I attended a meeting last night with some conservative friends. The original program scheduled for the evening had to cancel due to a sick family. Instead we had a round-robin of ‘Intro and tell’, or introduce yourself and talk about…whatever took your fancy.
To say the topics varied is an understatement. We discussed national politics and conservatism, state politics and conservatism, local politics and conservatives—do you see a pattern here? Each of us had our favorite hot buttons but the discussions were friendly and informative.
During one session on education and the NEA, I mentioned my mother was a teacher and related a story about Mom when she first started teaching in 1922 at the age of 18. Times were different then. It is less than 100 years since my Mother began teaching. All-in-all, I believe people were better educated then than now. Why? Because Mom didn’t teach rote memorization. She taught her students how to teach themselves—and think for themselves as well.
Mom’s birthday is coming in a couple of weeks. If she were still alive, she’d be 109.
The session last night caused a lot of memories to resurface. It’s time to repeat the story of Mom and the Fisher Boy.
Today is my mother’s birthday.
Mom was the oldest of five children, four girls and one boy. She was born in 1904 and grew up on the family farm near Olive Branch, IL not too far from Thebes in the southern tip of Illinois. This area was in the southern portion of Illinois is known as “Little Egypt.”
In 1922 at the age of 18, she began teaching in a country school about five miles from the farm. The Nialls Township school was a single room building containing grades one through the first two years of high school. The youngest pupil was five and the oldest seventeen. Mom, having just completed teacher training, was hired to be the sole teacher at the school.
Attending this school were the four Fisher boys. The Fisher boys ranged in age from eight years to seventeen. The oldest boy, no longer legally required to attend, wanted nothing to do with the school. In fact, none of the Fisher boys wanted to go to school and it was only their father’s heavy hand that any attended with regularity.
Mom was a disciplinarian. She’d help raise her four siblings, as well as many of her cousins in the area. She had definite ideas on how children should behave. In short, Mom did not believe in sparing the rod (as I well remember!)
The Fisher boys did not care to attend school, nor were they interesting in learning or being quiet. The oldest stood several inches taller than Mom and outweighed her by at least 50lbs. After the first week, he decided it was time to show Mom who was boss.
The usual routine was for school to start at 8 o’clock in the morning and run through until 11 o’clock. The pupils who lived close to school would go home for lunch returning at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. The remaining pupils brought their lunch. The Fisher boys lived several miles away and stayed at school. The afternoon session, starting at 1 o’clock continued until 4 o’clock when school dismissed.
On that day, all the pupils had returned and entered the school—except for the oldest Fisher boy. I don’t remember if Mom ever mentioned his name. For the purposes of this story, I’ll call him “Mose.”
Mose declared he wasn’t going to school anymore and Mom couldn’t make him. Mom’s reply was, in that case, Mose should be getting along home. He was to tell his father that Mom would be stopping by on her way home. That didn’t set well with Mose and he said that if she showed up, Mose would give her a lickin’.
Now, Mom had a brother that at that time stood over six feet tall. She had several male cousins her age, larger and heavier, and neither her brother nor any of the cousins gave Mom any lip. She had, at one time or another, licked them all. Mom might not have been a tomboy, but at that time, at that place, there were few women who couldn’t hold their own with any man.
Mom grabbed Mose by the collar and the seat of his pants, frog-marched Mose off the school grounds and tossed him out into the road. That did it. Mose came up swinging. Mom promptly decked him. Mose tried again, several times, with the same result. Since he wasn’t getting the results that he wanted, Mose finally decided that he’d enough and took off down the road. His three brothers started to follow but with one look at Mom, decided to remain at school.
At the end of the day, the children took off, primed to spread the news about the big fight. Mom spent another hour at the school, cleaning and preparing for the next school day. She was saddling her horse for the ride home when one of her pupils arrived to tell her that Mose had a gun and was coming to “fix her.”
It was not uncommon for most folks at that time to carry a gun. There were still night raiders who came up from Arkansas on the Mississippi River to raid small towns and rural homes. As was also common of the times, the law ended at the city limits and the only time the Sheriff was seen was just before Election Day to buy some votes. Mom, like many women of that time, who travel the country roads alone and often at night, was armed. Next to her horse, Mom’s prize possession was a Smith and Wesson Model 1917 .45 revolver. Grandpa Miller had bought the pistol for her as a graduation present from one of her cousins who had kept it when he was discharged from the Army at the end of WW1.
Mom had ridden about half way home when Mose stepped out from the side of the rode brandishing a shotgun. Before he could blink, Mose was staring down the bore of Mom’s forty-five. Mose promptly gave up the idea about “fixin’” Mom.
Mom marched Mose home at gunpoint and reported to Mose’s father what had happened at noon and later on the way home. The elder Fisher told her she should go ahead and shoot Mose, since Mose was a worthless SOB who couldn’t lick a little school lady and wasn’t worth the cost of the bullet to boot. Mom declined. Mose’s father then proceeded to teach Mose some manners to the extent that Mose lost several teeth.
Mose never returned to school after that day. He left the county the following week to find a job and never returned to “fix” the school teacher who wouldn’t be intimidated.
Mom died in 1967 after a long battle with cancer.