wool socks), and knee pants were mostly a dead issue. [14.86-6]
All the teachers went home or to the City Restaurant for dinner at noon. The town kids all went home and we country kids had cold lunches and stayed at school during the noon hour, unsupervised. We were free to roam around for the whole hour and we usually had pretty fertile brains for thinking up entertainment for ourselves, according to the weather. [14.89-5]
We went up to the dump-ground one winter day and found pieces of tin and parts of old washing machines, etc. We brought them back to school to slide down the high, icy bank that was on the north side then. We really "caught it" one day when we "borrowed" the janitor's pail from Nels Eian to carry water from the basement and ice the north bank. Then we would take a run and slide down the bank on our feet and clear out into the middle of the street. [14.90-1]
A lot of farmers would be coming to town with teams and sleighs and we would run and jump on their sleigh runners and ride downtown and walk back. Some of them cooperated, and some of the younger farmers thought it was fun to gallop their horses by so fast we couldn't catch them.
When the weather was right, we would choose up teams and play whatever game was in season, football and soccer in the fall, and baseball in the spring. The only sports in school then were during recess and noon hours, or possibly the high school baseball team would play Evansville or some nearby town after school. I never went to high school, so I didn't know much about that. [14.90-3]
One recess we were playing soccer (no coach or supervision of any kind) and I made the kick-off. I kicked the ball clear through the goal with one kick and became an instant hero. I was the only one considered for making the kick-off again the next day, so I took an extra hard swing, and with my swelled head I misjudged the height of the ball. My foot rolled over the top of it and I sailed straight up (about six feet, it seemed) and came down flat on my back. I got up and walked clear across the school grounds and sat down on a window ledge before I even got my breath back. My fame as a kick-offer was gone forever. [14.90-4]
Once in a while Ma would put two pennies in our lunch sack and then we would go down to Sunju's store during noon hour and get a two-cent Hershey Bar, or two penny ones. We were sometimes jealous of some of the big kids, like the Norby boys, who would go downtown and come back eating five-cent candy bars. [14.90-5]
During the first years the style for small girls changed from black stockings and black underpants to white stockings and white or pink underpants, Marj had to wear black ones anyway, which was even worse than my knee pants, because all the town boys wore knee pants, but she was the only one in school who had to wear black underpants. [14.91.4]
They had put in some new playground equipment about the last year we lived in town: a slippery slide and teeter totters and a giant stride, which was a high pole with a whole bunch of chains with handle bars. About a dozen kids could go around at once, running and swinging higher and higher, until their feet didn't touch the ground at all. [14.91-5]
The kids learned to have one brave one take a chain around over the top of the others until they could hardly reach the bar and then, as the others gained momentum, that one went faster and faster until that kid was swinging straight out, almost even with the top of the pole. Once in a while one would get scared and let go. They really got skinned up when they hit the dirt. [14.91-6]
I think as many girls as boys were daredevils enough to try it, but it was more often the girls that chickened out and let go. Pa used to work the field behind the schoolhouse where the ball diamond is, and he always said he could see one pair of black pants going around [higher than anyone, Marj said] on the giant stride. I never tried it. I never was much of a daredevil. I got into plenty of scrapes, but it was usually my mouth that got me into most of my picklements (the same as now). [14.92-1]
Miss Bemis had taught and lived in Ashby for many years (she was raised here), but after two years of our class she quit and went somewhere else to teach, and so did Miss Teisberg. In the fifth grade we had Miss McDowell, a short, fat teacher from North Dakota who had been here several years. She was neither especially good or bad, but after one year of us, she quit and went back to North Dakota to teach. [14.92-2]
We were just getting into the real smart aleck age by the time we got to the sixth grade and got Dagmar Jorgenson for a teacher. She was "Ashby-raised" and it was her first year of teaching. She was "hot-headed," which we were able to make the most of. She had trained to be an elementary [primary] teacher, so for our art class on Friday afternoons, we dressed clothespin dolls and such first and second grade stuff, though some of the two-years-to-a-grade boys in the fifth and sixth grades were six feet tall and 15 years old. We finished her up in one year, and then she quit. [14.92-3]
We really gave Dagmar a bad time; one of our gang was even her own brother. I always thanked my lucky stars that I never had a sister for a teacher to report all of my daily activities to my mother, but I know George's mother wasn't tough like mine, so he didn't suffer as much as I would have. [14.92-4]
Lots of funny things happened in the lower grades. One noon or recess when Jimmie Peterson was in the first grade, he was in a bloody wrestling match with another kid on the school grounds and his pants split about eight inches so his whole butt stuck out. He took off for home -- lucky for him it was only down the hill from the school grounds. I always thought how awful it would have been for me to have that happen so far from home, and right down Main Street through town. I don't think any girls were watching Jimmie's fight, so it wasn't so bad for him. [14.92-5]
One of the real characters at school, Norman Holman, was a green, country kid two or three years younger than our class. He had heard mostly Norwegian at home and was quite excitable. He was always trying to smoke, rolling up grass in paper, and then he would say, "Gimme firstick," (fire-stick, or match), and he was called "Firstick" the rest of his life by all who went to school with him. (After he grew up to 250-300 pounds, everybody else called him "Tiny.") [14.93-1]
He wasn't the only one with a nickname. We always called Clarence Haugejordan "I Si" at school because that's what everybody called his dad. Hans Haugejordan always ended every sentence with, "I say," which he pronounced, "I sigh." [14.107-3]
"Buddy" Eian had a perfectly round head when he was small and they called him "Door Knob." One day when he came home he tripped against the door and he said, "Door knob came off!" -- and the whole family looked at his head! [14.107-6]
One Sunday, a bunch of the older kids took a joy ride to Barrett and, according to Enoch Evavold's story, they went walking out on the dock at Barrett Lake. Edgar Anderson was so interested in some bathing beauties out in a boat that he walked off the end of the dock. They promptly dubbed him "Jimmy Muskrat" and he has been known as "Jim" ever since. [14.107-5]
One noon hour we country kids found a hole in the grass that a bunch of wasps (yellow jackets) had a nest in and were flying in and out of on the west edge of the school grounds. We all got branches off the boxelder trees (with the leaves on) and took turns running across the hole and beating the wasps to death.
Every so often, one of the kids would let out a beller and jump extra high when he got stung, but we kept on until all the wasps bit the dust. I didn't get stung, but I didn't run across as much as some of the others. I never did enjoy suffering as much as some kids did! [14.93-2]
The school got a couple of pair of boxing gloves about that time -- I don't know why -- the new superintendent (J. John Halvorson) must have liked to watch boxing matches. Also, maybe he thought it would be a good way to see the kids get some punishment.
When the gloves came, he took all of us 10- to 12-year-old boys down to the basement to give us boxing lessons, and that sure was a bloody mess. After the first hit in the face, every kid got mad and swung for real. They didn't go by the rules at all. I don't remember more than one boxing lesson. Maybe the superintendent had all the fun or satisfaction he needed after one round of lessons. [14.93-3]
J. John Halvorson replaced Miss Erickson as soon as the war was over, about 1920 or 1921. He was slim and straight and tall and stiff and I don't remember ever seeing him smile. He never looked like he liked kids, and the kids always returned the look, I'm sure. [14.93-4]
"Jake," as we called him among ourselves, was coaching the high school baseball team when he bawled Stub Eian out for some wrong play. Stub said, "Well, Jake, I don't think you could do any better yourself." As I remember it, Stub got every bit of punishment the law allowed, including banishment from the team. Lots of parents snickered and said it was sure a good joke on J. John because he was always so haughty and smoked cigars. The kids never called him anything but Jake to his back. They all knew his name was really Jacob John Halvorson. [14.94-2]
J. John Halvorson bought our house in town when he got married. His wife was some kind of "city bred" type, only half as tall as he was, with a fur coat that came only above her knees. (Short skirts were in style, but disgraceful.) They were an odd pair, only associated in the higher intellectual society of Ashby, like the O.C.'s, Hauges, Teisbergs, etc. (Speaking of coats, Ma always admired Bessie Hanson because she bought a long fur coat when the short ones were in style. A short time later, long skirts came back into style, so Bessie was in style and looked "sensible" for many years.) [14.93-5]
There were only two teachers in the whole high school then and, of course, "Professor Jake Halvorson," the superintendent, taught classes, too. He used to come back from the City Restaurant at noon a little ahead of the teachers and stand in the upstairs window like a statue, with the idea that the outlaws would see him and keep in line on the school grounds. If he wasn't there, the girls and the teachers got some awful snowballings as they ran from the corner to the schoolhouse door. [14.94-4]
One day "the prof" ordered all the boys, 4th through 8th grades, up to his office and gave us a long lecture on discipline, what it was, etc. but I don't remember ever really getting any of it. All the kids overheard their parents at home discussing what a poor example "the prof" was, because he was so overbearing and smoked cigars. [14.101-2]
The first year we went to school from the farm, the morning of the day before St. Valentine's Day was so nice we hardly needed our coats buttoned on the way to school. Then it started to snow during the forenoon. When the town kids came back to school after dinner, they were telling how bad the storm was, that they couldn't see more than a few feet, etc. We were too young to start worrying then, but soon after dinner people from town started coming for their kids on foot, and also taking home with them various country kids who were related to them. [14.95-1]
Shortly before school let out at 3:45 or 4 p.m., Miss Teisberg came and told me we should go to Schrams' after school. The "prof" had come to the door and told her.
Pa had tried to come for us at noon with the big team, but the horses stopped when they got out of the woods by (Tollef) Hoff's and refused to go a step farther. They were an extra good team, too, but Pa had to turn around and give it up. We didn't have a telephone, but Knutsons did, so he walked down there through the woods where the wind wasn't so bad and called the high school and told them to tell us to go to Schrams. They lived just across the street from where we had lived in town, in half of Mrs. Marden's house, and Sam worked for Pa a lot. We kids used to go to their place before we moved, and that was probably the only place in town he felt like he could send us. [14.95-2]
When school was out, at ten minutes to four, Marj and I found our way up to Schrams'. They didn't know we were coming, and our folks didn't know that we made it until the next day. Neither the superintendent nor Miss Teisberg nor anybody else made any move to see that we got there, and Marj was only 6.
Most of the country kids had some place to stay in town, but one high school kid who was working at Walter Melby's and going to school found his way to Melbys' by following a fence. I think one or two Woldvedts made it home, too.
After the blizzard was over, one after the other of the people in town told our folks, "Why they could have stayed at our place," but they sure weren't around when the danger was. [14.95-3]
The next day when the wind died down, Pa and John Knutson came in with our team and picked us up, along with Jimmy Knutson, who had gone home with Harold Skaar. For all the teachers knew, several kids could have frozen to death. That was the worst blizzard to date since back in the 1880s. [14.94-4]
We walked to school some awfully stormy days because the northwest wind didn't blow in the woods at home and many times when we got to Hoffs' we couldn't see to Teisbergs' but we never turned back. Oftentimes we made the first tracks on the road over the drifts in the morning. [14.96-1]
There was so much snow in the cuts on the road that even the farmers with teams couldn't follow the road. They circled around on all the high spots on the fields where the snow wasn't so deep (no snowplows in those days). We made a lot of extra mileage on the nice days, walking home from school by walking along the tops of the old, high, road banks, and sliding on our feet (or seats) down the hard-packed snowbanks. We also got rides quite often with farmers from farther out in the country, going home from town with teams and sleighs. [14.96-2]
One day, when the country kids were roaming around the grade rooms unsupervised while the teachers and janitor were at home or at Runningen's City Restaurant for dinner, we were watching the goldfish one of the teachers had in a bowl on the window ledge. Vernon Moseng lit a wooden match and handed it to me.
"Stick it down in the water," he said, and I was always gullible, so I did.
Then he said, "Now all the goldfish will die," so I had to take them down to the basement and change the water on them. I knew if they died I'd be the one on the carpet, eventually. [14.100-1]
About that time a sort of "one-horse" P.T.A. got organized, mostly by townswomen. There weren't many farm women in those days before schoolbus routes, only what lived in about a two-mile circle. The few farm women there were mostly figured P.T.A. was an invention of, by, and for the town busybodies. [14.100-2]
The P.T.A. women had to have something to do, so they decided the country kids ought to have a hot lunch at noon, and that the mothers (country women) should take turns coming in to fix something warm at noon. They even volunteered that maybe some of them could help some in case of country mothers being snowbound or having small children at home, etc. [14.100-3]
My Ma snorted some at the town women voting in something for someone else to do, but she volunteered to send in milk and cocoa if someone would cook it. Our teacher volunteered that her mother would cook it if we brought it to her house.
A couple of us boys ran over across lots at noon to get the cocoa (I suppose about two gallons in a milk can). When we got there, Mrs. Jorgenson said, "It vas so veek, I put in all the cocoa I had, too, so maybe it von't be so bad." That day we had pretty good cocoa, good and strong like Norwegians like it. [14.100-4]
Some of the high school girls were supposed to do the cooking for their mothers' turns, on the kerosene stove down in the big, empty basement room that served as a lunchroom. The mothers would send in a couple of cans of home-canned corn or peas and about three or more gallons of milk. We were lucky to find two or three peas or kernels of corn in our "hot, creamed corn or peas." [14.100-5]
One day our teacher (Dagmar) volunteered to take care of the cooking for someone and after she served us our milk and peas she fried a steak for herself. It wasn't long before the country kids started dropping out of (not taking) hot lunch and the hot lunch balloon landed with a thud. [14.100-6]
We were still allowed to eat our cold lunch in the lunchroom and were supposed to take turns sweeping it. Two kids were assigned to sweeping it each day and a list was posted every week.
We "hardy" country boys weren't about to become janitors just for a place to sit and eat, so we ate outside on the flat, cement, coal shed roof on the south side of the school building. (This was torn off when they converted to oil and built the home economics and shop addition.) One winter, I remember, we didn't miss one day eating out there and so got out of sweeping the lunchroom, because we weren't there. [14.101-1]
When Coolidge was elected president, radios had just been invented. Doc Thorson [the dentist] was a radio nut and had one of the very few radios (perhaps the only one) in town. He brought his radio up to the school so we could all hear Coolidge's inaugural address. All classes were dismissed and all the grade schoolers and high schoolers were in the big assembly room upstairs. That was one of the "off" days for radio, and all we heard was static. I don't remember hearing a single word of the address. [14.101-3]
Radio reception depended a lot on the atmosphere then, and some clear winter nights the reception was fairly good. The first ones in the neighborhood to get a radio would invite company over for the evening to listen to it, and that would usually turn out to be a night of mostly static. You would always hear how good it had been last night or last week or sometime. [14.101.4]
About that time Hannah Kampfer visited school and we all went up to the assembly room to see and hear her. She was one of the first women (perhaps the first) elected to the Minnesota Legislature. She had quite a story to tell. She didn't tell her whole life, but I read some of it since. [14.101-5]
I can't remember much of what she told us, but I remember what she looked like: tall and stately. And she wore a mink "choker." [14.102-2]
She was born to a cabin maid on a boat coming over here from the old country and her father was the sea captain. Her mother was going to throw her overboard, but another woman rescued her and brought her to Friberg Township in Otter Tail County and raised her. She told about cutting poles for a farmer to earn a little money. He paid her $1.50 a load and put on such big loads he couldn't make it all the way home and had to unload part of it. [14.101-6]
When she was in the Legislature, one of the representatives was having a hard time getting some legislation passed pertaining to illegitimate children. She stood up and said she understood all of those problems because she was one of those kind herself. His bill passed unanimously. [14.102-1]
One day, in 6th grade, one after another asked to be excused to go to the restrooms in the basement and Dagmar finally got so mad she wouldn't let any more go. But Helen Peterson (the little runt I used to play with, who still wished she was a boy, kept insisting. Dagmar got so mad she said, "Everyone line up by the door and all go to the basement.
Everyone lined up except Helen. She stayed in her seat. Dagmar jerked her out of her seat, swung her up in the air, marched the full length of a row of desks carrying Helen so high her feet never touched them, and put her at the head of the line by the door. [14.103-6]
It was in the 6th grade that the girls planned to have a school party one night and invite the boys. The teacher and probably some kids from the next grade would be there. We were all invited, but only the town boys -- "ladies' men like Norman Peterson and "Broder" and some like that -- planned to go. As for me, I couldn't have gotten a "pass" to get off the farm after dark from my mother, anyway. The brain of the class (Clifford Bowman) wrote a letter of "regrets" to the girls and we all signed it. I was elected to hand it to the teacher (Dagmar). It said, "We regret with pleasure that we cannot attend your party." [14.103-4]
In the 7th and 8th grades, we had Lois Sanstead from Garfield for a teacher. She was a good teacher, but we didn't appreciate her. We were in the squirreliest age by then, and had had the worst brought out of us the year before, by Dagmar. Also we had accumulated and caught up with several older "slow learners" that had been missing grades. There was no way she could keep us busy and still take time to get enough into them to finally pass them on out of the grades.
We would get our assignments as far ahead as the teacher would give them to us and do them ahead, and then read books or think up devilment in our extra time. Of course that was the age of puppy love and crushes! [14.102-4]
We got so tired of the same shoes and dresses the teacher wore. It seemed like she wore the same ones forever. We did our best to give her a bad time in every way possible. I've wished ever since I could see her again and tell her how sorry I was because I had been so mean. [14.103-1]
She eventually found out how to get us in line, at least temporarily. She would give a deadline and if we didn't behave by the deadline (probably three or four days ahead), she said she would write to our mothers. I knew if she ever wrote to mine, my goose would be cooked, for good. We always managed to get good enough that she never did write, but if she had been smarter (or meaner), she would have! If I had been her, I would have. [14.103-2]
After two years of us, she went somewhere else to teach and eventually got married there. We never saw her again. I think from the right point of view she was quite good looking. [14.103-3]
One of our favorite ways of getting Miss Sanstead's "goat" was to deliberately use incorrect grammar and words like "ain't." She would get exasperated and yell and correct us. She said "ain't" wasn't a word, but we maintained that it was, because it was in the dictionary. [14.103-5]
I always really hated school and in 7th grade I told the teacher I would rather have a lickin' every day than go to school. [14.104-3]
In the upper three or four grades I was lucky enough to have several excuses to stay out of school for a day now and then. I could quite often work it to stay home a day to work in the field with the horses, plowing, dragging, disking, etc. I would gladly follow the four-horse drag all day on foot in the dust rather than go to school. [14.104-4]
I could always depend on one day when we had the threshers. Another good day was when someone came with a circle saw mounted on a steel-wheeled wagon or with a single cylinder gas engine pulled with a team of horses to saw wood for a day in the fall. (If there was snow they would have it on a bobsled instead.)
Chain saws hadn't been invented, so everything was sawed on the circle saw. Some of the trees or logs would be up to 16 feet long. It took about five men then, and I, being the school kid, could only be out on the very end. [14.104-5]
My biggest joy was in the spring and fall when I got to stay out a day and work in the field behind the schoolhouse. We always took the horses down to the village tank to water them at noon. I would time it so I would be going down the street, usually with four horses and riding one of them, just as school let out at noon, when all the teachers and kids would be walking downtown on the sidewalk. I thought that was fun because they had to go back to a hot, dull, boring schoolroom and I could be out there enjoying the hot, dusty air. [14.104-6]
I didn't have that much trouble keeping up my grades. I never took a book home to study once in eight years that I can remember. I wasn't straight A and I didn't try to be straight A, but I had no D's or E's or F's, either. I always got good enough marks to pass Ma's inspection. [14.105-1]
Ma went through high school and "normal school," to be a teacher, and Pa only went through the third grade, if even that, but we always thought he was smarter than Ma. I was caught between the two cultures. [14.105-2]
Pa could figure anything he needed. He could measure the tons of hay in a big, loose haystack, for instance, and come out with almost the exact amount, if they checked the loads on a scale. [14.105-3]
Ma had decided she wasn't going to have her kids corrupted by high school, so I always looked forward to, and bragged about, quitting school at the end of the 8th grade. The town kids were always jealous, because they knew they all had to go to high school.
Toward the end of the 8th grade, the girls were looking better and better, but it was too late for me to change my mind. I didn't even mention it. I had bragged too long, and it certainly wouldn't have gone over very great with Ma if I had said I wanted to go to high school, where all the girls are. I sure didn't have any other reason for wanting to go. [14.105-4]
Those last two years in school were really frustrating -- too young to have a car, too young to do anything but look at girls and watch boys two or three years older take off in their Model T's at noon, with one girl if they were "in love," or a whole carful, otherwise. [14.105-5]
There were lots of love affairs going on in high school, but only a very few had cars to go "spooning" with at noon. [14.105-6]
It wasn't only the kids that had love affairs. The janitor and one of the teachers had a crush on each other and always had a lot of business to talk over together in the hall or in the basement. He kept telling everyone, including my mother, who had it in for her, what a wonderful teacher she was. He also hated the professor (superintendent) they had at that time and called him a red-headed Swede, which was the lowest and dirtiest name a Norwegian could call anybody, whether they were Norwegian, Swede or any other nationality. [14.105-7]
Gordon, Walter, and Mable Norby came to school in a brand new Model T roadster one year. Walter was the romantic one and did most of the joy riding then. One night someone who heard him making plans to take a girl for a ride sneaked over to his roadster and turned the adjusting screws down solid on two of the coil points, which made it run on only two cylinders. He made it down to Pelican Lake and back on two. I never heard the rest of the story, but it couldn't have been very relaxing one-arm driving. [14.106-1]
Clarence Haugejorden fell in love with Aurelia Olson and took her for a ride every noon in his father's old Model T touring car with the glassed-in winter top. The competition was strong. Melvin Lundgren had a Model T coupe that had more class, and he soon started taking Aurelia for noon trips instead. So Clarence switched to Hazel Amundson and was her transportation for quite a while. [14.106-2]
Hazel Amundson was only 13, but so smart that she had skipped some grades and was a high schooler already. Clarence eventually lost out there, too, when she switched to Kenneth Clemenson who was more dashing and mature -- and out of school. [14.106-2]
Hazel was teaching by the time she was 17, and one night Kenneth went to see her at some place out in the country where she was teaching. On the way home he got stuck in the snow and didn't have a shovel, so he walked home and got his Shetland pony and a shovel. He rode the pony to the car and shoveled it out. Then he turned the pony loose and drove home. The pony found its own way home. [14.106-3]
They had more of a "doings" for 8th grade graduation then, because high schools were just beginning to be for everybody. (A good share of the country kids didn't even make it through the 8th grade. Quite a few boys missed a lot of school for farming and quit when they were 16.) We marched up and got our 8th grade diplomas like the high schoolers do now. That night I got to wear long pants for the first time and I had made one important milestone: the black, wool, stockings and the knee pants were behind me forever! [14.107-7]