From Pipi’s Pasture: The many jobs of the country school teacher
Since hearing about the Country School Reunion that is being planned for this summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about the country schools, especially the Morapos School which can still be seen on our family ranch property. That’s where my sisters, Charlotte (Allum) and Darlene (Blackford), and I attended school for grades one through eight. Our brother, Duane Osborn, attended one year there before the Morapos School was closed due to reorganization of Moffat County schools. After that, he went to the Hamilton School. All of us attended high school in Craig.
There were lots of country schools in the county. Besides the Morapos School, I remember the Hamilton School and Loyd School. There was a big community 4-H Club in Hamilton and the surrounding area, and meetings were held at the Hamilton School. That’s where families and friends attended 4-H-sponsored dances, too, which were held on a fairly regular basis. We went to the Loyd School on occasion to meet with leaders who lived at the Loyd oil camp.
Our mother, Judy Osborn, was a country school teacher who taught at several schools before coming to Morapos. I don’t recall how she came to teach at the Morapos School, but that’s where she met Dad. They married, and that ended her teaching career, except for some brief substituting jobs.
I was always fascinated with the county school teachers. During those years of school that I remember, we had female teachers who lived alone. I think that most kids are filled with awe as to teacher’s lives. I remember when our son, Jody, was about five years old. We were shopping at the grocery store after school one afternoon, and he saw his teacher there. He could not believe that his teacher was grocery shopping. Anyway, we didn’t know very much about our teachers’ personal lives, and the teachers didn’t volunteer much information. I wondered what it would be like to teach in a rural school, and my sisters and I “played” school at home a lot.
One thing for sure, the country school teacher didn’t have an easy job. For one thing, there was no indoor plumbing so water had to be packed and the teacher and students had to use an outhouse. I think that the parents took turns hauling drinking water for the school, probably for the teacher, too. The “old” Morapos School was in a log building, and I think the teacher had to start a fire in the stove each morning and keep it “fired” up during the day. There were ashes to take out. I think the wood (perhaps even coal) was hauled in by the parents. Later on, when a new school was built, it was heated by a gas stove.
I’m pretty sure that all of the cleaning was done by the teacher. Then she had lessons to prepare for several subjects in each grade. The enrollment varied from year to year, but I can remember a year when there were two students and others when there were eight — a lot of teacher preparation, indeed. Papers had to be graded, too, and at holiday time the teacher was expected to put on school programs.
All of this, and the teacher had her own chores, too. The teachers at the Morapos School lived in a two-room teacherage. But, that’s a story for next time.
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