Being a teacher myself, I found great joy in reading this story written by my dad on July 8, 1995. How many of you have similar tales?
Why our little community was named “Briggs” by early settlers has been lost in the annals of time, but I was always ready and able to come up with a story as to why in my imaginative mind.
Briggs sits about three miles west of Eldon and about six miles east of Tahlequah on Highway 62. Briggs lies on a relatively flat piece of ground not far from the Illinois River. The pride and crowning glory of the community was Briggs School.
The school was a three-room affair, very small by today’s standards. The first room took care of the first and second grades, and I’m happy to report my first grade teacher was a lovely young thing called Miss Jewell. She was wonderful—pretty, young, and she smelled good. What more could you ask for in a teacher?
I loved her so much that I had a hard time lining up with the others on my graduation from the second grade for a good-bye hug. I remember running home and grabbing a huge piece of chocolate cake and going to bed to console myself with food. (Having followed this practice religiously throughout my life, I can tell you that it’s a lot less expensive and easier on the body than tranquilizers and whiskey.)
We were graduating on to the next room—a room filled with third, fourth and fifth graders, grizzled veterans of the school of higher learning. Some said we were to find out what schooling was all about. I had some trepidation about leaving the confines of Miss Jewell’s room because the third, fourth and fifth was taught by the toughest, meanest human being ever to embrace professional education. It was gut check time.
We loved to hate this loathsome creature to whom the best-read of us referred to as “Miss Lizzie” (of Lizzie Borden fame) because it was rumored that she had hacked a couple of her charges to death. In those days teachers chastised their students any way they saw fit, short of capital punishment and we weren’t sure that Miss Lizzie didn’t have special dispensation from the pope to invoke the death penalty.
Her favorite way of dispensing torture was to pull your hair. And believe me it hurt. Most of the denizens of the third, fourth or fifth grade had their mane rearranged by Miss Lizzie. I myself had a head full of lovely brunette curls that seemed to daily catch the wrath of Miss Lizzie.
We had a couple of boys in the fifth grade who should have been in the 10th or 11th grade, but they had missed a lot of school time due to such things as hauling hay or driving a tractor. These were just good old boys, meaner than junkyard dogs, and the rest of Miss Lizzie’s third, fourth, and fifth graders followed them slavishly down the path to wickedness.
Toward the last day of school, one of these guys came up with a foolproof plan which he felt in all probability would kill Miss Lizzie. If it didn’t kill her, it would undoubtably result in her spending her remaining days in Eastern State Hospital at Vinita. (He no doubt spent many hours praying about it, and received an answer from above.) In those days breakdowns were not all that uncommon in the field of education. As a matter of fact, they are not all that uncommon today.
Now the success of this plan hinged greatly on the fact that Miss Lizzie had made a deal with one of the few traitors in school to bring her a pint of raw milk each day to augment her sack lunch. This was in the days before the school lunch program reared its ugly head. Most of the kids had milk cows at home, but I would have rotted in Hades before I would have brought this teacher any kind of sustenance.
One day at recess the leader of this foul gang of reprobates filled us in on the plan. It was beautiful—simplicity in motion, and in our own little black hearts we knew it could not fail.
The entire three grades were sworn to secrecy and the TREATMENT as we liked to call our project was to go into effect on April first.
On day one of the TREATMENT one of the older boys who thought of the scheme, surreptitiously dropped a small pebble into the milk. Miss Lizzie choked and sputtered a bit, but she got the milk down and couldn’t proved a thing.
The traitor that delivered the milk was told to report the incident to her parents, who assured Miss Lizzie that they would be more careful in the future.
Day two was a little worse, two roly-poly bugs were put into her milk, and while she was attacking our hair, one of the perpetrators removed the bugs, so she had no further proof.
Day three saw the end of the TREATMENT, and God help me, it was beautiful. When Miss Lizzie opened the lid to the mason jar, she spied a small mouse frantically doing the breast stroke, trying to escape.
As we say in the hills, she cut and ran, straight to the principal’s office and fell into his arms babbling incoherently.
We liked the new teacher well enough, except for the part of writing Miss Lizzie get well notes up to Eastern State. Finally we had to stop that because she kept screaming something about rodents in her milk and making a complete mess of the room by tearing the notes into a million pieces.
Our hearts soared at that bit of news.
January 16, 1943-February 26, 2011