Looking back | TheFencePost.com

Looking back

2022 June portrait, WYO Writers

We often lament “how things have changed” in our schools. Our sons have both been out of high school well over 20 years. They, as well as many of their country-kid classmates had a gun rack in their vehicle and it held a firearm in the parking lot on the school grounds. No one ever shot the guns at school, let alone killed anyone. They all carried pocket knives, as ranch kids do, as you never know when you might need one. Now, no guns, no knives, heck, they may not even allow fingernail clippers either, just like the TSA. So, what changed? The high school is the same; more kids come from broken homes than 20 years ago. City kids still haven’t much to do besides what their parents force them to do: make their bed, empty the trash, and such mundane chores. So, what do they do the rest of the time? They play violent video games wherein they kill people and get points for “finishing them off,” desensitizing them from the fact that killing is permanent. Not one of the people who have gone in and shot up schools and students have been country kids. Not one. Though they likely have more access to firearms than town kids, farm and ranch kids have been brought up with guns, taught how to use them and above all, taught to respect them. They realize weapons are not toys, but serious business.

A town kid who spent a great deal of time on his uncle’s ranch, tells that he used to ride his bicycle through the town of 4,500, with his .22 rifle along, so he could go out to an area where he could shoot. No one thought a thing about it. He knew gun safety and was responsible with his weapon.

Rural kids were not above shenanigans though. At the rural school I attended with 80 some students, a teacher drove a Volkswagen “bug” to school. Boys in the upper grades noticed the size of the car and the double doors at an entrance. When the teacher was otherwise occupied, the students including Jerry Wyatt, Eddie Hussey, Bert Bogner, Alan Wilhelm, Denny Kazmer, Ken Heins, and possibly others, opened the doors and lifted the car into the hallway, then shut the schoolhouse doors. That was a harmless prank, fun for the boys, no one and nothing got hurt. The teacher just shook his head.

Teachers can be co-conspirators too. During high school, some of the same boys decided to make corn mash in the chemistry lab during their study hall. The teacher was around and knew what was going on as he let the experiment continue. Once the boys had finished their experiment, the teacher, Mr. Kommes, told them, “The temperature difference between wood alcohol and moonshine is 4.3 degrees. Wood alcohol will make your teeth and hair fall out, and could kill you. How confident are you about your temperatures?”

The teacher could have shut them down at the outset, but he knew the chemistry and life lessons that students would learn would outweigh a heavy handed approach. The students didn’t drink their concoction, and the lessons learned are still remembered more than 50 years later.

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