The Crooked Lake Review

Fall 2002

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Preparing for the County Fair

For Lizzie B. Stewart
teacher at Boyds Corners School
Boyds Corners, New York, 1934 -1939

by

Roland Barr Bentley

Boy, I didn't want to come to school today. Being in school here on a cold winter day is fun—when you finally get inside—but not on a warm, spring day like today. In fact, I was almost late this morning—just dallying along the way. The water in the creek is warm and I was trying to catch some minnows and a little crab—got my shoes and socks wet too, but they'll dry out in a little while in school I think. The sun is real warm and I even noticed some pink buds on the old apple tree out here by the school woodshed this morning. Boy, I'll soon be able to get my shoes off and go barefooted again all summer like I always do. Anyway, here I am sitting at my desk inside this room just looking out the window and wishing like heck I could be outside today. My friend, Tinker Thompson, hasn't shown up yet this morning. I'll bet he's pretending he's sick or something so he can play outside and not have to sit in school on a day like today. Teacher has just rung the morning bell. After that she says we're late. I'm still a little out of breath because I had to hurry up the hill and get into my seat before she rang that bell. Now we're ready to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the big American flag hanging up front.

"You know, boys and girls," Teacher says, "we have to begin thinking about County Fair and the things we'll exhibit in the school competition. All our exhibits must be ready to take by the end of school. The Fair is held the week after school begins next September and that'll be too late to get things ready. I'm sure you all want to try for more first prize blue ribbons again this year. Remember all the different kinds of leaves we gathered and framed last fall? Of course, we'll plan to include them and also the stories and poems you wrote this winter about your families and homes. Now we need to gather some spring wild flowers and ferns and plants to complete our exhibits, don't you think?" And then, glancing out the side window by her desk at the bright sunshine, she asked, "It's such a nice warm day, how would you like to go down in the gully and over in the woods gathering things we can use in our springtime exhibit?" She hardly finished the sentence and we all hop up from our seats like she had pressed a button and holler a big "Yeah"—almost all at the same time. "We'll take our lunches. I made some lemonade here in this big jug-and maybe we'll eat by that big flat rock down by the creek." And then, looking directly down at my muddy, wet shoes with that wry smile and squinting eyes, she says, "I see Rolly's shoes are already wet. Maybe he'll catch a minnow or two to put here in our fish bowl. I'll fetch it along—just in case."

After we gather up the things we need to take with us, we hurry out the door. There must be ten or twelve of us following teacher out across the school yard, down the short driveway, across the dirt road, over Thompson's barbed wire pasture fence and down the short, brushy hillside to the creek. As we go, teacher stops a lot to tell us about something interesting she has found. We all gather around her and she explains how it grows or what it can be used for or sometimes how the Cayuga Indians once used it for medicine or food. Mrs. Stewart seems to know a lot about plants and nature and things like that. "Look here," she says, "these are wild leeks. They're good to eat. We'll take one to sample tomorrow in school and one to press and write about for our Fair display."

Now we're all busy looking for little flowers and plants that we'd never even noticed before today. Soon we cross the creek and head up the hill through the meadow. Seems like all of us have a lot of questions. What is this, Teacher? What is that, Teacher? Can we use this? Is this good to eat? Why does this flower have a big bulb on it? Or sometimes she'll ask, when she discovers something she thinks we should know about, "Do you all know what this is?" We talk and laugh and have a lot of fun as we hunt for things and then lay them carefully in the market basket swinging from Teacher's arm.

Soon its lunchtime and we head back down the hill towards the creek to our favorite lunch spot at the big rock. While we're eating Teacher asks us to notice the rocks and the little pool and the shape and color of things in the creek and how we all look sitting around here together. She says tomorrow she'd like each of us to draw a picture of our lunch today here by the creek. I guess it would make a nice picture. Maybe we'll pick out the better ones to take to the Fair. After lunch, and of course, after we catch a minnow or two for the fish bowl, we head up the bank again across the dirt road. But by this time we're way down by the church cemetery. Then we walk up towards the school.

We're all pretty tired as we trudge up the hill. I think Teacher's tired too, but she also seems quite pleased with what we've gathered today. Tomorrow we'll begin reading about every thing we've found and then carefully mount them and write the name under each one and tell something interesting about it.

"Shhhh-everyone be quiet," Teacher says suddenly. "I think there's a robin building a nest in that big apple tree up there by the woodshed. Find some place to sit down and we'll watch her for awhile." As we sit there on rocks and tree stumps, we watch the mother robin fly up and down, up and down, gathering dried bits of grass and pine needles or whatever she finds suitable to build her nest for the soon-to-be baby robins. "We'll keep an eye on them all spring," Teacher says, "but now I think we'd better get back up to the school house."

When we get there I slide into by desk and, golly, it feels good just to sit in my desk seat a few minutes.

"I hope you've had fun today," Teacher says, "but you'd all better get to bed early tonight because we have a lot of work to do tomorrow."

After Teacher dismisses us I start down the hill towards home. The sun is still bright and the air warm, but I don't think I'll stop to play at the creek this afternoon 'cause I've been outside all day, just as I wanted.

Gee, Tinker, you sure missed a fun day.

2002, Roland Barr Bentley
 
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