It was late August when me, Ricky and Hollis Mayo decided to quit school. We figured we had gone about as far as we could go. “We can read and cipher. How much more do you need?” is the way Rick put it. We made a pact not to show up for the new school year. We decided to go to California and make movies with Roy and Gene. It looked like a lot of fun and Hollis maintained, “The way the teachers dote on Pam, Susie, Ruth Ann and the rest of the girls, they won’t nobody miss us ‘til Christmas!”
We had graduated from the third grade just two months before. We spent the summer berating Mr. McIver, Miss Belle, the excruciating confinement, the insufferable heat and the constant (and almost overwhelming) knowledge being crammed into our noggins whether we wanted it or not!
“Class,” Miss Dinwiddie looked us over slowly, “The first thing we want to do is write a paper on what you did over the summer, the new friends you met, maybe an exciting trip you took with your family. It only has to be two pages long.”
Ye, gads! If Daddy wasn’t so much bigger and so stubborn I could have been to the Arkansas line by now. I was sweating like a stuck hog strung up for rendering and this was only our first day on the second floor. Miss Dinwiddie was just like Miss Belle – she didn’t take a day off. She didn’t stop teaching. She didn’t put up with no foolishness. She acted like you’d insulted her personally if you didn’t cross every “T” and dot every “I.”
In the sixth grade Miss Mary Ann made us memorize “Little Boy Blue.” It was enough to make you want to puke. And when I had to stand up in front of the whole class and recite it, I did.
Letting us play basketball in junior high helped. Finally, some organized mayhem. We got to compete against other towns. I was tired of getting run over by Wesley Beal and Scotty McCullar. We finally got to play on the same team.
It was almost “cool” to make it to high school (although Ricky, Hollis and me would never say it out loud). Those August days were filled with anticipation. We were not, mind you, interested in Shakespeare, Lucky Lindy, X and Y graphs or the smoke rising out of a Bunsen burner. We huddled in groups around the water fountain for the background check regarding the new math teacher. We synchronized schedules so we’d all have American history right after lunch. We got the inside scoop on why Bobby and Nola broke up.
We read “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” and scratched our heads. Surely Dickens was trying to tell us something but we couldn’t figure it out.
Hollis looked off toward the west, scrunched up his face a mite and declared, “Charles Dickens obviously wanted to be a cowboy and Kesley’s Daddy wouldn’t let him go to California either.”
We spent those years trying to figure out life and we’ve spent the rest of life trying to get back to those years. Could be Dickens was right after all…