Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Games People Play...

photo source

..teachers and principal battle over a copier...

Every once in a while, the Administration of  the schools in Dell City would get a wise idea.
Often as not, though, there was  a long way  between wisdom and their ideas.......

Take the Xerox machine  scandal.........Someone in the front office decided that no more would our
precious charges be subjected to the regular purple and white "Spirit-Master" copies that
schools had used for generations.....Now, everything done for the students would be on
Xerox copies.......In fact, if your students  were seen with an old fashioned purple and white
copy,  there would be "serious-consequences".

Well,   I agreed with the idea......I was sick of having purple stains on my hands....The new
system was cleaner, quicker, and more legible.  Then they started playing games......Xerox
copies  would cost the teacher .05 cents each......The sum total of your copies would be billed
to you monthly.......All of the sudden, the new idea was no longer  a good idea.  They were
paying us with one hand and taking back part of our salary with the other hand.

To make sure nobody cheated, they issued us each a code number......The machine would not
run if you didn't punch a code number  into the number-board on top of the machine.....
Well, tempers were running hot.......and our Principal  was an idiot.....It didn't take long to figure
out that the code numbers  ran from 00 for Kindergarten  to  06 for 6th grade.....I am sure
that there was  some reason for knowing the other teacher's code number, but it was unethical
to use   their number.....The one we needed was the Principal's   Private Code.  The one that
was used by the office  staff.

Now, Susan, the 6th Grade teacher,   found out the Principal's private code.....How?
Seduction?   God Forbid!   No, The idiot  left the  code book on his desk,  book open to
the code page.....His number was 28......Well, Susan was as anti-establishment as I was,
and soon both 5th and 6th grade teachers were using code number #28 to duplicate
material.....Our private   grade level code.   Well, we used it just enough to  keep down
suspicion.  You know, about 5 dollars worth a month.

We knew that it couldn't last.   Somehow, the idiot would get the notion that his code
was compromised, but it took him 2 months.......Then came phase 2, teachers would buy
the paper they were to use from the secretary.......There was even an official color.
Champagne.....A kind of parchment-like hue........People with white paper would be
"cheaters"  and crucified or whatever else he had in mind.......Well, no paper mill is going
to turn  out a special color for one  school district, and a search of El Paso paper suppliers
revealed the exact color we needed......We soon had  reams  of "Champagne" paper for
about  $3.98 a ream.......You kept the stuff in your car and only brought inside what you
were going to use......

Well, the copy count soared ever upward, but the School System wasn't selling much of
its nickle  a sheet  paper......and the ledger showed that the Principal was using an Ungodly
amount of  the stuff  every week.

What had started as a quiet game of defiance  was almost to the edge of Revolution.
The other teachers?   Well, about half of them were in on the deal.....There were several
"snitches" who were excluded..........Why, we even sent out fake memoranda   on the
official paper bearing a reasonable facsimile of the principal's signature and a nonsense

Example:   Memorandum:  It has been decided to change the name of the Principal's
Office.......From now on, students will be sent to the "Fuhrerbunker" and as it is my office,
you will address me as "Der Fuhrer"

Teachers were rolling in the halls  at the humor......Sadly, the Principal had no sense
of humor.....He never saw that the more he played Hitler, the more we gave him the title.

Then, one day, the game was over.....The paper re-appeared in the copy room, and the
codes and quotas didn't exist anymore......We had made our point, I guess,  but we had
also lost......Our Principal announced that he would not be back next year....Why?
"The hostile atmosphere in the school district was endangering his health."

All we had ever wanted was to be treated like professionals instead of lackeys.......
In the process of fighting for our rights, we had ceased to act like professionals.  So,
did we win or did we lose.......I think everybody lost......but what do I know?  I'm just
a kid at heart......

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A memory to last a lifetime

photo via

It is a week that I will remember all my life.......It was the one time that we lied to Ana Beth....

Mary had  seen the doctor.....There was a lump on her breast, and the likelihood of it being
malignant  was about   98%.    We decided to have Ana-Beth and the kids come to Dell City.
I don't remember who arranged the details, but there was one thing that I had to swear to.
Ana Beth must not know that her mother was sick.......Now, both of us were emotional wrecks,
but as far as  our Princess was concerned, it must be a normal family visit......Was it right
or wrong to do things this way?   I don't know, but it was not my decision to make....It was
what Mary wanted........

Ana Beth has a beautiful laugh, and  we both needed to hear her laugh again.  For Mary,
it might be her last time to hear her daughter laugh.  So,  I drove to the far west side of El Paso
and escorted Ana Beth's car out to Dell City........

As far as anybody was concerned, it was a lark, a happy time.....A chance to see the grandkids.
The deep somber undercurrents had to be painted over......They didn't exist......

That  was the time I really bonded with Sara.....She became the apple of my eye....A place
she has held  every day of her life since then.   Did we fool Ana Beth?    One of the things
about her is her uncanny ability to read  situations through some psychic link that seemed
to exist between her and her mother.......She knew there was something wrong, but she wasn't
certain just what.........

I held Mary close and we cried  when Ana-Beth, Sara, Jesse, and Brian left.  Everything
in us wanted to hold on to them, but the children were so small, and a Hospital is no place
for children 4, 3, and 2, years of age......

The day of Mary's surgery came, and I cursed myself for being  too protective of Ana-Beth,
and letting  Mary talk me into  keeping her un-informed.......Yet,  Ana-Beth was also the fragile
one.......If things went badly, as they quite likely would, there would be time for tears. Buckets
of tears, Oceans of tears......Why give her a few extra days of worry?

Then the surgery was done.  She had lost  both breasts and 29  lymph nodes...Beyond
that, the doctor had given her 3 months to live at the outside........I had been in the recovery
room with my wife.....I was there when the nurses couldn't get enough blood pressure to
register on their machine.

I knew then,  that Ana Beth should have known.   For her sake? No, for my sake.   I desperately
needed someone to cling to.

We found another Doctor, and the  M.D. Anderson trained Oncologist stretched the three
months into 15 years.  We fought Cancer about every other year for a long time.....In the end,
we lost the fight, but we fought every minute of the fight together.

So, why is the old fool burrowing into  the  sad years of the past?  Is there impending doom?
No, quite the opposite....Ana Beth and Sara are flying into Albany for my birthday.....I have
not seen them in so many years.    They are my ladies, and they will be here with me.
How can I explain how I feel........Somehow, I feel that, just maybe, Mary will be here too.
Be happy for us, dear friends.

They'll be here the evening of July 9, and they will leave on the 13th......My fearless 4 year
old grand daughter is a lady,   and Ana-Beth?   my 5 foot 11.5"  blue eyed blonde bombshell?
Oh she'll wrap me around her little finger as she has for many years, and I'll enjoy every
minute of it.--June 17, 2010

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chasing storms? Not me!

photo by James L. Standfield via

People do the darndest things........One of our Elementary Teachers, down in the Primary
Grades was a "Storm Chaser."  Storms in the Chihuahua  Desert come up suddenly, mostly
appearing first, in the East,  over Guadalupe  Peak, and you could count  on this lady
jumping into her car and following the storm......One evening, along about 8PM, she  came
by the house, pointed at the lightning and thunder  in the South East, and told  me.....Not
asked me, mind you, told me , to jump in the car  and help her catch up to the storm.

Now,  as a married man, I couldn't see just jumping into a car with a woman, leaving my
wife and chasing a storm......It did not seem designed to promote domestic tranquility.

So, I asked her the vital question, "After you've caught the storm,  what are you going to
do with it?"    In response, she told me that by tracking the storm she just might save the
whole town!     Save the town?   Yea, and destroy my marriage while she was at it.....I didn't
want any part of whatever game she was playing, and I wasn't convinced that Storm Warnings
were what she was up to.

So I explained to her that all she needed to do was look at the sky for lightning, and when
you saw it, start counting 1 (one thousand) 2 (one thousand)  3 (one thousand) and when you heard the thunder, stop!    Whatever number you got to was how far the storm was from you.
Do it several times and you could  tell if it was getting closer or farther.

About that moment, I saw a flash and started counting....I had reached 4 when I heard the
thunder....."There!"   says I,  it's 4 miles away.....The next lightning was 5 miles away,
then 6....Plainly, the storm was headed south, away from us.

Then, she wanted to follow it anyway.......Well,  this did not look like weather forcasting
at all......Maybe "Hanky-Panky"  but   who knows......She was obviously miffed.  She
was going anyway!

So I asked how?  There were no roads going south except FM 1111  and the Fort Davis
Highway.....and miles of empty desert between the two points......Was she going to chase
it clean across the Diablo Mountains on foot?

Then came the What If's.   What if it  started a flash flood?   I'd hate it, of course, but there
was nothing for 50 miles in that direction.....It would doubtless drown a few rabbits and
tarantulas, maybe a rattler or two.   I concluded that I wasn't into giving mouth to mouth
resecutation to any of those creatures....Especially the Rattler.

Well, the subject changed, what if it spawned a tornado?   Well, say's I,  in that case
I'd watch "Piewacket," my Seal Point Siamese cat......He would  recognize the pressure
changes before I would.  At that point, said cat rubbed against my leg and assured me
that he would, in fact, do just that.......After that, it would be every cat for himself.

At that point, she said something I didn't quite hear, jumped into her car and sped off
after the storm......Mary looked at me and asked, "Is she playing with a full deck?"
I shrugged,   "Maybe, maybe not,  but whether she is  just a few cards short of a full
deck, or a divorcee with a hormonal surge, I don't want any part  of  the game."

Mary looked at me, and replied, "That's what I love about you, you're smarter than you
seem to be."

So I stroked Mr. Piewacket , and pondered  whether or not I had been complimented.
.......but he didn't understand females either.   The lightning flashed again, this time
the thunder was 10 seconds behind..."She'd better hurry,"  I said, " that storm is about to get
away from her!"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Case of the Girly Book

Of all the things that kids do,  being sneaky is one thing they seem to do well.  At least
5th Graders.....After 10 years of teaching at that grade level, I can testify to that......
Another thing they do very well is lie.....Forget the garbage that psychologists teach you.
If a kid can avoid responsibility for their actions by telling a lie, they will do so.

Take the case of a kid named "Mike"   One Wednesday afternoon, I noticed a peculiar
thing was happening......My boys were,  asking, one at a time, for a pass to go to the restroom.
This was suspicious,   so  I asked the teacher next door  to peek out the door of her room
when my  kids passed to see what was happening.....If I had gone to the door, they would have
guessed that the jig was up and   everything would stop.

Well, Susan was a dear friend, and still is.....She  slipped to the doorway when she heard my
classroom door open and close.....After  the class was over she  told me that the boys were
taking a manila envelope  from one boy's locker, sneaking down to the restroom and coming
back....They would replace the envelope on their way back to class.......This smacked to me
of the old "girlie book"  caper.....

Well, while the kids were at recess,  I  went for the Principal......There was a fine line here.
Students, according to the Federal Courts System have "a right to privacy"   Together,
we went to the locker in question and  got the manila  envelope.....Sure enough,  there
was a particularly raunchy girly magazine  in the locker.......Well, the Principal, bless
his little pointy head, wanted the boy spanked and expelled.  There was no denying whose
magazine it was....The boy's father's  mailing label  was still on the front......

So,  I outlined a plan to him.....I would go to the teacher's lounge, find a magazine of
an innocent nature, place the magazine in the envelope,  and confiscate the naughty one.
I decided that a "Lady's Home Journal" had about the same size and bulk.....The Principal
kept the naughty one.   Well, after recess, the kids in need of a "Potty Break"  began
again.....This time, after about the third visit.....The trips ceased  and  an uneasy undercurrent
seemed to fill the room.....The boys were in a fighting mood, and Mike seemed to be the
object  of  their anger.

Well, it was only 45 minutes, and my Social Studies lesson from the end of the day, so
I   just kept a lid on the situation.   I knew something would happen, after school, and it
did.....The last 3 boys cornered Mike and beat him up for cheating them.....Of course,
the Principal had been waiting for this to happen; and, in his office, the whole truth came
out.....Mike was charging the boys .25 cents each for  a look at "his"  magazine.  There
were 18 boys in the class, and some 10  had paid for a peek.......The last 3 got "Lady's
Home Journal".....They were the 3  that beat up  Mike.....End of story?  Ha!  don't you
believe it!

Mike told his parents that somebody planted the magazine in his locker, and he didn't
know it was there......So where did the quarters come from?   Well, Mike claimed that
he'd saved  lunch money.....Then the Principal pulled the girly book out of his desk and
showed the father the mailing label on it.......

Father screamed that his son's right to privacy had been violated ,   and  that his boy
had  a perfect right to read whatever magazine he liked without  "Sexual Bigots"  being

He then bought his boy a huge padlock to keep prudes from framing him.  Then he threatened
to sue the School District  for  "Invasion of Privacy"......Well, that was the final indignity.
The Principal turned the magazine ,complete with mailing label ,over to Child Protective

The father pulled his kids out of school and fled across the state line just ahead of
the police.....The rest of the story? Is there something else?   Sadly, Yes.   Mike was
killed in an automobile accident near Alamogordo, New Mexico a few years later.

You know, parenting  is  tough ......and none of the so called "manuals"  the publishing
companies sell  is worth that much.......I do believe that a person is obligated to give
the job his best effort, though...Failure to  do so  is a betrayal of your
child, and your duty.

That Principal was a good one... he had backbone, imagination, and a sense of humor.
He lasted 2 years instead of one.....