Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween at School

It's just so awesome! No, really...our new principal is all for keeping Halloween. He even dresses up in a really stupid looking costume. He's a tall, big man, and he isn't afraid to don a pajama-looking outfit with a Bobba Fett helmet. And no one from the office said one word about "only healthy snacks." We ate a lot of cookies and candy yesterday. And, unlike last year, it didn't rain on our costume parade.

BTW: we had our Halloween day on Thursday, Oct. 27th, because Friday Oct. 28 is a state holiday, commemorating the admission of Nevada to the Union! The PTO really wanted to do a big extravaganza for us, and wanted to use the day before the three-day weekend. I guess we'll just ignore Monday. Actually, I'm giving my class a "homework-free" Monday.

Children take Halloween very seriously. They LOVE it. The amazing costumes, elaborate make-up. The excitement! Plus--candy! I came home with a bag full of treats that they gave me.One of my daughters once pointed out something about Halloween. She was about seven or eight, and she reflected, "You know what, Mom? Halloween is really fun because it is just for fun. There's no "deeper meaning" of Halloween, like Christmas or Easter. It's just for fun!"  (Not that she didn't enjoy Christmas or Easter, but it was nice to just throw herself wholeheartedly into a celebration of FUN!)

The crowning event of yesterday, however, was when I was out with my stop-sign and yellow vest, walking pedestrians across the street. Both sides of the road were lined with cars and trucks, from all the parents who came to the costume parade/classroom parties. Vehicles were moving all around, and we heard a loud, metallic noise. Everyone looked all over, trying to determine the cause. After several trucks drove off in various directions, I realized what happened. Someone had backed their large pick-up truck into a road sign, knocked it over, and driven over the remains as they left. Guess what the sign said:


It was illustrated by a silhouette of children walking along. Now, it is lying, broken off, and crumpled along the street in front of the school. Totally awesome!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Whirl-Wind World

I really intended to post another blog during the week, but, I've just now come down from the tornado. Sort of. Each and every day, as a teacher, I feel like I'm caught up in the twister, twirling around trying to get my feet under me so I can move in a determined direction. Yet, I'm continuously running into another deadline I've missed to turn in some newly created paperwork with a cryptic acronym. My co-worker laughing called this newest onslaught the LMNOP/XYZ things. There are PGPs and SLGs and NEPFs and PLGs...seriously, I'm not making it up.

So, Saturday came. Whew--right? Not really. I got up at 6:30 so I'd be first in line to the radiology clinic when they opened at 8:00 to get a chest X-ray for my doctor. However, the information on the website is a little sketchy because the clinic I went to doesn't do X-rays on Saturdays. So, I drove across town to the clinic that DOES do X-rays on Saturday. No problem, got right in--zip zap. All done. Drove home. Changed clothes.

Next, I went to church where we were having our Saturday rehearsal for the the children's program tomorrow. We practiced and practiced, and stood up and sat down, and adjusted the microphone, and helped little people pronounce words like "Corinthians" and "immortality" and fed them all pizza and juice boxes and sent them home with an admonition to come fifteen minutes early to church tomorrow. We swept, and emptied the trash, and shut off all the lights. Then I drove home and changed clothes again.

My next destination was the DMV. I had an appointment to get a new driver's license. Because my old one is somewhere in the Wetlands Park where I apparently lost it from my pocket on our field trip last Tuesday. Sigh. I always take my ID in my pocket, in case...of...I don't know. But this time, I apparently stuck my phone in that pocket and, when pulling out the phone once, I must have dislodged the driver's license. Sigh. And since I'm flying next weekend, and renting a car, I really, really, really need that piece of official ID. But, on the bright side (!) when you make an appointment with the DMV in Nevada, you are the winnah!! I was in and out of there in 17 minutes--fee paid, photo taken, official piece of paper in my wallet!

Then, I drove to the market and bought this week's groceries, took them home, put them away, and changed my clothes again!  This time, I went to a baptism for the dad of some of my Primary boys! What a special event that was! I was the organist, and I'm so glad I was there. It was just a wonderful occasion, and lots of family members were there to enjoy it with them.

Yes! Changed my clothes again, and rushed over to the pool supplies store before they closed to cash in my 20% off coupon for some pool cleaning chemicals, and stopped into another store to get a little gift for one of my very troubled Primary girls who I think will really be excited when I sit down tomorrow after church and show her how to embroider this pattern! She likes to sew, and so I decided I'd get her a little kit, and show her how to do it. She has family troubles, and her life is hard, right now.

So, now, I'm going to go in and make peach cobbler for supper, and then go to bed and think calm thoughts.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Another Story

I hope I didn't publish this one already....I realize that I wrote the elk one last year. But, here is one of the stories I wrote in my Writer's Notebooks while helping 4th graders learn to write:

It had rained all day. This was unfortunate, because Easter Sunday is a time for many to spend outside on egg hunts, or picnics in the park with family. We had been to church and now it was late afternoon, and the deluge was stopping. The solid gray sky ceiling was breaking up into big purple clouds. We knew a spectacular sunset awaited anyone who stood along the beach in San Diego that day.

We pulled up in the parking lot just as the golden orb pierced through the remains of the shredded storm clouds. Golden light poured over the ocean, and as the sun touched the horizon, a single shaft of light shot from the far edge of the ocean, sliding across the darkening water, through the tall pilings that held up the pier.The shimmering light traveled across the wet sand until it stopped at our feet.

We were stunned into silence at this display of nature's glory. All day, we had been surrounded by a curtain of dark rain, and dim light. But, now, as the last moments of Easter Sunday ebbed away, this glorious revelation of light seemed to encapsulate the entire message of the Holy Day--from darkness to light--for eternity.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 15th--Wyoming on My Mind

“Oh, deer! In the fall, bulls of this species – aka the wapiti – fight for harems that can number up to 60.”
This was a clue on Jeopardy last month. It was the $1000 clue, so I assume it was expected to be difficult. But, I was surprised when no contestant could give the answer. None of the three were from the west, so maybe that figured into it, too. Of course, this Wyoming girl knew immediately the correct response was “What is an elk?” 

Elk were a common feature of my childhood. Every year, October 15th was a school holiday. Why? It was the opening day of Elk Hunting Season. Seriously?? A school holiday for that?? Well, let me explain.

First, most people were going to go hunting for an elk, and the best day to go is opening day, because after that, the elk figure out that people are out in the woods looking for them, and they move up to the high ground.  

Second, going hunting wasn’t merely a hobby–it put food on the table. A grown bull elk can weigh over 700 pounds. When it was cut up, and put in the freezer, it constituted half of our family’s meat for the year. Elk meat is lower in fat than beef, and, as a child, I could tell no difference. I’m sure, as an adult, I’d know which was beef, and which was elk, but in my mother’s kitchen, an elk roast served with potatoes and gravy, or elk stew with potatoes and carrots and her homemade bread, were gobbled up as quickly as any beef entree.

I say it wasn’t just a hobby, but it was a way of life. People came from all over the country to our mountain valley just to hunt elk. In Wyoming, it was required that hunters from any other state had to be accompanied by a licensed Wyoming hunter as a guide. If you were lucky enough to have your name drawn in the annual lottery for an out-of-state hunting license, then you also needed to hire someone to take you out in the mountains (especially the designated wilderness) to go on that hunt. Many people in my home town earned significant money each fall by working with a licensed outfitter (such as Cool Guy''s brothers) and guiding hunters. 

And, even if you weren’t wishing to trudge around in the snow and cold with an enthusiastic out-of-stater, many people lived in our valley because hunting and fishing was excellent there, and they enjoyed hunting. It was their hobby…their passion…something they anticipated all year. 

Elk are one of those big challenge animals, too. Imagine you’re out in the mountains, pursuing it in the snow, up and down steep canyons, using your bugling skills to call a frisky bull over your direction, so it will be within range. Sure, you could shoot it across the canyon, but then you’ve got to trudge all the way down and then up the other side to collect your prize. And once you’ve got it cut up and ready to pack out, you’ll be exhausted. So, you need to be reasonable about where you plan to drop your trophy.

Or so I’ve heard…you see, in my entire life, I’ve never gone elk hunting. I’ve listened to the stories. I’ve seen my dad, my sisters, brothers, uncles, and brothers-in-law, get all the gear ready, and pack their saddles, and their lunches, and adjust the sights on their rifles, and pack all their bullets, knives, etc. etc. But, I was always the one who’d stay home and milk the cows, while they set off in the predawn chill with the horses loaded in the back of the truck. I was thrilled for them when they returned late at night with their treasures of antlers and hides, and quarters of meat. But, no way did I have any desire—EVER—to go out there and join the hunt. 

A) I don’t like to kill anything but bugs.
B) It’s freezing cold on October 15 at 7000 feet in the Rocky Mountains.
C) There’s usually snow on the ground–lots of it. This isn’t a pleasant ride up the hill with the wildflowers blooming.

So, I appreciated October 15th as a school vacation. Actually, we usually had two days off. I mean, even our teachers went hunting. No one would have come to school, so they just scheduled a holiday. And I appreciated eating the delicious food my mother cooked from the elk my dad harvested every year. I came to understand, as I grew older, that my dad was probably born in the wrong century. He didn’t go hunting out of obligation to provide for his family. After all, we raised cattle and chickens and pigs. But he went hunting from some primal need, deep in his soul, to go out and challenge the wilderness just like his father, and grandfather, had done. 

My great-grandfather was an actual mountain-man guy. He spent his time up in the mountains trapping furs and hunting. He was born in the late 1800’s and, although he could farm, he preferred hunting and trapping. He actually had a homestead once, and my dad used to tell us how his “Bomp” had sold it for a $20 gold piece so he could get a “stake” to go back out in the mountains. Whenever we’d drive past that particular farm, along the river, my dad would sigh, and remind us of that story. 

It doesn’t matter where I live, or how old I get, October 15 always gives my brain a jog.  
 The two people on the right are my father’s parents. They were at an elk hunting camp. I don’t know why there isn’t snow on the ground. Maybe winter started late that year. This is one of only three photos I’ve seen of them. Another photo has him straddling dead elk, while she stands next to him admiringly. They had both died by the time my dad was eight years old.