The Slough Water Was Warm, But Wet…

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

Recently there was a request in the local newspaper where I spent my childhood for articles containing memories of growing up years. I began to wrack my brain, (an interesting phrase now that I think about it), for any such memories. And I asked myself if I really wanted to write about the ones which readily come to mind, as those were usually embarrassing.

Would it be about the time I was hit by a spit ball in country school and got caught throwing it back, and had to write many times, “I will not throw spitballs in school”? I never did again. Or should it be the time I forgot to bring the drinking water?

Our little country school sat on a small knoll, surrounded by tilled fields, and was at least a mile from anyone’s farm. It was a one-room school house with windows on the south side, and a small entry for coats and boots and some bookcases.

An old barn sat a ways away and provided shelter for any horse ridden as a means of transportation to school, and the object we threw the ball over in “ante over.” In ante over, two teams of students on opposite sides of the barn threw a ball to each other and if the ball made it over the roof, the person catching the ball tried to tag members of the throwing team as they rounded the building, changing sides of the barn, thereby gaining new members to their team. It was always a guess as to which side to round the barn and miss the tagger. If the ball failed to go over the roof, the thrower yelled “pig’s tail!” then tried again.

Old telephone
The phone from our farmhouse now hangs on my kitchen wall. The school, however, had no phone.

We also had a crock water cooler in the school room that was to be filled by students taking turns bringing drinking water to school. Every farm had their own well, but the school yard did not have a well. There was no phone, and that year, the teacher had no car. She boarded, (lived, slept and ate) at my parents’ place, which was three miles from the school. My dad provided transportation to and from school for both of us.

It was a hot day in spring or fall, the season escapes me, and I forgot to bring a can of water to school. By afternoon recess, there was a bunch of thirsty kids. Not everyone brought drinks with their lunch from home, or brought much to drink.

Soon, a bunch of us younger kids, (I think I was in third grade that year) were gathered around a somewhat fetid pond of water in the ditch a little ways from the school yard. It looked clear, sitting there surrounded by grass and rushes. Tongues were very dry and the sun was very hot, and we had played hard at noon hour and during recess.

Then, deciding factor, we found a rusty can lying in the ditch. After each of us had a small drink to quench our thirst, we headed back to class.

Only a couple first graders got sick that night that I remember. But the upset stomach didn’t linger, thank goodness.

Old school 4
Me and my two classmates at the school where one year thirst overcame common sense.

However, over a half century later, the memory, and the embarrassment, lingers amongst more happy memories created at that little country school.

17 thoughts on “The Slough Water Was Warm, But Wet…

  1. I love memories of those early days. Yours was so charming, and I loved it. Fortunately, the small school I started in was in the small hamlet where I grew up, so no water problems there, but some of the antics…better left to the imagination. Thank you for sharing your story. It wasn’t as bad as you think. Doris


  2. Funny memory, Neva. Was it more embarrassing back then as a second-grader or now as you look back through the decades about the time you forgot to bring drinking water to school. I think a bunch of adults hold some responsibility for now coughing up the money to have a well dug at that rural school. On the other hand, I can empathize that the times were tough economically.


    1. I’m not sure they could find water there, of if they ever tried even. It was just a fact of life that water was hauled there. The school yard has now been erased and is tilled field. Sad but the spot still brings my memories forth when I drive past on a visit to our old home. Loved your post, but couldn’t access comments after reading it. I am with you about which centure to be in, decorum and holding your sexuality as a precious gift for your future has become passe. What about anticipation being more titillating in the long run then “bare” openness?


  3. Fabulous memories, Neva. I love the sound of your ‘ante over’ ball game. It’s no surprise that people growing up in the 1950s and 1960s were fit kids. It’s also very touching that what seems to you (and people of our generation in general) as being ’embarassing moments’ are things which younger generations, who haven’t experienced life as you did, might not understand the significances of.


  4. Love the post Neva. Although I didn’t go to rural school, we played the same games at recess. Seems like I was always moving and doing something new to explore or try. We had that same telephone! Good luck with the article – it’ll be a smash!


  5. Great story, Neva — I think you ought to send it the paper! Reminds me of kids putting their tongues on flag poles in winter … or of eating mud pies. Kids will be kids! Thanks for sharing memories that make us chuckle.


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