November 2006

Vignettes from OWLTOWN - November

Author: Dennis Malick

Vignettes from “OWLTOWN”
The book yet to be or maybe never to be written

Owltown School. Standing alone. One room. Eight grades. Irish Valley. Paxinos, PA. The mid-’40s.
Dropping half a peppermint Life Saver in a bottle of Coke was a favorite lunchtime trick at Owltown. We couldn’t dip girls’ pigtails into ink bottles. The desks had a hole for ink bottles, but we seldom had ink bottles. So, a lunchtime trick was for one of the big kids to stroll down the aisle, drop the Life Saver into an unsuspecting girl’s Coke, then howl when the mixture furiously overflowed the top of the bottle and onto the desk. (Kids, don’t try that at home. In class, well…) ●

Seeing four boys in a line holding hands on the school ground was trouble. Guaranteed, the boy on one end was standing next to the electric fence that kept the grazing cows on their side of the creek that flowed along the schoolyard. The boy on the other end was trolling, looking to grab the hand of a girl—or maybe some sissy boy. As soon as the “catch” was made, the boy at the other end would grab the fence. Electricity would pulse through his arm—with him feeling little of the power—through boy 2, boy 3, boy 4 and then ZAP the girl at line’s end with full force. Wow, that was fun. ●

Just because we had 35 pupils over eight grades didn’t mean there were no sports. Shoe leather. Now that was a sport, especially with the boys—the BIG boys, anyhow. Somebody was “it” and took the middle of the field, carefully checking to be sure there were no fresh cow flops (We never called them “cow chips.”) Everyone else got to the end of the field.

The object for you was to get to the other end of the field without “It” catching and pummeling you until you would yell “SHOE LEATHER!” If he got you, then the two of you were “it” and tried to catch and persuade kids in the next rush to give up. The winner was the last kid standing when everyone else was “it.” Ah, I learned to say “shoe leather” really, really fast. ●

I was one of the ammunition runners for another sort of game that, to my recall, had no name. You could call it “Throw Chunks of Wood at Your Buddies” or maybe “Woodchuck” (providing that the critter wouldn’t object).

Well up into the wooded hill, the big kids fashioned a mini-fort or two with crisscrossed dead trees. The little kids collected chunks of wood for ammo and the b.k.s threw the wood at each other. Some fun. I don’t remember anyone ever getting hit. Some probably did. But if you saw a chunk of wood sailing through the air, you’d have to be slower than a duck not to be able to, ah, duck. ●

Owltown had its own natural climbing wall. Just around the corner from the school, and along the paved main road, was a red rock outcropping about 20 feet high. To a first- or second-grader, that’s scary, but fun. The slate-like rock chipped into little steps and handholds that were very brittle. Keep one foot here; grab a higher ledge; move the other foot there and… OOOOooooopppps! It’s a hard belly slide to the bottom.

In the next issue: Teacher Lockout Day

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