Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jim the Boy

8. What role does Abraham play? What lessons does he teach Jim, both in the field and in the alley?
At first my mind went totally blank on Abraham, but now I think he was the one that Jim tried to take the nicer hoe away from and his uncles would not allow it.

9. What do we know about Whitey Whiteside, "the unexpected guest" (pp. 96-101)?
Whitey gave Jim the softball. When they were discussing him going to the Big Day opening, I noted the comment, "Hush, you two...the corn has ears." This was a new expression to me, but an interesting way to indicate that one should be careful of what is said in front of children. After my niece's recent death, when my 10-year-old nephew was told about it (they are cousins and this was the second cousin he lost in less than a year) he said that his parents are going to be burned (his expression for cremation)and had my sister promise him that if she was alive when he died that she would make sure that he was not burned and that she would put KU stuff on his grave. I wish my brother (his father) and wife had followed the adage that "the corn has ears" and not discussed their plans for cremation in front of him. He has always been so sensitive and the losses of his cousins and realization of deaths is hard enough on him as is without the added burden of the practice of cremation.

10. Jim woke up on the first day of school thinking, "The morning smelled like school. The previous morning had smelled only like summer, like dew and grass and crops growing in the fields." What does school smell like to you?
The main smell I associated with school was the chalk. When my kids went to school, I was surprised at the strong smell of mass quantities of food being prepared. It is a smell similar to that in other institutions and not a smell I like so I am glad they didn't have school cafeterias in grade school and junior high when I went. I am so old that most kids went home for lunch when I was growing up which was sure a nice break from the school day.

11. When he went to the old school, Jim knew who he could outrun (see p. 76). Things were different at the new school. Do you remember going to a new school? Do you remember who you could outrun?
I lived a dull life and my only changes in schools were transitions from grade school to junior high and then to high school.
I can't remember any feeling of competitiveness about running skill--I wasn't very athletic. The one time I won someone at something (box hockey), the girl I won was so made that she purposely hit my hand holding my hockey stick with hers and broke my middle finger. I remember both the way they brought her to the office where I was waiting for my dad to pick my up to take me to the hospital and she was supposed to apologize (this is why I never used the forced apology method with my kids) for what she did and it was obvious that she said the words, but did not mean them. I also remember that having a cast on my middle finger was quite the talk of the sixth grade class.

12. On the "Big Day" there's a Ferris wheel (yes, it's capitalized) at the open house for the new school. Last month we read about the wheel that Mr. Ferris designed for Chicago, so compare it with the one in the town of Aliceville, North Carolina.
The Aliceville Ferris wheel was much more humble than the Chicago one. Actually, as small as the Aliceville community was I was surprised that they even had a Ferris wheel for the Big Day.

13. Zeno told Jim, "Everybody knows you ain't got much of a town if a railroad track runs though it but the train won't stop" (p. 88). Explain how the train figured in the naming of Aliceville. And maybe tell us about the name of your town. Do trains figure into your town's history?
The engineer's stopping at Aliceville allowed it to continue as well as it did as a town. The town showed its gratitude by naming the town after his daughter.
Topeka was a stop on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (now merged into the Burlington Northern railroad so is the BNSF)so the railroad helped put or keep Topeka on the map. My husband worked for the other railroad in town (Union Pacific) and my oldest son developed a major passion for trains (especially steam engines) so railroads have played a major role not only in the livelihood of my town, but also in my family.

14. I can imagine "the red school on top of the hill" (p. 109). What was your school like?
My grade school was a fairly typical neighborhood school built of bricks. My mother often told the story of my older brother's concern about starting school and having trouble opening the "big doors" and I remember that the school did seem a lot larger when I was attending it than when I went back many years later. Although parents attended school programs, the school was not the center of the community like schools were when my mother grew up and taught at the one room rural schools of her day.

Alicevillie's consolidation in the 1930's of the rural schools was interesting in that this happened in the late 1950's in the community where my mother grew up. The one room school that my cousins were attending (their dad, uncle, and my mother had all graduated from 8th grade in the same school) was consolidated and all the rural kids were bussed to the town school. This was especially hard on my cousin who was around 9 at the time. He got literally sick every morning when the bus came. I wonder about the wisdom of the elimination of community schools. Bigger isn't necessarily better.

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