On the Nine Mile Road and the Braden School road
you will find an old and very sturdy building. The threat of prairie fire
possibly caused the builders to erect a brick building on top of five layers
of stone blocks. At first glance it appears the blocks are cement. When I
looked again, it was obvious the blocks were hand hewn. The texture of the
pieces had a chipped out appearance. The blocks of stone were longer and
bigger than cement ones. This feature alone identified the age and rarity of
the old school building. These stones were what raised the height of the
entry way. On the front of the building steps took a person to the double
doorways up to this structure whose style went back to an indefinite, long
ago time. On the back a rather long hand-built ramp of wood was standing
against the building much like some Johnny-come-lately appendage that didn't
“Just a minute,” my
husband told me, “I want to test the sturdiness of this." After he was sure
it would hold my daughter, who would be in her wheelchair, he was ready to
take the long trek up and over the thing to the back door. Even though it
seemed to be rickity and unsafe, as a matter of fact, it was totally secure
and he was able to easily push her to the top.
The large wooden door was freshly painted
white with a new, lever type, handle. There was no window. This caused the
person or persons who entered to be all at once thrust in and upon the
gathering of folks inside. With the sudden swinging open of the door
everyone's eyes were turned toward the latest arriving guests. This action
made the persons coming in feel rather like they had made a grand entrance.
It was only a brief experience though because we were quickly diverted by
the tables of delicious looking food. The smells of the country recipes
quickly overcame what would normally be encountered. Beside the food an
expensive air filter moved from side to side while it whirred in a quiet
way. Was this to take care of the old school's smells of dusty walls and
wooden desks I could remember so well. The conversion from school to
community center was total but the memories could not be erased even though
a very modern thermostat for the air-conditioner was centrally located
directly in front of us. These old country schools had for the most part
been torn down. The determination of these ranching families to keep this
place for a community center spoke of their conservative, frugal ways.
Nothing was being said about restoration, preservation or any other high
sounding words. These folks simply practiced their beliefs. There were no
wasteful practices here.
As I looked around me to observe the dress of
these folks I was a little disappointed not to see western cut suits on the
men. I couldn't find a single pair of boots. For all outward appearances it
was evident all had been absorbed into the town and clothing styles therein.
The women might have easily fit into any social event.
We enjoyed the food, the honest
personalities, and the friendship of the lady, recently widowed, we knew for
whom the event had been planned. Years had not changed her personality. Her
warm, pleasant manner wove a web over the gathering, making everyone there
give in to it but then it was time to go.
Back out on the high plateau at the top level
of our high ramp we were once again able to take advantage of this rare
moment. Cars were flying down the highway which was only a couple of miles
away. They looked like blackbirds zooming low to the ground. The fresh,
sweet prairie air, almost made me light-headed. What we call, “breezes” city
folk imply, “a hurricane is approaching.”
Now that the memorial for Grady Skillern, my
friend's husband, had come to an end there was no longer a necessity to try
to control my wind-torn hair. I gave in to those currents and let it wrap me
in its warm caress. The wheelchair which held my daughter was easily rolled
down the steep ramp but I took my time to go slowly, step by step. Some
might have believed my age did require me to do so. How wrong they were. My
wishes to absorb and treasure every memory dictated to my halting retreat
from the old school house. Were children playing on the mown lawn inside
that battered chain link fence? Was a boy chasing a little girl in a game of
tag? Could I see braids held by ribbons flying as she ran with her arms
outstretched in front of her? No, not so. Only far away and long ago brought
up that vision. The tall grasses outside the fence were bending and bowing
to their friend, that boyish playmate, who was the wind, here in this place
where surely there must be a time warp.
These old one room school houses were long
ago replaced with busing of students to finer, newer buildings in town where
kids could be educated with loftier methods. This society is then required
to cope with whatever outcome there will be. For me, I wish not to think
about it but only to remember the strength of bonds formed which tie us
together even until now.