It was entirely possible for a teacher to have students in each of the eight grades in this one room, although there were usually some grades empty. Even so, the teacher had to somehow divide her time between several different grades and instruct one grade while, at the same time, keep the other grades occupied and studying. It was an opportunity for a fast-learning child to advance because you could always listen in on the classroom instruction the upper classes were receiving.
During recess we would play games such as Steal Sticks, Pump Pump Pull-away and Crack The Whip.
My second week of my second year of school, the weather was beautiful, the way September often is in Montana, clear, calm, balmy days that called out to a boy to come out and play. Those were the kind of days when it was tough to have to spend most of the day in the school house and every minute outdoors was used to the fullest. When the teacher would call us in from recess we would delay as long as possible. On these Indian Summer days, we were often joined at lunch time by Clinton. Clinton was the older brother of Florence and Joe Walter. In these days of verbal hat dancing around and issue, he would be described as having a learning disability or a social disadvantage. After several years in school, he had gotten as far as second grade although he still couldn’t actually do first grade work. He had since been withdrawn from school but was taking Florence and Joe to and from school in the buggy. In bad weather, he would return home in the morning to spend the day there, going back to school in the afternoon to pick up his brother and sister. But, on nice days, he would often just wait around outside the school all day. On this particular day of the second week of school, we were eating our lunches outside se we could get in running and playing at the same time. Clinton had joined us as he often did and was in on the horse-play too. In the course of this, I grabbed Clinton’s hat and ran with it. He, of course, ran after me. When he was close on my heels, I fell. Being so close behind me, he also fell and landed on top of me. I felt a snap and a stab of pain in my leg and, somehow, knew that it was broken.
During the next half hour, there was considerable excitement and confusion because nobody there had any idea of how to deal with a broken leg. Miss Lucas couldn’t believe that it was broken and tried twice to get me to stand on it. Then it was decided that Clinton should take me home in the buggy. It would have been much better for him to have gone and got my mother to come with the car. But, as I said, everyone was excited and confused. So, he took me the mile and a half in the buggy, very slowly and very carefully and, I might add, with a great deal of concern about my comfort. You can imagine the shock to my mother when we arrived at home. On the way to town in our Gardner car, I knew that Mama was quite upset when I saw the speedometer at 45 m.p.h. I had never ridden in a car at that speed before.
Dr. O’Neal examined the leg and decided that he would have to get an X-Ray of the break in order to know how to set it. The only X-Ray machine in town, or in the county for that matter, was upstairs over the bank in the office of the dentist, Dr. A. P. Johnson. He was often called Drap Johnson, a name derived from removing the periods from Dr. A. P. My cousin, Roger Hanson, and his friend, Sig Quam, carried me on a stretcher across the street and up the steep stairs. After the X-Rays, I was taken to Aunt Mary Jefferson’s house where a bed had been set up for me in the living room. There the doctor set the bone in place and put a cast on my leg. After a few weeks on that bed and a few more on crutches, I was as good as ever.
There were some who wanted to blame Clinton for the accident but I never felt there was justification for that. Clinton was not very agile but a person who was could have fallen on me just as well, under the circumstances. Besides, it was just as much my fault for taking his hat and running with it. It was just one of those things that happened without warning or specific cause.
Excerpted from WOOL TROMPERS by J.L. Fuller