Several years ago, my family watched “Star Trek, Wrath of Khan”—the one where the evil Khan puts carnivorous leeches in the ears of his prisoners, and they crawl in and eat the prisoner’s brains! This was possibly a little too scary for my kids, because the next day in school, my older son, age 10, announced that he was going to make a new weapon out of snails and jello, and was planning to bring it to school the next day, in a baggie.
My poor kid. He was thinking about brain eating alien leeches wielded by Ricardo Montalban in a leather thong, and the schools are dealing with assault weapons. Thus, five minutes later, he was suspended for using the word "weapon." It is really sad that our teachers and administrators are no longer permitted to use their own common sense, such as teaching kids to identify things that are an actual threat to their safety, and things that are, in all likelihood, not. Snails and jello together in a baggie—unless I am just hopelessly behind the times!—fall into this category.
Farmer Boy was faced with a very real threat at school, and the way the adults coped with it was something he remembered for the rest of his life:
Five big boys were scuffling in the snow by the the path. Almanzo was frightened when he saw them…They were the big boys from Hardscrabble Settlement, and everybody was afraid of them. These big boys were sixteen and seventeen years old, and they came to school only in the middle of the winter term. The came to thrash the teacher and break up school. They boasted that no teacher could finish winter term in that school, and no teacher ever had….Almanzo felt sick when he thought about how to big boys would beat Mr. Corse.
After school, Mr. Corse comes home with Almanzo and his brother and sisters to take his turn boarding at the Wilder’s . Almanzo’s father tells Mr. Corse that the previous winter, the teacher, Jonas Lane, had later died as a result of the beating he received from the five boys from Hardscrabble Settlement. Mr. Corse says, “I know. Jonas Lane was my friend.”
The next day at school, the big boys make their move on Mr. Corse:
The door banged pen, and Big Bill Ritchie swaggered in. The other big boys were behind him.
“Come on, boys!” He rushed up the aisle. Almanzo felt sick inside; he didn’t want to watch, but he couldn’t help it….Mr Corse stepped away from his desk. His hand came from behind the desk lid, and a long, thin, black streak hissed through the air. It was a blacksnake ox-whip, fifteen feet long. Mr Corse held the short handle, loaded with iron, that could kill an ox. The thin, long lash coiled around Bill’s legs, and Mr. Corse jerked. Bill lurched and almost fell. Quick as black lightning the lash jerked and circled and struck and coiled again, and again Mr. Corse jerked…Bill’s trousers were cut through, his shirt was slashed, and his arms were bleeding from the bite of the lash. He began to bawl like a calf. He blubbered and begged. ….The other big boys had got the window open. One, two, three, they jumped out into the deep snow and floundered away.
That night at supper, Almanzo’s father says:
“The boys didn’t throw you out, Royal tells me,”
“No,” said Mr. Corse, “Thanks to your blacksnake whip.”
Almanzo stopped eating. He sat and looked at Father. Father had known, all the time. Almamzo was sure that father was the smartest man in the world, as well as the biggest and strongest.
I don’t really wish my kids were going to school in the 1880’s—pre anti-biotics, vaccines, and child labor laws. But I do wish they could witness a little more common sense.