“Soon the summer will be ended; and the harvest will be o’er.” (Song by Lorenzo Cook) “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8-20).
We are swiftly entering that period when summer is on the wane and autumn is eager to enter our hills. The rose of Sharon bush is dropping their large blossoms on the ground and the katydids are chanting their farewell to summer. The tassels on the corn are turning brown and gardens are going downhill. Most of the harvesting is over, save for tomatoes and a late corn patch.
Our Clay County children are geared for the opening day of school, eager or otherwise. Some senior citizens are registering for different classes, but I can’t think of anything worse than going back to school at my age. I did take some more schooling (at the age of 52) after I graduated from high school. I have been reminiscing about “those dear old golden rule days” and I’m so happy that it is all over!
It was January, and we were having the worst snowstorm of that year. The place was Cedar Lakes at Ripley, and I was enrolled in a class called “Bituminous Asphalt Technician Refresher Course.” A refresher course—I hadn’t had the primary one! The only thing I knew about asphalt was how to get it out of the carpet—after all, how many grandmothers need to know how an asphalt concrete batch plant works?
When I married my husband a hundred or so years ago, I had solemnly taken a vow of “for better or for worse.” I hadn’t dreamed it would come to this. Our paving company had purchased an asphalt batch plant and was in the process of installing it at Summersville. We needed a technician to test the completed mix, and I was elected. They made it sound so easy. “All you have to do is take this course, pass a state test for certification, and run a simple test once in a while. The rest of the time, you can do as you please.” Ha!
At 52, I certainly was not looking for a career. I was perfectly content in my role as mother, grandmother, and occasional freelance writer. They appealed to my sense of duty, “We are all having to pitch in and help all we can—and we need you.” So with much apprehension and quivering nerves, here I was. I was still jittery from the wild ride in the blinding snowstorm. It was so bad that Criss had borrowed a four-wheel drive vehicle to ferry me to Cedar Lakes.
The winding curves of this mountain road would have been hair-raising enough under ideal circumstances, but with four or five inches of snow on the road, and a driving snow still falling, it was a suicide mission. When Criss pulled up beside the classroom to let me out of the truck, I felt like Abigail on her first day of school, when she grabbed her mother around her legs and screamed in terror. I felt an insane urge to hang onto Criss for dear life, and beg to be taken home. I swallowed my fears, gave him a tremulous smile, and walked to the door on legs that would have been shaky even without the icy sidewalk.
I sneaked a quick look around. The men as a whole are a rugged, beardy bunch. There are a couple of other women, but much, much younger. I intercepted a few curious looks, and can almost feel their reaction, “What in the world is a sweet, grandmotherly type like her doing here?” A bewildering assortment of text books are passed around. A confident-looking instructor begins discussing the properties and fundamentals of asphalt concrete, and makes hieroglyphics on the blackboard. Everyone looks as if they know what he is talking about—except me. I try to look intelligent as works like “gradation,” “Marshall mix design,” and “viscosity,” float above my head. Not for the first time, I wonder, “What am I doing here?”
The day finally ends, and from my sinking ship, I see the rescue boat in the form of Criss and his pickup truck. The sidewalk is a slippery sheet of ice, and I grab the huge arm of a burley, 300 pound bearded giant and hang on for dear life. Criss looks up, mildly quizzical, as the big bruiser leads me to the truck and gently helps me inside. It was only then that he recognized an old friend that he hadn’t seen in some time. I will have to say that I have never been around a more courteous bunch of men. They had respect for me, and I appreciated it.
I stayed with my sister Susie the rest of the week, and actually drove myself down the winding road to Cedar Lakes, through ice and snow. I did some intense praying, and the Lord brought me through. I muddled my way through the rest of the week, and later took the state test. I promptly failed two parts of it. Grandmaw had forgotten how to take a test. To make a long story short, I threw myself into studying hard, and then went back in April and took the two parts that I had failed. I passed this time.
I spent a couple of years in a lab at the asphalt plant. The state inspector told Kevin that the particular chemical that I used in the test could cause cancer. Kevin replied, “Well, that’s all right. Mom has had a long, happy life!”
That is the story of Grandmaw going back to school—and the reason you won’t find me in a classroom now.
There was an error in the apple preserve recipe in last week’s column. It should have read “two # (pounds) of apples—not two apples.” What could you do with two apples? It’s almost apple butter time, and believe me, I’d rather be stirring a batch of apple butter than testing a batch of asphalt mix.
“Nothing to do Nellie darling,
“Nothing to do”, you say
Let’s take a trip on memory’s ship,
Back to the bygone days.
Sail to the old village schoolhouse,
Anchor outside the school door,
Look in and see, there’s you and there’s me,
A couple of kids once more.
School days, school days,
Dear old golden rule days,
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmatic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick,
You were my queen in calico,
I was your bashful barefoot beau.
You wrote on my slate, “I love you Joe,”
When we were a couple of kids.