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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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.
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.
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.
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.
The days are getting shorter, crepe myrtles are blooming, and mums are beginning to show their varied fall colors. You may think it early in the season for that discussion, but one fact cannot be ignored: schools open this week or soon and it is this occurrence that engenders the following suggestions for students and parents. They are only suggestions, but I think that if they are followed, the school year will be a good one for students and parents.
This Saturday morning -- Aug. 10 -- is heavy with two things -- clouds and traffic. The clouds have moved in as if to stay for the day, and the traffic out on The Pike has definitely moved in for the day. Yet, why not, it is Yard Crawl day and it appears that no slight drizzle will cancel this all important day of looking for more stuff. Me? As guilty as the next person, but I wonder...
There is a black and white photograph on my desk. In it is a man and six children, four of them are his. All of the children wear Easter clothes and the two kneeling girls in front, who are cousins to the other four, hold Easter baskets. The bare trees in the background tell that it is an early Easter, and the 1953 Bel Air parked in the driveway helps date the photograph.
If you stand on Boar's Hill and look north toward Oxford, England, you easily will understand Matthew Arnold's words because the medieval city is full of spires that gleam in the sunlight, and you will appreciate his description of Oxford -- "city of dreaming spire." It is here that Mary Ann and I have taken our oldest granddaughter.
With the recent Supreme Court decision concerning what does and does not meet the definition of marriage, I want to look at another aspect of that institution. But first allow me to tell a story that is real, but the names are not.
Cinithia and Mike were friends. They lived about a mile apart on a small graveled road that meanders near Passage Creek, but they shared much of their individual lives with each other and the life that develops over time when one lives alone.
Memory does not remember much of this day, 45 years ago when a recent college graduate made his way from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Fla. But we know that his trip involved a young girl he had met the previous summer at college and the baby she was to have at any moment. We remember that his purpose was a last attempt to persuade her to marry him and keep the baby.
From our upstairs bedroom window one recent morning, I saw the driver and his machine pass our house. He was driving a state tractor, equipped with a long cutting blade, to the end of our mile-long country road where he would turn and come up the north side to cut grasses and weeds along the shoulder. I thought I had time to dress and get outside.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, one of our neighbors hosted a cook-out for his grown children and grandchildren. The early June air was filled with a melody of delightful yells, excited screams, and peels of laughter. As afternoon worn into low evening, the energy of the trove of children seemed to grow and expand to fill the approaching summer eve.
Friday night, June 7, Mary Ann and I attended a high school graduation, which because of the rain had been moved into the gymnasium. We were excited because several seniors we knew were graduating, and the school staff, like at all schools, had worked hard to plan and make this a joyous time.
A fine morning was breaking at Red Hill, and all was peaceful, not even the interstate roar shattered the calm. As Mary Ann and I sat, looking toward Short Mountain as if expecting something to happen, it did. But not on the mist-filled mountain.
According to my preferred story of creation, mankind was given the earth and all in it to enjoy and to be good stewards of it. That seems to me to be a good bargain: we get all that is here and we just have to take care of it and enjoy it, which is similar to receiving a fine gift for a birthday and having it for years to enjoy.
Like so many pleasant experiences, it came unannounced. The almost perfect eve began with, of all things, a track meet where I conducted the high jump.
In the Daily this week was an Associated Press story by Hank Kurz Jr. about the arrest of Michael Holmes. My guess is that this arrest of a 19-year-old in Blacksburg is newsworthy because young Mr. Holmes is also a rising star football player at Virginia Tech.
This week when the weather turned, many folks were outside enjoying the spring day. Like them, I spent one delightful afternoon in the shop.
Being at that age when there are more years behind me than ahead for me, I have been looking, among other things, at my education during the 1950s and 1960s. I graduated from high school in 1964 and college in 1968, all from public institutions. In 1988 I finally added a graduate degree, also from a public institution. What has engendered this examination is my part-time work at a local high school and an article I read recently discussing the value of teaching or not teaching cursive writing.
We are blessed in the valley with much natural beauty. From where I am sitting, Short Mountain, covered in snow, appears to curve west as it passes Mt. Jackson and converge with Great North Mountain, as if to form a bowl of beauty that is full of small hills, cleared land dotted with homes, and some of the world's best grass for feeding cattle, according to my friend John.
Were he alive, Fred Templeton would turn 73 on April 2. However, he died of lung cancer in August 1992 -- too young for him, his wife, and his two children.
Like many people in the valley, I am waiting for spring.
This week I began a wrestling unit in the local middle school. The principal and physical education teachers have allowed me, the high school wrestling coach, to come to physical education classes for sixth and seventh graders in order to introduce the sport.
In the living room of the house where I grew up, my mother had an oval table that she had, according to family lore, been given as a young war-bride. It had one drawer, two smooth columned legs between the top and base, and four simple curved feet at each corner.
While reading about the possibility of using selected students as school bus drivers in Shenandoah County and reading some opposition to that idea, I thought of the "men and boys" in a Stephen E. Ambrose book and a particular lady I met last summer.
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