BLACK LAKE SCHOOL
Dist. 56, Neligh, NE
© Ruth Schrader Hand
Warm hazy autumn afternoons and sandy country roads,
Amber visions drifting back from somewhere long ago.
Regal-blossomed goldenrods in ditches everywhere,
Thickets full of tart wild plums, all fragrancing the air.
Cottonwoods all a-shimmer when sudden whirlwind come,
Wild prairie grasses swaying under a brilliant sun.
Surrounding peaceful acres where it stood for years alone,
A little country school among the quilted fields of home.
Chasing memory like gray shadows, haunting as a ghost,
A tiny corner of the world where innocence was host.
Each morning, parents coming, o’er the hills, across the miles,
Circling ‘round the sandy drive to wave goodbye with smiles.
An old iron bell ringing through the countryside each day,
Calling out to come and learn, or recess time and play.
Singing joyfully from an old green book, ON WINGS OF SONG,
Earnest hearts pledging allegiance to our flag, life-long.
Cattle grazing pastures just outside a barbed wire fence,
Gazing on in wonderment at children, so intense.
Playing “pom pom pull away,” run like the wind turned loose,
Baseball, hide and seek, tag, and snowy fox and goose.
Sweet peas, wild roses, prickly sandburs everywhere,
Sunny skies the sapphire blue of jewels, clear and fair.
Picnic lunches at a lake brimful of mysteries,
Cattails, frogs and snakes amongst the greening shady trees.
Weathered fence posts peaking out from cloaks of wild grape vines,
Poison ivy threatening to spread from its confines.
Ancient gnarled apple tree struggling to survive,
Climbing feet and hanging knees keeping it alive.
Merry-go-round whirling all life’s troubles far away,
Flag pole with the Stars and Stripes waving proud each day.
Old red coal shed, wooden desks carved up with who loves whom,
Two outhouses, boys and girls, lift one finger or two.
Rusty iron hand pump, creaking, groaning, needing primed,
Bringing water, quenching thirst, refreshing to the mind.
Pounding out erasers on cement steps by the door,
Sliding back and forth on compound, polishing the floor.
Mound of ashes where the paper trash was always burned,
Drifting up in smoke, like silent prayers, what was not learned.
Hideouts in the bushes, cowboys, Indians, no fear,
Make-believe so real it made real life seem dull and drear.
Front door open, welcoming, from first day to the last,
Eager hearts and feet a-pounding from out of the past.
Old Victrola in the hallway, bell rope hanging down,
One room, so huge yet tiny, rows of small desks all around.
Windows made for daydreaming far out beyond the trees,
Bulletin boards for holidays, black boards for spelling bees.
Floor to ceiling bookshelves in the corners of the room,
Hiding dreams behind the wooden doors in shadowed gloom.
Wobbly narrow bookcase with a creaking old wood door,
Swinging out and toppling everything onto the floor.
Bambi, Mr. Wrigley, Heidi, Pollyanna too,
Tom and Huck, such treasures where imagination grew.
An old world globe hanging from a tarnished long brass chain,
Places far away with strange romantic-sounding names.
Christmas plays around an oil stove on center stage,
Sitting hushed, an old piano, yearning to be played.
One lone teacher, nine grades, every subject in the book,
Sending silent messages with one straightforward look.
Penmanship, Dick and Jane, numbers, ask to speak,
Science on the window sill, and art just once a week.
Sandbox where the farmer’s child spent rainy day recess,
Ring-around-the-rosy, button-button, hangman’s guess.
Pictures of George Washington and people shocking hay,
Ice cream picnics celebrating school out in May.
Brand new crayons, sometimes shoes, pictures in the fall,
Water jug, a silent sentry; coat hooks in the hall.
Ant hill in the fence line, warrior workers in the dirt,
School buckets, stale lunches, trading for dessert.
Lessons by the teacher’s desk, phonics in your head,
Shoe box for your Valentines, handmade, white lace on red.
Thunder storming over in the middle of the day,
Sunflowers nodding gently all along the “road home” way.
Kaleidoscope of images, so long ago from here,
Through the colored glass, an ambiance of yesteryear.
A time so filled with laughter it was easy to believe,
A rabbit would hide colored eggs amongst the grass and leaves,
A fairy in the night would put out money for your tooth,
And Christmas gifts were left by someone in a bright red suit.
Enduring through the growing up and glaring light of truth,
Existing still in mind and heart, that splendored time of youth.