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Grade School Days

by Joan Parks Vosler

The chill of the foggy September mornings greeted us as we stepped out the door to head down past the old cedar tree, which we called the cow shade tree, on our two and one half mile trek to Woodland School. An old lane that had been used to skid logs ran along the fence of the cow pasture, but we soon entered the trail through the woods, which curved and twisted its way to the gravel road. Addie, our great Dane, always led the way, He never allowed us to pass him. He took his duties seriously. Many nights we heard Dr. Oboe and his hounds camped at the sand pit chasing coyotes by the light of the moon. Their sounds permeated the night and sent the hair standing on your neck. Addie knew what lurked about us and he was our protector. Once we were out on the gravel road where there were some houses, he would leave us and return home.

That trail through the woods holds many memories, among them spider webs outlined by the morning dew. In the winter, snow weighing down the branches blocked our way until our older brother shook them so we could continue on the trail single file. In the spring we saw Johnnie jump-ups, trilliums, ginger leaves, wild currant in bloom, dogwood, deer tongue, Indian paint brush, tiger lilies, bleeding hearts, and moss turning fallen limbs and logs into peculiar shapes. There were also green tree frogs, rabbits, birds, squirrels and croaking frogs, which I was told if I picked one up I would get warts. Our mother had many bouquets of wild flowers we picked on our way home. Douglas fir, cedars, graceful hemlock, alder, and vine maples lined the path we had worn through the woods. When we got to the gravel road we would meet other kids on their way to school. Sometimes we waited for them, and other times we had to run to catch-up.

Fifteen minutes before classes started the school bell rang. It did not take long for everyone to sprint to the school yard so we could be lined up to march into class. On the way home the sun would get warmer and warmer until those jackets and coats, much needed in the morning, would come quickly off. Following the pipeline road we would always have Mt. Rainier in view. We pretended we were hiking all the way to the mountain, which in our imagination, became a huge ice-cream cone. When we became tired of walking we often trotted for a while, then walked some more. Then we did a short sprint and walked some more. It was always fun to come to a hill that we could run down with our slickers held high to catch the wind like a sail.

When we arrived at the trail, Addie was always waiting for us, and we could hear our mother calling, ”yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo.” We would answer in kind so she would know all was well.

I remember those days because they were filled with learning and adventure, most of the adventure provided by ourselves. The childhood friendships have remained all these years. The back twenty acres behind us is now a housing development, and a school bus takes the children to school. The adventures along the way to and from school are gone with our halcyon days.