The naughtiest thing I ever did was being an accomplice (one of 15 pupils) to setting an ant mound on fire at our One Room School. This mound was about two feet high made of straw on the northwest corner of our school yard. The teacher, a strict disciplinarian, forbids anyone to touch this ant mound. My brother, Francis decided he would set it on fire, early one day, before school started, he lit the mound on fire and returned home. We were all sworn to secrecy the night before. The truce was that no one would tell. It was hard to get to sleep with that on our minds.
The teacher approached the school to see the black smoke belching high over the bright fire. Could it be the ant mound?
We followed the teacher with our two gallons of drinking water. We threw it on the blaze. Then with boards and clubs we beat the blaze to keep it from spreading into a ten-acre cornfield nearby. Silently we continued until the fire was out. Our faces were black from smoke, we were panting as if we had finished running the ten mile race in the Olympics.
Court opened with “Who started the fire?”
No one confessed. Everyone was in denial. The story eased off with just that short court hearing. My guilty conscience plagued me for years.
My mother dealt punishments at home out silently with a gesture. The index finger on her right hand pointed to our bedroom above.
We went there-stayed there with two pieces of bread with molasses on it for supper. We didn’t come down only to use the outdoor privy. We had a long time to think it over.
My mother was both the questioning attorney and the judge. We received our sentence and performed it without questioning.
Punishment at school was to stay in at recess. Then a lower mark in deportment on our report card. That was the first and only mark my mother bothered to discuss with us.
We kids got along well with each other, partly because there were so many jobs for us to do–there was always weeds to cut, weeds in the yard and cornfield. We had an acre of garden to weed, chickens to water and feed, eggs to be gathered, cows to chase, water must be carried in to drink and wash vegetables, in other words. Be Busy!
The Bell Tower Theater