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Topic: Teachers (07/12/04)
TITLE: One Day Under A Prairie Sky
By Violet Nesdoly
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Weeks earlier, teacher had chosen this day for our school’s nature hike. We were planning to spend all the glorious hours of it roving the hills of the North Saskatchewan River. He’d shown us in a book some of the birds we’d likely see and told us to be on the lookout for frogs, gophers, rabbits and deer. We were to make a list of everything we saw for science class. At lunch we would roast wieners and marshmallows.
Now the day was finally here but it was cloudy and threatening rain. Would all our plans be for nothing?
There was a buzz of anticipation when we got to school, though. Mr. Harder said we’d go unless it started pouring. No rain so far!
The big boys from grades seven and eight piled the boxes of food and the cream can of orange drink onto the back of a pick-up truck. Then we were allowed up. I found a spot holding tight to a wooden slat that was part of the railing along the truck box.
My friends and I giggled with excitement as the truck rolled out of the school driveway and onto the dirt road. We picked up speed, the wind possessed our hair and we swallowed gulps of air as we laughed. When the truck swung off the road onto a bumpy tractor trail, we bumped and jostled each other like people on a tossing boat. Finally we stopped near the lip of a ravine.
"Did you see that grey mourning dove?" teacher asked as he helped us down from the truck box. Even though his glasses were as thick as telescopes, he saw everything.
We were soon racing up and down hills. I came across a hole - probably gopher though someone said it could be badger or weasel. I poked at it with a stick trying to make its occupant come out. My friend caught a garter snake. Though it was twisting and strong in her hands, she hung on tight. I picked a tiny purple flower. I’d probably seen dozens of them before but I’d never really looked at one. Now as I examined it, I saw that it was exquisite and perfect. Teacher said it was a vetch.
At lunch time us little kids had the job of collecting dead-fall for firewood. The big boys cut long straight willow branches into roasting sticks and sharpened them with their jackknives. We were soon roasting wieners in the snappy fire. After we were full of hotdogs, we hauled out the marshmallows, loaded them onto the prongs of our sticks, held them near the coals till they caught fire, then blew out the flames and filled our mouths with (careful - hot!) sticky, charred sweetness. We washed it all down with cold orange drink from the cream can that sat in the stream.
After lunch Mr. Harder started whittling and soon someone had a willow whistle. "Me too! Me too!" we all cried, and lined up with our willow twigs to wait our turn for his knife work its transformation on them.
As we piled into the truck for the ride home, the sun came out, smiled on us for a moment and then ducked behind another dark cloud. We arrived back at school tired, wind-tossed, rain-flecked, but happy.
“Bye - and thanks for the whistles!” we called to Mr. Harder as we scattered for home in the rain, that was now coming down hard. The dark sky and rain didn’t matter any more, though. Tomorrow, for the endless hours of timetables, reading, and sitting still, it could pour all it wanted. Teacher and the God of the prairie sky had let us have our magic day.
Copyright © 2004 by Violet Nesdoly