Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
By Liz Taylor
January 16, 1980
Mouse River Farmer’s Press, Towner, N.D.
Now and then in years past, friends have said to me, “Why don’t you write in the paper more often?”
It was not always possible or appropriate to do so, but I did on occasion write to criticize, or praise, or just to inform. Sometimes on my own, sometimes when asked to. And when I did, folks were either furious, amused, or complimentary…or all three. I was pleasantly surprised this past week by phone calls, letters, and sidewalk encounters, and the kind words expressed over the fact that I would indeed be writing “more often.” Thanks to those of you who took the time and trouble to voice those encouraging words.
One of the nicest things about small towns and rural communities is that while folks don’t always agree with what you say, they do allow you to say it. However, if you get too controversial, it’s wise to sit with your back against the wall and to stay away from open windows!
I said I was going to write about nostalgia and country schools this week, at least partly. Nostalgia is simply the longing for things, people, and situations no longer with us, and my thoughts about those days were brought on more by these feelings in others than in myself. Because of the energy crisis, many have chosen to supplement their oil, gas, or electric heat with wood and coal stoves. We would have been doing the same but lacked the energy to move my old cookstove into the house!
Wood and coal are energy savers if you’re only supplementing your otherwise convenient methods. In our modern homes with running water, etc., you would waste more energy than you saved by trying to thaw out your pipes if you let the fire go out. Also if everyone were to rely on wood for heat, we would indeed be living on the prairies again. There wouldn’t be a tree, living or dead, to be found anywhere in the area in a few years.
My most vivid memory of the country schools I attended was the major undertaking of keeping the building and its occupants warm. The huge coal stove kept the ceiling hot, the floors cold, and the teacher hopping! It was not unusual for the water bucket in the hallway to have ice on it, and if you forgot to empty it at the close of the day, and unprimed the pump, both would be solidly frozen the next morning. Often the first hour or two of the day was not devoted to learning, but to getting warm.
Some of the students walked or rode horseback for miles to get to school, and often suffered frostbite and the resulting chilblains. We sat around the stove and the teacher read to us, or we sang songs, and if we were still there at 10 o’clock, she tried to conduct classes. It really didn’t make a lot of difference because we all heard each other’s lessons throughout the day and through the years, no matter where we sat. It was a learning system that was unique in that first you learned something, and then you had a chance to review it for years.
The only place colder than a country school on a Monday morning, was the outhouse. A visit there made the schoolroom feel warm upon your return!
There were many happy memories for students and teachers alike associated with country schools and the happiest were those of the annual Christmas program in winter and the school picnic in the spring. I will be writing about those times in the future but week I wish to devote some space to something or a more contemporary nature.
I have been mulling over some full page ads in the Minot Daily News and other newspapers recently that were aimed at those of us who own gold and silver coins or jewelry…“rings and things.” Indeed, one Minot business which buys those items is called “Rings and Things.” Their ad does not state how long they have been in business but another Minot firm boasts of having been in the same location for eight years. I’ve known panhandlers and winos who have been at the same corner longer than that!
The recent rise in the price of gold and silver is unprecedented in our time. Since early September 1979, gold has more than doubled in price, and that’s less than six months ago.
I’m not in the business of buying or selling precious metals, but I often give unsolicited advice. Be careful if you’re selling and visit with more than one buyer. These people are not buying to make you rich, they have someone else in mind! Remember that somewhat cynical parody of the golden rule, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”
It is a pleasant Monday morning as I finish this, following a couple more “humdinger” storm systems last Thursday and Friday. Friend and nephew Wade Dokken is coming out to take my picture for the columns and if it doesn’t look too much like me I’ll let the publisher publish it.
And the next time I get to town I’m going to visit the local western store owned by Roy and Jackie Follman and have my name engraved on the back of my belts so folks will know who I am, whether I’m coming or going.
Next week, “Should I get my priorities in order at this point in time or just have a good day?”