Friday, April 23, 2010

"The past is a foreign country:

They do things differently there” is the opening sentence of a 1953 novel, "The Go-Between," by British author Leslie P Hartley. Google told me that. I remembered the sentence this week, but not the source. Ain’t the Internet grand?

I was looking at this snapshot, taken during 1954 in the front yard of the home place south of Russell, when struck down by literary allusion. Although this looks entirely natural to me, it may look to others as if it were taken in a foreign country --- and perhaps the 1950s on the Lucas-Wayne County line down here in southern Iowa were just that in some ways.

I’m the geeky little kid with glasses and a flannel shirt front and center, looking down at my dog, Skipper. Skippy is seeking attention from Linda Allard, a gentle soul now sadly deceased.

We were all students at Dry Flat country school, a mile south across the fields. Thanks to Dianne (Vincent) Mitchell --- she’s the girl with red hair in the second row, far right --- we’ll be having a Dry Flat reunion come Friday, June 18 (you-all are invited --- e-mail me for details).

Although Dianne is doing the heavy lifting, Doris (Cottrell) Christensen --- the taller girl with dark hair in the middle of the back row --- and I are helping out. Dianne’s brother, Jacob, the guy with short hair just in front of and to Doris’s right --- who looks like trouble but wasn’t --- will be there, too; as will their older sister, Elzan. And, we hope, their mother, Pauline --- so far as anyone knows at age 97 the oldest Dry Flat alum.

Hopefully, some of the others here will be able to come, too. I recognize (but can’t connect a specific name to a specific face) the Savage kids --- they’re all wearing either caps or scarves. I think I recognize the Wishmeyers, too --- but could be mistaken about that. Sadly, both Ralph and Keith are gone now.

This was actually not an official Dry Flat gathering --- it was instead taken during a meeting of the NL Club (that translates as Nature Lovers Club, although no one now living remembers exactly why). Neither scouting nor 4-H was an option this far from town in those days, so our parents had organized the NL Club instead. To the best of my memory there was no great purpose other than fun. This was before the days when it was felt play should be a learning experience, too.

Schools are in financial trouble these days, too --- facing millions in program cuts and the loss of thousands of teachers according to news reports. Down at old Dry Flat we had one teacher for nine grades (including primary), running water when we took a bucket and ran up the road to Vincents’ to get it, and air-conditioned restrooms --- a boys two-holer at the bottom of the hill and girls at the top. Neither better nor worse, but different. That foreign country again. Looking back, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

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