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Some Kids I Have Known
Braden School

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 really belong.

“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.

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