Practicing for the Christmas program at our country school began shortly after Thanksgiving break. It was serious business as the school Christmas program was one of the main social events of the year in our central Wisconsin farm community. Everyone attended, parents, relatives, and neighbors, no matter if they had children attending the school or not. Every student performed on the stage, from the youngest first grader, to the oldest, eighth grader.
I remember my first program; I was five years old in first grade, all decked out in a new flannel shirt and newer bib overalls, and scared out of my wits. The school room, lighted with two gasoline lamps, and overheated with a big wood burning stove, was filled with people—standing room only.
It was my turn to “say my piece” a little ditty about winter, as I recall. I had memorized it and memorized it again. I recited it to our cows, and to the chickens when I helped with chores. No complaints. I recited it to my mother who nodded her approval—I did not share it with my twin brothers. What did they know about good performance, they were only three years old?
I did what Miss Piechowski told me: stand up straight, keep my hands out of pockets, use my outside voice—and stare at the stovepipe in the back of room. That was my secret weapon to avoid forgetting my lines when my fellow students crossed their eyes and stuck out their tongues, trying to unnerve me so I would.
It worked. I remembered. I said my piece. Everyone clapped. And I have been searching for stovepipes to stare at ever since.
CHECK THIS OUT: Want to learn more about fictional Ames County, Wisconsin? Go to my website, www.jerryapps.com, and learn about my four novels, all based in this special county. The first is The Travels of Increase Joseph and the most recent is Cranberry Red.
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: (From an old country school reader): All that you do, do with all your might. Things done by half, are never done right.
December 13, 11:00 to 2:00 p.m. Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts, Westby. Book signing for Barns of Wisconsin, Horse Drawn Days, and Cranberry Red. (December 4 appearance canceled because of snow.)
December 16, 7:00 p.m. Stoughton Library. (Previous week’s program canceled because of weather).
January 6, 2011, 5:30 p.m. Lacrosse Library Friends dinner meeting.