All along the roadsides and meadows, the bright-eyed, cheerful daisies are blooming.
They are called the common oxeye daisy, but I don’t consider them common. To me, they are the everlasting reminder of the end of the school term for the summer. They always seemed to bloom when school went out, and were waiting on us as we ran down the hill.
Although I really loved school, there has never been a sensation like the last day of school. The last few days in the classroom seemed to drag by, and the days grew hot and long. Ah, the sense of freedom when the last day ended! With shouts of “School’s out—School’s out—teacher wore her paddle out!’ the weary students would chant as they trooped out. Some of the younger ones would get a little risqué and say, “School’s out—school’s out—teacher wore her bloomers out!”
We snatched at the daisies as we trooped home. There was time now to build playhouses, and the daisies were so versatile. They could decorate a cake, made of the blue clay mud that was waiting for us to dig out and fashion many things. They made perfect fried eggs, served in the little glass liners that we pounded out of zinc canning lids. The yellow centers, shredded like grated cheese, could grace a wild green salad. I remember the slightly doggy odor and it vividly brings back the days of summer childhood!
Oh, the fun that awaited us after school was out! I think of the poem that my mother often quoted, and the verse that said, “Down the street with laughter and shout, Glad in the freedom of school let out, Came the boys like a flock of sheep, Hailing the snow piled wide and deep.” (From ‘Somebody’s Mother” by Mary Dow Brine.) Of course, we didn’t hail the snow, and we weren’t all boys, but we were just as exuberant as the scholars in the poem.
After we started up the dirt road, we passed Opal Jarvis’ garden on the left. She had a strawberry patch there, and the strawberry plants had scattered outside the fence. There on the roadside, the plump red berries were fair game for hungry children. I don’t know if Opal knew we were picking the stragglers, but she wouldn’t have scolded us anyway. She was a gentle, loving soul and a friend to all of us children. For years our daughter Patty thought she had three grandmothers—Opal, Liddie Coon and Mom-Granny.
I wonder if children nowadays have as much fun as we did during the summer. Our biggest decision each morning was where we were going to play that day. Many times, it was the woods that beckoned us– cool, shady and full of mystery. We pretended that Indians were stalking us, and we could almost hear the soft step of the moccasin clad feet behind us. The neighbor boys and our brothers played rowdy games of “Cowboys and Indians” while we girls would rather build playhouses.
And build playhouses we did—all over the woods, barn and corncrib. I was sixteen when I built and played in my last playhouse. I may not have stopped then, but the brother of a boy I was sweet on came charging through the woods and found Mary Ellen and me right in the middle of a playhouse. Actually, I don’t think he had any room to laugh, as he was almost as old as I was, and he was playing ”Cowboys and Indians” with his cousin.
We did make our own fun. Our imagination knew no limits, and we didn’t need a lot of manufactured toys to entertain us. On a rainy day, we played in the loft of the barn where the sweet-scented hay was stored. Sometimes we were aboard a ship sailing on the high seas, while hungry sharks waited on a careless sailor to fall overboard. Once we organized a secret club with headquarters in the barn, with Alen Wayne as president. Our club dues were kept in a tin can, and our charter was written in lovely violet pokeberry ink. The barn is gone now, as well as the children; some of them gone forever from this earth. The memories live on . . .
After we were older, we hiked to Buzzard Rock and climbed Pilot Knob. Did we ever get bored? There was not enough hours in the day to do all we planned. Of course it was not all fun and games. The garden had to be weeded, hoed and harvested. We all had chores to do, every one of us. Water had to be carried in zinc water buckets, wash water carried from the creek, babies to be minded and household chores to do, as we grew older.
Our way of life was good for us. We grew healthy and brown in the outdoors, and most of all we learned an appreciation for God’s wonderful world as we played. We learned to use our imagination; we did not have to be entertained, and we also learned how to work. I thank the Lord for the childhood days spent here in the hills. On a spring day such as this, when the daisies are blooming and memories abound, I think of school days and long ago classmates.
A little update on Polly—she is not chewing up everything in the house now, but a few nights ago, Criss and I were sleeping peacefully in our bed, when a loud thump awoke me. It seems that she had chewed a big hole in the net of her doghouse, squirmed out and landed in our bed. It was dark, but I could almost see a big doggie grin from ear to ear. She has a new hobby now—digging holes. I don’t know if she is looking for buried treasure, or a new route to China, but she is very industrious about it.
We had her spayed this week, and the tiny incision is barely half an inch. It hasn’t slowed her down much, although she wants to be held constantly. She likes nothing better than to be snuggled up tight against us. She really is a treasure.
Do you remember this song from the green songbook that all grade schools used? It is still as fresh in my mind as it was more than 75 years ago.
“I had a little doggie, that used to sit and beg
But doggie tumbled down the stairs, and broke his little leg.
Oh doggie, I will nurse you, and try to make you well,
And you shall have a collar too, and little silver bell.