Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 12

          The plowing was for the men - and those plows would be curiosities now. They were so large that only a strong and expert man could handle them. As many as six yoke of oxen were sometimes hitched to them, and this was especially true when the brush and saplings had not been taken out of the ground by the roots. The steel plowshare, sharpened to a keen edge, cut roots two or three inches thick and turned over a furrow two feet wide. Then came another job for the children to gather up all those roots, or grub as we called them, and piling grubs was worse than picking potatoes or husking corn. Oh, we children were not rarin’ to do this kind of work; it was a case of “had to” with passing years and growing strength; however, it became less distasteful, and during the last year of our stay on the farm I was virtually manager and factum, for all my brothers were doing for themselves elsewhere. That I was not a failure is shown by the fact that the purchaser of the farm wished me to stay and operate the place for him.

         School was always my delight, but our schools were of the most primitive sort. Our log school was early replaced by a brick structure, but it had only the usual one room. A three-months term was taught by a woman in summer and a four-months term in winter was taught by a man. The teachers, unless they lived in the neighborhood, lodged and boarded with the families of the scholars, spending a week with each family. This was called “boarding around,” and was included in his salary agreement. I speak of the scholars: the term pupils might do in the towns and students had a college flavor, so we were just scholars even if we were not very learned. “Schoolers” might more exactly express our condition.
         Not long ago I asked a boy of the lower grades if he liked to go to school. He answered “Yes.” To my further question on what he did there, his reply was, “We play.” I always liked to go to school, but I liked it for its studies. In our one-room school we did not have grades, but each of us was put into classes where we fitted, so that there were big boys in little classes and little boys in big classes, and there did not seem to be any dissatisfaction either way. Our classes were reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, geography, grammar and some history. Grammar was not popular among the ordinary boys; they made fun of the studying, “I love, you love, he loves, she loves, and they love,” etc.; yet they managed to get a fair primary education. We had McGuffey’s and Saunder’s readers; Webster’s and Saunder’s spellers; Davis’ arithmetic; Clark’s grammar; Mitchell’s geography, and some U.S. history.

         A popular and profitable custom was the holding of night schools and for different studies. These were not on the regular program, but held occasionally as the teacher and scholars decided. There were singing schools, writing schools, spelling schools and sometimes debating schools. They were open to the public and well attended. The spelling schools were contests between different schools and it was a great honor for any school to gain the victory. In my studies I was up to my age, and in arithmetic and spelling, beyond it, so I was at times the champion in these contests even when the subject matter was anything between the covers of the book.

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