... on an earlier life
Winter is past... let us enjoy April now. But those of us old enough will enjoy April all the more when we remember the winters of our youth. And the winter just past in Melrose, Massachusetts gave us little weather worth remembering.
Instead of snow, all we had were a few unpleasant days of sloppiness underfoot, with the rest of the winter hiding elsewhere. In the city of Buffalo, N.Y., perhaps, with seven feet of snow. In my memory it was not Buffalo... I was born right here in Melrose, but grew up in the then small country town of Carlisle, Mass. It had a population of about 500, more cows than people, more chickens than cows, and one fragrant pig farm. The livestock left years ago, and now Carlisle has been discovered by those with enough money to set up themselves for luxurious country living, with plenty of space, located close to Boston, and a school system that ranks #1 on the entire list of Massachusetts' elementary schools.
Always I think of the contrast when I see the Melrose children trudging to their nearby school. In Carlisle, we needed miles of transportation from our homes to the one four-room schoolhouse on a hill near the center of town. Carlisle's school system is much larger today, of course, with a modern schoolhouse and an up-to-date school transportation system. But today's transportation never could match that which I enjoyed in the first four grades of the Carlisle Elementary School. Carlisle's modern transportation system needs hundreds of internal combustion horsepower. My childhood transportation to school needed only two horsepower: a pair of farm horses.
Twice per day the two horses did their job without complaint, pulling a strange conveyance which could hold as many as a dozen passengers. The horses were quiet and obedient. We school kids were not. The threat to make us walk if we were not quiet would work only for a while. Nobody ever had to walk, but I came close to it a few times.
I've forgotten most of what went on during those first four years of school. But I do remember clearly a January when we had about three feet of snow, blown into drifts all day Saturday and Sunday. There was no thought of cancelling school, of course. But how could that awkward horse-drawn school bus make it through the drifts? No problem. Sure enough, the two horses and driver showed up right on time Monday morning, pulling an over-sized farm wagon on runners, able to float over the drifts instead of forcing its way through them. We even had plenty of clean straw on the floor of the wagon. That time, we rode to school and home again in style.
And now you know why it is that when I see the Melrose youngsters trudging to their nearby school, I find myself whispering, "You don't know what you're missing!"
April 5, 2002