17. The Year Is Ended
A COOL WIND here in my garden at my homestead is playing with the green leaves of my cherished trees and spicing the air with the fragrance from the thick bed of yerba buena. I sit in the canopied swing, my bare legs outstretched to the sun, the hose turned on the little walnut tree, the water pulsing to the welcome beat of the gasoline engine over the well down in the canyon, and, with sweet sadness, turn my thoughts back to Poso Nuevo.
A few weeks ago I gave the annual prizes, made the final reports, and helped print the May issue of Little Cowpuncher. Communication between my kids and me is broken. We're no longer a school—a unit. We're individuals going our separate courses outside the esprit
Our “commencement” party was seven weeks ago tonight. I am trying to see it with detachment, to charm away the painful memories. It was fun for the kids because we worked our level best and they had a marvelous time anticipating it. As for me, I think of it as I imagine General Lee remembered Gettysburg. Time and again he had flung his indomitable troops against odds and they had done the impossible. Once more he threw his gallant men against overwhelming odds—and they did not do the impossible.
Among our trials were three of grave importance. Our audience was slow to gather. Some came fifty miles, some over a hundred miles, after a day's work. There were long waits for the first comers. Then we were attempting to give an outdoor program with phonograph music without any system of amplification. And worst of all the weather—that monstrous destroyer of human plans, health, safety, and well-being—turned against us.
My hopes were based on the bright success of the Redington dance pageant (also held outdoors in May), our Christmas performance at Poso Nuevo eighteen months ago, and our last Halloween festival—all done to phonograph music; but under mild clear skies!
Discounting the weather, we had the right ingredients for a hit. People came—lots of people. The kids knew their dances and songs and looked beautiful in their brilliant costumes. Our script, entirely original, was all right. But the hour struck and we made no magic.
If we could have had a dress rehearsal for all that changing of costumes! The children lived too far away. If we hadn't had to wait so long for the official guests! And, above all, if it hadn't turned so freezing cold! I never remember a May night in Southern Arizona so chilly.
The dancers in their wispy costumes did not complain. They burned with excitement. I hoped their gay swift movements would keep their blood moving fast enough to ward off congestion, although visions of pneumonia haunted me as they danced barefoot on the cold ground we had thoroughly dampened to lay the dust. The audience caused the greatest anxiety. Having come many miles at no little trouble and expense, nobody could enjoy sitting still in icy temperatures for two hours to see a school show. Nobody but kids. The children on both sides of the footlights had a wonderful time.
My own blue sheer was ample as I was in a lather of worry over the ladies in spring clothes out there in the dark freezing. The sudden cold was so unexpected that no one came prepared; many begged for wraps at the first intermission. I longed to pass out buckets of hot coals for foot-warmers.
Eleanor and Ernestina, old pupils of mine, finally arrived with the twelve dozen tamales after taking the wrong road, breaking an axle, and drafting a total stranger—whom they routed out of bed—to get his
Now that time has passed and the belated summer heat is on, I can think of the audience as wishing for a whiff of that cold wind that roared in that night from the Arctic like an angry uninvited fairy. I can remember how beautiful my children looked and how proud they were to go through their songs and dances. For that little hour (so ill-timed, as it turned out!) they were stage folks, probably the happiest mortals on earth in the performance of their work.
Bill was in charge of make-up and his artistry showed best in the first act which called for “Old Fashion” costumes and characters. Arturo, as Pa, was his masterpiece and drew a salvo of applause as he strode out into the lights from two cars, dressed in high boots, suspenders, vest, and chin whiskers. Teddy was exquisite in curls, long tight bodice and fluffy paniers. Ysidra was a hit in her poke-bonnet, long calico with frilled pantlettes showing above her shoes. Herlinda was a prize. She has fair skin and typically Spanish features dominated by a long nose. Her dress was a cream-colored cashmere heirloom with stayed basque and sixteen-gored skirt that had been worn by her grandmother in her youth.
Mary and Socorro, our stars, were most beautiful in the final act as they danced in their softly flowing voiles. Sally, “electrician” in her car, told me afterwards that the car lights were so powerful that they pierced the
Another surprising beauty that night was Inez Jane. Her slenderness made her look tall in the long clinging rainbow-colored mist Alicia had worn at Redington. The little blonde girl danced with her whole heart. She will not be with us next year. And in a city or suburban school where there are hundreds of girls she will be overlooked. But those of us who saw her in the glory of her Rainbow Dance will not forget her.
I am glad now that Mary talked back to me that night for the first time in two years. At the second intermission, crazily jerking costumes off and on boys and girls in my cubbyhole of a room, yanking squirming youngsters none too gently, yelling at those pestering me for safety pins and other properties, I lost my nerve.
“Mrs. Bourne!” Mary cried sharply, fixing me with her big luminous eyes. ”After all we've done! Practicing so hard! Getting our costumes ready! And this is the prettiest part! We'll NOT leave it out!”
Now I'm glad she insisted. The kind people in the audience will forget the cold discomfort. They will not soon forget how lovely my young dancers were that night. I'll keep those victrola records always. Years from now I'll play them. That quadrille will remind me of Herlinda, patrician in her grandmother's cashmere, a carried-away look on her face, swinging and promanading with her happy companions. Other pictures that won't fade from my memory are of Teddy and Pili, tiny and cute in their old-time schottische. Edward and Ramón as lean, painted savages leaping so gracefully. And later, jigging in their heavy cowboy outfits, marking rhythms vigorously with jingling spurs. And the four teenagers waltzing theatrically to Cielito Lindo. Those two boys and girls—Edward, Ramón, Mary, and Socorro—will not forget the excitement of that night—a fitting triumph to close eight years or more of attending a remote country school.
Of course we could not possibly have known it at the time, thankfully, but the dances in which dear little Teddy sparkled were to be her last performance. Only yesterday I sat in the quiet garden with Edward's letter in my hand, staring at the zinnias and the quivering leaves of the cottonwood, unable to believe the mournful message: ‘‘
Teddy, the least “little cowpuncher.” She used to forget sometimes and call me Mamá. It embarrassed her. She ducked her head, hiding her face while her companions laughed. It was purely accidental, but it pleased me.
Teddy loved school. Some children like school. Some pretend to like it. But Teddy really loved it. She wasn't quite five when she entered, but she cried every morning to come, so Pascual brought her. I accepted her, but I thought that she was going to be a bother; that she was too young to learn. I was wrong. She never had any trouble amusing herself and she learned quickly, easily keeping up with children a year or two older. At recess and noon she liked to play school, standing in front of the big chart with a pointer and making the other little children sit in the kindergarten chairs and say the words.
She learned to read and write, and dance and sing. We praised her and helped her and loved her, all of us, so that she had no feeling of constraint. Happily she moved about at will and spoke whenever she felt the urge—bothering nobody. Reading was fun for her. She always wanted to begin the lesson. When flash cards or word drills were given, she considered it a game and became very excited.
She liked to sing and soon memorized all the Spanish songs and some of the English ones the big children sang. The first time L. (a neighboring cattle buyer) came down I asked the kids to sing Home On The Range for him. Right away he picked out Teddy for special notice. When
Above everything else, she liked to dance. It was not that she was especially talented. She was so young that movement and music appealed to her intensely. She was perfectly at ease, and danced naturally, with such true happiness that watchers had to smile. She and Chelo often danced together, round and round the room, marking the rhythm, never losing step. In my mind is an indelible picture of her and Pili dancing the schottische at our May festival. In her long yellow dress with tight white bodice and fluffy panniers, her hair piled high on her large head in Shirley-Temple-curls, she looked so cute! When Mrs. Smith went into the schoolroom where I was herding the costumed performers until the audience arrived, at sight of Teddy she cried to her companions—Helen Benedict and Mrs. Beach—“Look at this, will you!”
And when they danced, she and Pili, the half-frozen audience could not keep from laughing with pleasure at sight of those little feet going high in emphatic and well-timed kicks—and the little ones so serious about it!
Her baby arms and legs were dimpled and chubby. She had light ash blonde hair and a fair complexion. Usually she appeared to be heavier than she was. When I undressed her in my room that day to try on her costumes, I peeled off a sweater, a dress, another sweater, and two slips leaving her a little undershirt and panties. Her mother was always afraid that she would get pneumonia because she had had it when she was an infant.
I can't imagine her not in motion. When she came to class or went down the aisle to ask Mary a word, she skipped instead of walking. When she was sent to the board for writing or numbers, she ran. This excessive activity never annoyed me. I rejoiced in her energy, her eagerness for what came next.
She rushed through her lessons to cut out paper dolls, make wonderful water color daubs, valentines, lacy paper mats, or sets of doll dishes out of our pottery clay. She broke her crayolas, forgot to put the top on the paste jar, lost her scissors, used up her pencil which she loved to take to the pencil sharpener, and her desk was littered with papers, cut-outs, cardboard boxes, pieces of broken pottery, odds and ends of beads and colored pieces of glass. It would have been no use to scold her.
She was too interested, too free-spirited, to be self-conscious. Somebody had to be fixing her clothes, or her hair, constantly. But when her mother curled her bright “crown of glory” and took off her cumbersome underwear and dressed her in a short blue silk dress, she was a doll—as beautiful as alive.
With infectious enthusiasm she went into everything—work, play, dancing, picnics, parades, public entertainments, with bubbling joy. She cried only when somebody shoved her out of her place in the cocoa line, or when the school doctor came. Doctors and nurses terrified her.
Yes, the year is over. I must try to stop thinking about Teddy and recall instead the final event in our grand May 8 fiesta. For if there is something for the future in the recollection of our wonderful past year, it lies somewhere in remembering the graduation exercises—the springboard for Mary, Socorro, Edward, and Ramón, to whatever comes next.
In consideration for our audience we did forego the grand march and national anthem, and we went indoors for the actual ceremony of graduation. The classroom had been prepared for inspection. With great gusto the children had made wall plaques of native clay to hold candles. We had a frieze of these soft lights around the
The graduation was impressive even if the clock was approaching eleven post meridian. Socorro and Mary were sweet in their simple white voiles with wreaths of white flowers on their new permanents. Under the spell of Mrs. Smith's address and Bill's proud sendoff, Ramón, poor boy, decided that he, too, was going to go to high school as Mary and Edward planned to do. The Aroses told me about his decision the next day, as if that made the whole thing possible! Of course he can't go! But the urge born in that big moment may be of benefit to the next generation.
The last hour of the day was spent in serving tamales, and dispatching friends. J. took Eleanor and her crowd back to town in my car, and I had a little visit with my Redington kids and Bill and Rosa who had crowned my pleasure by coming all that distance as a surprise.
When the company had gone, and some of the confusion cleared out of my den, I went back into the school-room and saw my two pretty girls dancing with the “greasy sack” fellows from the roundup. The backs of their lovely new dresses were crumpled and soiled.
As for our final issue of Little Cowpuncher, in the big rush after the party, of finishing lessons, hunting up and turning in books, making reports, and finishing other projects, it had to be anti-climatic. For the children, school was done for another year. They were still very interested in their report cards and promotion certificates. But their minds were on the big free outdoors, and the
In our drama on May 8, which we had on the outside stage Mr. Hernández and the boys made, we gave many different dances. There were folk dances such as flings, jigs, schottische, quadrille. In the second act we played as Indians, giving interpretative dances; and the little children danced as butterflies and roses in beautiful crepe paper costumes that Edward helped us make. In the third act we had the main dance festival and we had to change our costumes which took longer than we had imagined.
Some of our victrola music was classic and near-classic played by concert orchestras, and some was just popular. We had Swedish, Irish, and English folk dances and one Mexican dance. We made up our dances at school and they would have been better if our little victrola had played louder. Mary and I danced the most. We had five different costumes. I think I shall never forget our lovely dances I have them too clear in my mind. —S. A.’’ ‘‘ THE COSTUMES
We had nice costumes. Many costumes. Some of them Mrs. Bourne borrowed from some University girls. Some she had from Redington School. Some she bought and our mothers made them and some of them our mothers bought too. In the first act we had old-fashioned clothes and they were nice and very wide. I had my grandmother's dress. It is very old. All the people liked it. It was so long and wide I had to hold it when I was dancing. The boys had nice costumes too. Our big girls looked beautiful. Their mothers had sewed very nice to make them. —Herlinda Badilla’’ ‘‘ THE ART EXHIBIT
At the May 8 Festival we had a large and some distinguished audience. Twelve cars of people came besides our community and the roundup men. With the little time we had that day we also tried to arrange an art and pottery exhibit and I was in charge of it. There were pictures from the first to the eighth grade on the boards. They looked nice. All the audience admired them. There were four water color paintings from Mary, four from Socorro, one landscape from Ramón, and seven tempera and water color landscapes from Edward.
In E. B.'s room there was clothes all over the place on the bed and tables and chairs. When we changed our clothes they were thrown in a great pile on top of the little bed. And we lost some things. But we found them at school Monday —Inez Jane’’ ‘‘ A GIFT FROM MRS. AND MR. FRED RONSTADT
Friday afternoon of the party Mr. and Mrs. Ronstadt, Bill's father and mother, came out to leave us a nice present. They brought us some ice cream which we were very proud of. And we were happy to see them come 50 miles away from Tucson to see us. The whole school is sending millions of thanks. —S. A.’’ ‘‘ VISITORS FROM REDINGTON
We were surprised and awfully glad to have as our guests our
half-brothers and half-sisters (they were Mrs. Bourne's kids too on the
Little Cowpuncher paper) from far over the mountains
on the San Pedro River at Redington. Clara, Carlota, Berta, Fidel, Manuel,
Ruben, and Frank, and Mrs. Rosa and her husband came to our dance drama. I
think it was really kind of them to come so far. Mrs. Rhodes is a very nice
lady. It was fun to talk to them for they feel relation to us. We talked about
the little paper. They were the first ones to start it and it seemed to me I
had known them for a long time for I had read many stories they had
— Mary Hernández
Little Pili Aros, six years old, saved us from a mix-up in the intricate May-pole winding. The two second grade girls, unnoticed by the older pupils we had depended on, placed wrong. This imperiled the weaving as each boy had to do eight steps with his partner who was the fourth girl behind him at the beginning. Just as the music started Pili screamed loudly: “Chelo!” He had seen that she was the sixth, instead of the fourth, girl behind him. The quick change was made and the dance was saved. —M. H.’’
This year the roundup lasted about two months. They came to Poso Nuevo Saturday before we had our dance on a Friday. And we had an awful time practicing for our dance on the outside stage because the cowboys had the rodeo (holdup) near the school and the dust was flying on our faces and we couldn't practice or sing very much.
We had more audience that I had thought we were going to have. We had all the vaqueros—they were eighteen. Lots of them were celebrating because some of them went to town in a little truck to get something for them to have a good time. But they didn't give us much trouble. —R. A.’’ ‘‘ OUR HONOR ASSEMBLY
On the last day of school for this year Mrs. Bourne gave us prizes for
the term. These are the ones who got prizes for perfect attendance which was a
one dollar bill—
Ramón Aros, Socorro Aros, Víctor Aros, Pancho Aros,
Arturo Aros, Ysidra Aros, Frank Aros, Consuelo Aros,
Pedro Aros, Marcela Hernández, Edward Hernández.
The biggest prizes were given for the Library Books:
First prize, Socorro Aros, who read 104 books.
Second prize to Mary Hernández, who read 81 books.
Third prize to Chelo Aros (1st grade), who read 23
All of us had ice cream. The ice cream was Strawberry Frosties which Mrs. Bourne brought packed in dry ice and it was very good on a hot day when we were so busy trying to get all the books found and put away and the last issue of our Little Cowpuncher. Our paper closes today for the summer. —Inez Jane Emery, 5th Grade’’ ‘‘ MY HONOR I WILL NEVER FORGET
I was really used to our school and my dear, dear, E. B. and I surely hate to leave her. But I am glad she felt proud of us the last time, for we tried to have her feel proud. I guess she regrets it as much as we do that we are going away, for she gave us education and fame.
Since my school term is ending I might as well say how much I appreciate E. B., and also how much I have enjoyed myself having her for my teacher. First, I must mention that this year of school has been to me like a whirl of wind over the Baboquívari Mountains. I have enjoyed it so much. And I will never forget that E. B. has made us all famous with her friends.
I am pleased with her for teaching us different kinds of dances, and stories, art, cleanness, good manners, and she has taught us how to give programs which I think most of the people who have come to our programs seem to go away and talk about nothing else for a couple of weeks.
I have been happy all the year through. She has taken us four eighth-graders to shows, parties, visits, rides, picnics, trips, and the Tucson Rodeo of Mr. Jack Kinney … I appreciate to have finished school with her and I am grateful for her name on my diploma. I hate school to end for I know I'll never have a loving teacher like E. B.
While cutting the stencil for this “Tribute,” I was reminded of a little second-grade girl's composition. When her teacher told the class to practice writing “Thank-you” notes, she gave them several examples on
Seven weeks from day after tomorrow I will get up early and drive down to Poso Nuevo to open school again. And I will have to face nine empty desks. The four eighth graders, the three Emery children, Frances, and my little Teddy will not be there to greet me. Mary and Edward will be in high school, proudly carrying the banner of Little Cowpuncher School. Socorro and Ramón will be learning in practical ways beyond school training. The Emerys will be in Tucson, presumably with their father. Frances will be in some migrant camp with her mother. And Teddy—busy, happy, sweet little Teddy—will be beyond pain or pity or the joys of human love and learning.