I was the kid in the 8th grade who was sent to the principal's office to get the board stretcher. Apparently. the principal had borrowed it from the woodshop and that tool was needed.
I was there at the demonstration table in the classroom that day and saw that the board the instructor was using/explaining was too short to complete the demonstration. Obviously, a board stretcher was the answer.
As part of that teaching moment, my name was called and I was asked to go get the the board stretcher back from the school's principal in the main office. He had borrowed it and not returned it to the shop. Seemed reasonable.
The woodshop was a world I got to attend for an hour a day. Everything in that hour and world made sense. The teacher was wonderful, the best, and everyday I learned little nuances in working with a chunks of wood to make a project with my hands. All of the students did.
I have always loved a good joke and have been on both ends quite often.
Heading down the halls, my mind was intent on seeing just how this tool would stretch a board. Gonna be a great lesson. And there is where my mind lived. In the wonderment of learning something about something I never knew existed.
Add to this that the teacher had singled me out of the entire class to trust in accomplishing this mission.
My first hint came when I came into the school main office asking to talk to the principal. “Why?”
Explained that I was from the woodshop and needed to get the board stretcher that the principal had borrowed. Looking back on the moment, I apparently was not the first youngster to be sent for the board stretcher. There were looks among the staff. I picked up on that, but without understanding.
The secretary went into the principal's office to bring him out, and out he did come. Serious as a heart attack. I explained that I was from Mr. Woodshop teacher's class and he needed the board stretcher. All eyes were on me and the principal. He explained that he had lent it to another teacher and that I should go there to retrieve it.
And so it went. Yep. I was the kid walking around the whole campus, going from room to room asking for the board stretcher. News like this travels at the speed of light.
And after a few classrooms, I realized that I was being taken for a ride. “Light Bulb!”
In the days that followed, many a person asked if I had found the board stretcher.
I may have learned to answer “not yet.” I rolled with it and was smart enough to know that was the best I could do. And it was funny.
I never ever took this lesson as anything more than a lesson and have always, then and now, been able to laugh at myself along with others. I also realized that my 8th grade woodshop teacher had a sense of humor and had chosen me to share it with personally.
The upside of this adventure was to sharpen my senses. To read people. To listen, pay attention and, more than anything, to question and think for myself. There were a hundred clues that day before I fully figured it out.
I leaned instinct. To pay closer attention to absurdity. To have that thinking light on bright enough to ask a question or two. There are truths to be had from the looks on people's faces, body language and how quickly what I am being told can fall apart in the real world. And there is a lot of funny in a good joke, not a mean joke, a good joke.
Developing a sense of humor in life is paramount.
After Vietnam, I went back to college and became a woodshop teacher. Thirty years. Times when kids were fun loving, safe and with senses of humor. They also came to class to learn, quite often semester after semester repeats to the next class offering.
Some of the students were class clowns in the making or in full blown ownership of a little mischievous behavior from time to time.
On one such day, I was in full teaching mode, moving and working one on one with as many as I could get to in an hour. Normal. Always seemed that I could get a hundred questions answered in the course of one class session.
I noticed a large group of kids in a corner. Most of class milling around like they would in a cafeteria. Odd! Out of place! Not a class hour norm!
One student was walking toward me from the bandsaw/chop saw location. Right arm dropped/dripping in blood red onto MY shop floor. Had it not been for the entire class quietly nestled in the opposite shop corner, this “joke” on me would have been a heart-stopper. That instant the kid walking towards me, obviously "seriously" hurt.
The young man had poured a half a quart of oil-based red paint on his arm, starting at the elbow. He was a gift to the whole school in his ability to make any and everyone laugh, damn near daily. The half-assed grin was the second welcoming clue I had in that instant.
The second the class saw me look at the approaching student and realize this was a joke, they all lost it in a laughing gasp. Words can never explain the welcoming relief I had realizing the joke being played on me.
He had brought my entire class in on this. Planning behind my back as I was teaching. Quite an accomplishment.
I can do “dead pan” very well. Maybe years of experience with high school kids. The approaching student broke into laughter. Just that. Dripping red paint all over MY shop floor.
The majority of the class came forward to help him clean up. Cleaning the shop floor and following my directions of removing most of the red paint with rags from his arm, gently cleaning his entire arm with paint thinner then a group effort at washing his entire arm with soap and cool water to finish it up.
“Bring him to me when you are done.”
We all lost some teaching time that day, but built a lifetime story told by this young man's teacher that was told over and over amongst his peers who also took Mr. Woodshop's classes that year.
I owned the teachers' lunch room that day with this story. Not one teacher did not know the name of the student who pulled this stunt. He was again famous that day. Rightfully so.
I so enjoyed watching the new 9th graders coming into my shop on their first day of high school beginning woodworking course. Bright eyes, looking around, and often acting a little snarkey. I loved them.
I had a staircase from the main shop floor running up to an upstairs work space. Leftover, unfinished projects often summered there. I would choose one half-finished project for this demonstration.
I got their attention as stood half way up the stair case looking down upon them. I gave a quick welcome to high school and the wood shop. Lots to learn. Gonna be a great experience. My expectations of their work, behavior and learning. An upbeat message for sure.
I then explained that all projects they built would have to pass the drop test before the final grade on the project.
I walked up the staircase, retrieved a small half-built shelf or cabinet, hung it over the edge of the upstairs railing and would purposefully drop it so it landed on a corner. That project would explode into nothing but pieces. God how I loved this moment.
Not many teachers could own a class of 9th graders' full attention. But those drop tests never ever failed in that moment. I could actually read their faces thinking they would soon be in the counselor's office dropping this course.
I would that moment hang as long as I could. Me looking at them and them looking at me. Time stood still. Not one snarkey from anyone. I still get goose bumps.
And yes it was a joke. Like this old 8th grader, they had to figure this one out for themselves.
It was called a high school education.
I suppose I could have been that new, first year teacher, above my shop class, whose class of ninth graders' pad-locked in the classroom tool closet for three hours after the lunch bell rang.
Good story. Office staff came looking for him as he had missed a full other class session across campus. Nobody had seen him. Yes, he had been pounding on the door for nearly 3 hours. Would have been a better story if he had used the tools in the tool room to remove the door.
(Share this with others who have taken high school woodshop classes.)
Probably the hardest I ever laughed.
I was working graveyard shift in a plywood mill while attending my first year of junior college. So were a few fellows I ran with from time to time.
We would get off near midnight and sometimes would head down to the A&W for root beer and snack. A fifteen minutes drive down the main drag between two joining small towns right out of American Graffiti.
About a mile from our destination that night, three cars in trail, I saw a body lying on the road side curb next to a major all night grocery store. A woman, blonde hair, wearing a flowered blue dress. Motionless.
I drove by pulled over and looked in my rear view mirror. The two other cars following slowed down, stopped and the door swung open on the last car. I saw a friend get out of the car, grab the body and throw it in his back seat. I smiled. A manikin.
Off we went to the A&W. I started grinning because this night was long from over.
The next hour played out like clockwork. We tidied up the manikin and piled into two cars. I was in the back seat, manikin across my lap.
We spent the next hour doing exactly what you would expect. Setting the manikin in different positions around parked cars on main street then driving and parking to watch with lights off on a side road.
We had time as there was very little traffic that night. Manikin in position, we could see a car coming from a few blocks away.
The tension and excitement inside my friends car was exhilarating. None of us were breathing. Quiet in anticipation.
Brakes would screech, doors fly open and then a realization that that particular driver had been pranked. Off they would drive, looking around knowing that someone was watching.
We would drive to the manikin, freshen her up, place her in a different position then drive away to hide and watch. We got away with this several times. All of us absolutely lost in a world of funny and laughing.
The last go around had me laughing so hard from so deep inside of that I had zero control. These are the very best laughs in my world. Tears running down my face accompanied my uncontrollable laughter. Laughter so hard that I am exhausted when I finally come out.
The lights of the car coming had our attention. Sure enough the manikin draped over the hood of a parked car, stopped that oncoming car in an instant. A young gal jumped out of the passenger side and grabbed for the girl over the hood. The manikins head fell off and the blond wig fell to the ground. Other body parts failed.
She screamed, hands pulled back in the air. And that is where I lost it. Everything. Complete and utter melt down.
The driver jumped out looking for “us.”
The manikin had served its purpose that night and off we went leaving her parts and pieces between two parked cars.
I was so lost in a the world of laughing at what just happened, I could not function. Minutes and minutes went by.
And just like that, I was back in my car, heading home as were my other friends. All of us chuckling out loud all the way home. A full work shift behind us and so exhausted from laughing that I fell asleep when my head hit the pillow.
We planted 10 on the east side of our yard to help define it. Pampas grass will overgrow to a point of taking over. The very large ones we see around the local areas have to be cut back year after year and they still dominate. They add their own natural beauty to a property.
East Texas has yet to deliver on promised rain and thunderstorms. All we need a good one hour thunderstorm to support our plants and weeds.
Pampas grass, once established, survives the harshest weather w/o water. One of the reasons we chose it. Plug and play w/o maintenance.
The young plants though have faltered so we decided to give them all a good soaking. Cannot hurt. And herein lies my reason for sharing.
I started watering the large ones, her starting on the other end. I was pouring directly in the middle of the plant. I noticed that mother nature has a plan for Pampas grass, too. Some of the long green draping leaves collected some of that water in droplets and ran that drop all the way out to the edge of the root system and then drop it. During a good rain, pampas grass delivers moisture all the way around the plant. A plan. Self-sufficient.
I am constantly amazed and impressed by the natural world we live in.
A THORN BY ANY OTHER NAME
"When dangerous situations arise for plants, the choice between flight or fight is a simple one. They abide by the stand your ground law and always fight. Such a lifestyle choice means that plants employ a variety of weapons to stave off extinction. Thorns are one of the more obvious botanical defenses. Their appearance is a clear warning not to trample and no herbivore would like a mouthful of sharp spines."
The bride was cutting back her rose bushes and got "hung up" in the process. One of the thorns stuck deeply, then broke off. This was a few weeks ago.
Her will never ever let me help her with a cut and, in this case, a thorn sliver. I do not take it personally and have learned that some things just have to run their course.
I can dig around and get the thorn out. I really can. But it will hurt a little and in that light, there is no option even to look at the "injury." This behavior of hers is consistent, 100%, across the board. No exceptions. Don't even ask or approach the vicinity. Ok.
Yet, when I cut myself or open up the thin skin on my arms, she demands to be the nurse. Washing, disinfecting, patting dry, "don't move, hold your hand like this, stop it......!!" accompanied by the look. Truth be told, she helps, but she tries my patience.
A few days ago, she decided again to start digging in her hand to get out the thorn. Had the necessary tools. Dig, dig, dig and I thought she got it. Never asked, never said a word. I told her that she would have to endure a little self-inflicted hurt, but could get it out.
Yesterday morning, a nurse granddaughter of a friend, arrived to remove the thorn. A nice favor and folks here do this as normal as a "good morning, thank you sir and God Bless."
I had to sit and watch. Quietly. The nurse removed the thorn and her never ever made a peep. The nurse said, "if you had just pushed at the base here, the minor infection would have pushed the thorn out."
I told her yesterday, "if you just push at the bottom of the thorn, it will probably just push the thorn out."
Point of the story. Sometimes just best to roll with it. It has taken me a lifetime to learn this.
if you shut the news, tv, radio news and print papers off, you will be ahead of the constant rubble from talking heads. An opinion.
There are truths being told and one does not have to search too far. But it is out there.
I see a plethora of folks talking of the food shortage coming to the point of not being able to feed oneself or one's family. Depending where, when and how. Folks not prepared to be fully self-sufficient for at least a year will suffer most. And I keep repeating, you will be called upon to help others.
Time is short now.
God bless, have a wonderful week and appreciate the visit this week.