The ranchers competed for the best breeds of
gentle cattle and horses. They married the most beautiful women, had the
sweetest children and hired the finest school teachers. In turn these
teachers were governed by this spirit of competition and went forward
with this in their curriculum. Foraker kept right up there with the
larger towns around as far as athletics, academics, science, and art.
Mattie on occasion was sent to the second
floor for one or another errand where she had to walk past the science
room. In large glass jars were all sorts of preserved creatures. The
rattle snakes must have had their mouths opened to show the deadly
looking fangs. There were whatever small animals about the prairie
stored forever in formaldehyde and this giving them an immortality of
sorts in their live looks. Rather than being put off by the display, it
was an honestly ever fascinating study.
"Did you see the snakes?" The
boy at the desk behind Mattie grinned knowingly.
Mattie simply turned her head and rolled
"Mattie you may take the scrap paper
from yesterday, back to the paper cutter." The teacher saved her
the need to respond to the taunting of the question about the snakes.
At the paper cutter there was already an
older girl working at cutting it into strips. The little squares
resulting from the paper being cut was carefully added to the growing
amount stored in sacks. The children had not a clue why they were doing
the chore but it was a methodical mindless activity which gave them time
to visit with each other. It was a pleasant activity.
"Why are we making all this paper
pieces?" Mattie wanted to know and asked the older, wiser girl.
"It is confetti." "It is
for the box supper."
The girl had all sorts of questions but,
she already had absorbed the teaching as not to ask too many question
least one be considered rude. She decided not to bother about knowing
details, but would observe instead.
At home her mother was decorating a
cardboard box. She had this covered with what looked to be a pitched
roof. She glued squares of paper over the places that would have been
When Mattie and her mother finished with
the box, it looked like a large gingerbread house with the roof lifting
off to make it a storage box.
"What are we going to do with
this?" Mattie knew she could question her mother in order to know
"It is for the box supper?"
"We will fill this box with fried chicken, a pie, some other foods
and take it with us." "Someone will buy the box and you will
have to share your meal with them."
The night for the box supper arrived and
the children were all wide eyed to see this festive occasion new to them
where their mama's were all dressed in lovely dresses, pretty hair do's
and soft make up. The men in their sharp western cut clothing with the
ever-present Stetson hat held their arms to escort the ladies and their
children holding close to them.
The school gymnasium was decorated for
the occasion with crepe paper roof making it a different room. As they
walked through the door to the right was a long table holding the small
sacks of confetti, the children had worked for months to make. Their
father purchased a sack for the children. "What do we do with
it?" Mattie wanted to know, and at which time her mother took a
small hand full of it to toss over and across their Dad's head and hat.
"Oh fun!" Matti exclaimed and
the children were educated as to the use for confetti.
While they took their places on the tall
bleachers across one side of the gym Mattie could see all the boxes
decorated and lined up on tables. When the auctioneer began this new
language the child had never heard before, it was all just too exciting.
"Gimme dah five dah five, d' five,
d'five, five, five, do I hear a six? Six and a six, n' ah six, a six,
six. Seven." Rattling off the numbers in a fast, run together
language, slowly but slowly the auctioneer inched the price of the boxes
up until they were going at tremendous prices, Mattie thought.
"Sold." "Sold to that good
looking young man in the back there."
The evening was thoroughly a time for
recreation and socializing. None of the activities, be it bingo, cake
walks, musical chairs, or anything else left as much an impression as
the boxes themselves, the confetti or the auctioneer in his jargon,
rolling a new way of speaking out across and over the microphone.
Was competition itself the element to
destroy the little town of Foraker? Children educated to the sciences
and the arts, or academics who had to go elsewhere to support themselves
in industrial communities, leaving the small ranches of their family
behind to be worked alone? Did the perfection of culture leave no place
for it to be exercised after the child left the classroom other than in
a city where the skill and drive were needed? There was a new attitude.
One which did not look to the culture of their ancestors as to being all
that necessary. To the few who sooner or later choose to return to the
ranches it was a time for them having to slowly begin to learn on their
own without the benefit of classroom experiences. Later the large
ranches began to educate their sons to the environment, but it was not
everyone who did so, and by this time the land spoke of the loss of the
older, deep secrets of ancestral wisdom and culture.