Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Memories of May

Most of our teacher in grammar school had given up by May 15th. It was only a few days until summer break and testing had been completed so they spent most days trying to keep the roof on. We spent a lot of time outside.
My fourth grade teacher was Harley Hocutt. I think he was about three-quarters Native American with a thick black hair, dark eyes and a strong nose. He was the first male teacher any of us had ever had. He scared the crap out of us on day one so we got in line and stayed there all year. As it turns out he was an animated teacher that had a love for American history and geography. We learned by doing projects, taking field trips and studying maps for hours. He's probably the reason I love maps today. I've had a framed map on my wall for years and every so often my eyes will drift to the map - to the places I've been and the places to which I long to go.
Mr. Hocutt also loved basketball and by year's end, he had all the boys and girls dribbling, shooting and passing like the globe trotters. "You don't have to be the fastest or the most talented," he coached "just learn the fundamentals, learn to focus, and have fun."
One morning a few days before summer break, he decided to have a softball day so the class went out, divided up sides and played softball for most of the day. Mr. Hocutt was the umpire behind the plate. Danny was the batter and he foul-tipped a softball that screamed past the catcher, who was wearing a mask, to Mr. Hocutt who was not wearing a mask. The ball hit him squarely on the nose and an instant later blood was everywhere. Danny was horrified that he'd hurt Mr. Hocutt. Not because he was afraid of retribution, but because we had all grown to love our teacher.
Mr. Hocutt reached up and held his nose to stop the bleeding. Danny ran back to hug Mr. Hocutt around the waist and to apologize but he simply patted Danny on the back and said "I'm OK, son let's PLAY BALL." We were all relieved that he was not hurt badly.
He passed away a few years ago and I learned about it too late to attend his funeral. I really wish I had looked him up before he died and told him how much he meant to me and the kids there at Dora Elementary.
I drove by the old school grounds on Saturday and this story came to mind. I wanted to go out and shoot a few hoops but an arson burned the old school down many years ago and the playground is grown up with blackberry brambles and honeysuckle vines. So I just drove by slowly and in my mind replayed those old fond memories of May.

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