The Route to School

This was for Day 2 of Family Tree Magazine 30 day writing challenge – where they dish out a prompt every day for the next month. So technically, today is Day 3.  I’m a day behind – but I’m feeling pretty good about getting it accomplished!

Day 2: Imagine a route your ancestor took frequently in his or her daily life. Describe that route in detail. What did they see? What noises could they hear? Where were they going?

Today I’m going to write about my Great Grandma Virginia Carper (known to me as “Grandma C”). Recently, I visited the Guthrie Center Library and came across a series of books called “A Glance Into the Past” that were put together by the sophomore class at Guthrie Center High School in the early 1980’s. The students wrote about historical events, and interviewed older people in the community (most of them were probably  grandparents).

One of the entries was by a cousin of mine, who interviewed Grandma C. She talked of how she got to and from school from a child through graduation. When she graduated eighth grade, the family lived between 5 and 6 miles from Adair, where she went to school. During her first couple years of high school, Grandma and several of her friends road horses to and from school. She mentioned she that they sometimes raced their horses, and that they had a lot of fun goofing off! During the winter months, she would stay in town.

I imagine her ride to school looked and felt different depending on the season. I tried to imagine what I would think it to look right about this time of year in the early 1920’s.

The Commute

Virginia carefully slipped up and onto her horse, Ralph. He was older and broke in- too old to be worked too hard around the farm these days, but he made an excellent companion and a very convenient way of getting to school. He was a trusty friend that she had known for years. She gently nudged him with her boot, coaxing him out of the corral and down the driveway.

It was still dark this early Wednesday morning. No moon or star could break through the thick blanket of clouds that cloaked the sky. The only promise of warm sunlight was a wisp of violet sky on the eastern horizon. Dark, yes, but there wasn’t much of a view these frosty mornings any way. It was near mid-November now. The rural Iowa landscape was putting on its pajamas and preparing for slumber.

A soft, yellow glow poured out of the house from the kitchen window. As drew closer, she could see Mama standing over the table, kneading dough by lantern light in preparation for dinner tonight. Sometimes Mama would let her steal a piece of fresh bread after school – just enough to “hold her” until dinner. Oh, warm bread on this chilly morning sounded wonderful! Virginia waved as she passed by the window, but of course Mama couldn’t see her.

She continued on down the drive, making their way toward the road. The flowers that Momma had planted along the driveway had practically faded into dust (Momma always left her plants and let the flowers go to seed as an offering to the birds of winter). As they neared the end of the driveway, the leaves under Ralph’s hooves began to crunch. Crunch, crunch. Louder and louder. The sound saturated the stillness of the morning. An old maple stood where the driveway met the road. It had finally shed the last of its leaves. He was a friendly tree – greeting her everyday as she left and again when she returned from school.

“Hello, Virginia.”
“Goodbye, Virginia.”
“Have a nice day, Virginia.”

Virginia and Ralph turned out onto the road. This was the part she dreaded most. She had to ride nearly a mile alone – just her and Ralph. In the dark. She carried a small lantern with her, but riding along the empty fields made her uneasy. The wheat was long gone. The corn had been cut and bundled into shocks in preparation of winter. Those empty fields seem to go on for eternity! Sometimes the lantern light, or on other mornings the moonlight, seemed to play games with the stocks, casting shadows here and there. Virginia’s imagination ran wild! She gave Ralph another nudge in hopes that he would speed up a little.

She forced herself to think about other things. Winter and snow would arrive soon, and then she would board with a friend’s family in town during the week. They were the nicest of families, but Virginia missed being at home with her parents and brothers. Although dark, cold, and sometimes a little scary, Virginia wished these mornings would linger forever.

Virginia Shroyer – Graduation at Adair, Iowa

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