Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. E-mail him at email@example.com
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The cool weather this week encourages many activities. Unlike the hot and humid conditions of last week, these past days invite us to get out and do that delayed yard work and to get needed exercise.
During the last eight years in the country, Mary Ann and I have learned a whole new way of living. While our small holding is not a large farm, we have four acres to mow, and we attempt to stay on top of three more wooded acres. Red Hill is certainly more country than the acre lot and house in Hollin Hills where we lived before moving here full time.
Our granddaughter, a rising sophomore in a Fairfax County high school, is unable to read the recipe book of her great-grandmother. No, she is not a student with special needs; she is, in fact, a good student who is taking some advanced courses. She can't, however, read or write cursive.
This past weekend Mary Ann and I were in my hometown to visit my elderly mother, and I was to give a short speech for my high school wrestling coach who, unknown to him, was receiving North Carolina's highest civilian award: The Order of the Long-Leaf Pine.
The spring of 2001 was, in my memory, much like this one -- lots of rain and chilly. I remember it because it was when I purchased Red Hill, and it was when I met him.
So much, it seems to this observer, is celebrated during this season of the year. People are almost giddy with the prospect of spring's brightness after the dark of winter. The longer days offer more warmth, blooming flowers, fresh air, trees coming into leaf, and grass that is green not dull, winter brown. Indeed, Red Hill seems to have taken on a new life after the cold of snow and ice and dark.
As I write on Tuesday afternoon, the sun crosses the southern sky and reflects brightly off what we all hope is the last of this season's snow. Out the front bay window is a row of Norwegian maples. For two days I have watched the snow and for whatever reason, one similar to it comes to mind. It was March, 1957 or '58, and in North Carolina we had a sudden spring snow like this one. One day it was balmy, the next the land was covered with 6-8 inches of white.
Last week I gave a test to my high school seniors. The last part of the test was for extra credit in which a student could earn up to an additional five points.
Last week I began teaching 12th grade British literature for the second semester. As all readers know, the weather has caused many disruptions, and even on what was to have been my first day teaching, school was closed because of snow. So yesterday I went to school thinking, like everyone else, of the big snow's approach and had a lesson plan for my students over some more anticipated missed days.
This past Sunday some 111.5 million people watched a professional football game between Seattle and Denver. Both teams were led by well known quarterbacks who have overcome obstacles.
A small notice in the Northern Virginia Daily this week caught my eye: Chris Chataway had died of cancer at the age of 82. Later I asked my wrestlers had any of them ever heard of him and was not surprised by their uniform, "No." But in my mind, Chris Chataway is the type of athlete every young person should know about and try to emulate for what he did on May 06, 1954 and the life he led afterward.
For a Christmas present, Mary Ann gave me a book titled "The Upward Path," which was published in 1920. It is a small, blue book with just 250 pages of text, but each page is packed with information still useful today.
By most accounts, the time of the recently passed holidays is busy. And, there is much to get done, especially if one has children. Also, family and friends may be coming for a visit, so there is work in preparing food, beds, and bathrooms for all those visitors.
When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I was often told by a teacher or coach that it was important to be a "good loser." I took those words to heart and always tried to be gracious when I was on the losing end of an athletic contest. However, as I enter my fifth decade of teaching and coaching it seems to me that too many winners do not exhibit good behavior in several areas of play.
This morning my brother and I were talking on the telephone. Like siblings who live far apart, we shared news of work, children, grandchildren, sisters, and our mother. However, it was when he began telling me about buying a box of oranges for a fundraiser of one of his grandchildren that a memory came into focus. And, like so many memories, this one had lain dormant for many years in my mind, but when my brother began talking about peppermint sticks and oranges, it and more of those Christmases in Shadybrook came to life.
It is not yet Christmas but another winter storm has blanketed us with snow. Last Sunday churches closed as did schools the first two days of this week. Now, this Saturday is all white but for the Angus silhouettes in the pasture across the road. I can see across the white landscape a bit of traffic moving along the Pike, and a few hardy souls have ventured out to drive on our little road.
My memory dates the pants to the spring of 1958. If that time is not exact, it is close enough, and I would have been 12.
This morning, the last one of November, was cold when I took the hound out for his morning ramble. The sun's rays had not yet cleared Short Mountain, but they gave the few clouds a warm, pink hue. However, that was the only warmth we had, so the trip was quickly finished when the necessary duties were accomplished.
As a teacher and coach at Central High School, I follow students and their activities. The Central football team has had a fine regular season (8-2) and has made the VHSL playoffs, as it did last year. So, on Saturday afternoon a team from Richmond came to Woodstock for the first game of this year's playoffs. When I saw the regular season record of the team (3-7), I became curious as to how a team with a losing record could qualify for a state playoff.
Over the past few days, I have been reading about the Miami Dolphins -- not because I enjoy professional football but because of the actions of guard Richie Incognito against teammate and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.
Because they are used as polling places, many schools are closed on election day. The students are happy for a day off, and it is a good day for school administrators to utilize since no teacher will be missing classes. Thus, the collective wisdom is to use the day as a chance for parents to come in and meet with teachers.
As I write this sentence, it is the first morning after the change from daylight saving time to standard time. However, having the early light in the morning is nice as I recall the October mornings when I walked out into the dark with Nolan the honey hound, who made strange noises to scare the nightly visiting skunk away.
Perhaps if you are of a certain age, you can associate with the experience of waking suddenly from a good sleep with some past act you committed gnawing in your mind.
When I purchased Red Hill in 2001, I promised the seller that she or any member of her family could visit the site of her just deceased husband's marker. His marker and ashes are in what is now our side yard, but while he lived here the area had been the site of his spectacular vegetable garden.This year his widow and youngest daughter came near the date of his death, Sept. 2, to pay him homage.
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