School is about to start, so pretty soon the school bus will be a familiar sight here at Pipi’s Pasture. I notice the bus because the driver and I are on the same schedule. I’m doing corral chores when the neighborhood kids get on the bus in the morning and then again in the afternoon when they come back home. Sometimes, the bus even has a stop on the county road right next to Pipi’s Pasture.
So I’ve been thinking how parents and kids have to get used to a stricter routine when summer vacation comes to an end and everybody has to get up earlier and go to bed earlier. It brings back memories of years past when I was a kid growing up on the ranch.
I attended the Morapos School for the first eight grades. The country school was perhaps a quarter of a mile from our house, so we kids walked to and from school each day (except during bad weather, which is another story).
I don’t remember what our mornings were like in those earlier days nor the time school took up, but I do remember the afternoons. When we walked through the back door of our house, we often were greeted by the most delicious aroma of something that was cooking on the stove or something freshly baked.
Mostly, I remember the freshly baked bread. I don’t know if Mom timed it so that the bread came out of the oven when we came home from school or whether the bread had just risen enough to be baked at about that time, but whatever the case, the bread was a most wonderful snack.
Other times, we arrived home to find that Mom was canning, so our snack might have been peach slices taken from a bowl where she had put them after the peaches were blanched, the skins taken off and the peaches sliced — all ready for the canning jars. Or it might have been a glass of hot tomato juice that was sprinkled with salt, because Mom was canning tomato juice.
Whatever it was, we always had a good snack but not before we changed out of our school clothes. (If possible, we wore our school clothes more than one day because we didn’t have a washer and dryer then.)
Then we got our snack. There was no time for lots of dillydallying because there were chores to do, so I can remember slicing bread, covering it with homemade butter and some kind of jam or jelly (usually apple butter) and heading to the cow pasture to bring in the milk cow. Milk cows have a knack for knowing when it’s time to be milked and will take off for the far end of the pasture — only a cow knows why — so I usually had plenty of time to eat my bread. The cow was taken across the road to the corral for milking and turned out again the next morning. Bringing in the cow was a fall after-school chore.
There were other chores, too. Mom sometimes had things that she needed us to do, like taking peelings and other things left from cooking to the chicken house, feeding and watering the chickens and gathering the eggs. Then at 6 p.m. each day, we fed our 4-H steers. This usually meant haltering the steers, leading them to the barn, brushing them down and feeding them grain and hay.
Sometimes, there were pigs and a bucket calf to feed and stalls in the barn to be cleaned. Chores changed a little bit when winter rolled around.
When we reached high school age, we had to ride the bus to Craig. I remember being a freshman in high school. My sister Charlotte, closest in age, still was attending Morapos School. So each morning, Dad and I left the house at about 7 a.m. Since I had to get ready for school, he did morning chores. Then he drove me about 6 1/2 miles to the highway to catch the bus. I rode to Craig, and after school, he or Mom met me at the highway again. I rode about 46 miles, round trip, each day to attend high school.
When I got home, there still was the same routine as when I was older, except it was a little later in the day. I had homework to do then, too, so the schedule had to allow time for that. I can remember finishing algebra homework in the barn as the steers ate their supper.
So when I watch the neighborhood kids get on the school bus this Monday, I’ll be thinking of those school days of years past.