Dec 22 2008
08:08 am
By: WhitesCreek

By Ray Collett

Hello Readers, Last week we left off with David Sliger's (Class of 1954) tale from Pine Hill,Tn. where he spent his early childhood. Again, some of these characters just MIGHT strike a resemblance to our Rockwood friends and classmates from years ago. David's tale continues....
" Now, Smitty Groggins was 15 going on 16 that long winter and seemed like he never did get to finish a whole year of schooling. He had to drop out of school many days during the school year to work around the house cutting fire wood and helping his mama, while his daddy traveled around looking for work. This probably accounted for his being 15 and still in the sixth grade. he was a big strapping boy who stood a head higher than the rest of us sixth graders, but for sure Smitty was good-hearted with a shy grin, bashful as all get out and did not have a mean bone in his body.
Well, we rehearsed and rehearsed our bits of the play, which consisted mostly of memorizing various Bible verses about Jesus's birth. We would line up on the raised stage at one end of the school where Miz Kate's desk was, and recite our bits over and over until Miz Kate was satisfied. I recall that she coached and worked with Smitty especially hard. Smitty had a relatively short verse, I don't recall the exact book of the Bible it came from, where Jeses said ,"She Hath Done Her Best." Smitty rehearsed and spoke this simple verse a million times always grinning his shy grin when he got it right and Miz Kate would give him a smile and a big hug.
Finally the big day arrived. I made the fires (for which Miz Kate paid me a dollar a month) in the old wood stove in the school using coal the county furnished, and would go out in the nearby woods to gather and chop the kindling from mostly dead pines. This was always a good task to do and I never lacked for volunteers from my buddies to get a break from school to help me. I usually arrived at school a good hour before the rest of the students and Miz Kate to get the fire built and up and roaring time the rest arrived.
On the day of the Christmas play, I got to the school just as the winter sun was peeking over the eastern ridges and melting the rime frost off the jimson weeds and dead poke stalks growing around the school yard. I walked into the schoolhouse and was surprised to find Smitty already there. He greeted me with a big beaming smile, and immediately quoted his passage for the play: "She Hath Done Her Best." I saw that he had on a freshly washed pair of overalls and a checkered flannel shirt buttoned up tight around his neck. The worn, faded shirt was about three sizes too small for his big frame and the sleeves come up above his wrists, but it was clean as a pin and his mama had freshly ironed the shirt and his overalls with a stove-heated flatiron. His long, black hair was parted in the middle and plastered down and shining with the lard he had applied as hair tonic to keep it in place. I commented on how smart he looked and how he'd knock Mr. Hamontower for a loop when he recited his Bible verse during the Chrismas play. Smitty didn't answer; just stood there beaming with legs spread wide and his shoulders hunched up with hands shoved down in his overalls pockets.
We all settled down at our desks, and the folks commenced to crowd into the school right after dinner. About then we heard a car pulling up, and one of the kids commenced screaming,"Its Mister Hamontower, It's Mr. Hamontower ! " Miz Kate got everyone settled bak down with the adults standing lined up along the walls. Mr. Hamontowerwalked in and I saw he was a big, red-faced, rotund man wearing a three piece suit with a large gold chain hanging across his vest. His high top shoes were shined to a high gloss. He beamed at us kids and then walked around shaking hands with all the adults. he finally settled his big frame into one of the double desks at the front of the school and Miz Kate had all us kids in the play line up on the stage. our decorated Christmas tree was set up off the stage with all the Christmas sacks for the kids neatly placed under it. I lined up next to Smitty at the end of the line and could see that he was fidgety and nervous and kept on swallowing loud with his eyes flitting around the room. The heat upon the stage had melted the lard on his hair and some of it oozed down onto his shirt collar. I whispered to him that it was all right and he'd do just fine. I saw that Mr. Hamontower was peering close with raised eyebrows at the tall, ungainly form of Smitty up on the stage and looking so out of place with the rest of us.
Miz Kate stood off to one end of the stage and read from the Bible the story of the birth of Jesus and as she finished each passage of the scripture, we would in turn step forward and recite our verses and then step back in line. Everything went well and we were nearly through when it came time for Smitty to recite his verse. He stepped forward and stood there as awkward as a young mule, and about as big, and I saw that he was having a hard time with his recitation. Miz Kate smiled at him and urged him in a low whisper to quote the passage he had learned so well. It got still and quite in the old school room with the only noise coming from the fire crackling and snapping in the metal clad stove at the back of the room. Every eye was turned on the fretful and fidgeting Smitty. Mr. Hamontower was covering his mouth with a large hand trying to keep from laughing at the sight of the distraught Smitty. Finally Smitty regained his composure, and beaming wide, stepped forward on the stage, and blurted out in a loud voice that carried through the school like a fog horn..."SHE DONE ALL SHE COULD."
You could have heard a pin drop in the sudden silence following Smitty's discourse. I thought it was an excellent job, even if he had perhaps strayed from the original passage in the old King James Version Bible we kept in the school. As for Mr. Hammonfowler, he couldn't hold it in any longer and let loose with the loudest guffaw I ever heard. He rose from the desk and with tears streaming from his eyes, bent over slapping his leg as he continued with his outbursts of loud and raucous laughter.
The crestfallen Smitty made a long bound off the stage and flew out the school door in remorseful shame. I watched the laughing Mr. Hamontower in disgust not understanding how anybody could laugh at Smitty. All the parents and friends standing around the walls were looking embarrassed and frowning at the laughing Mr. Hamontower.
I stepped off the stage and went out the door following the galloping Smitty. I watched him cut off up the sagebrush hill behind the school and flop down to the ground. i slowly walked up through the tall, feathery stalks of sagebrush and found him there stretched out on the ground, belly down with his face cradled in his arms as he wept bitterly as only a 15 year old boy can who has been cut to the soul. I sat down beside him not saying a word, just sitting there in the knee-high brownish sage and silver rabbit tobacco as a cold, northerly wind rustled around and through the gullies grown up in sagebrush and blackberry vines. I looked skyward and saw stringy mares' tails of grayish clouds scudding across the sky blotting out the sun and bringing a wet feel of snow to the air. It was bitter cold up there on the windswept knoll and I buttoned my overall jumper around my neck. Smitty finally sat up and with his cold, red face set like stone, turned to me and said in the hard voice of a 50-year old man, "Mr. Hamontower didn't have nary call to laugh at me. I done the best I could on the Bible verse. I know I ain't the smartest feller in the sixth grade, but I done the best I could. You know, I doubt I'll ever again take part in a Christmas play."
Saying this, he got to his feet and without another word or look back towards the school wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve and headed out in a slow walk towards his home. i hollered out to him he hadn't got his Chrismas sack, but he never looked back or answered. He didn't even have a coat on and hunched his shoulders and leaned into the cold, blowing wind as he plodded on like an old man. I sat there till he faded into the cloudy mist lowering across the field.
I went back down to the schoolhouse, but all of the folks, - including Mr. Hamontower - had already left. Miz Kate was standing back by the stove with head bent and folded arms and avoided my eyes as i picked up my Christmas sack and told her goodbye. i knew she was crying, but I never let on as I stepped through the door and started on the long trek homeward.
Smitty never did come back to school after this, and Miz Kate in her wisdom and compassion, drew up a diploma attesting that mr. Smitty Groggins had graduated with honors from the sixth grade at Pine Hill School, Bradley County, Tennessee in the Year of our Lord, 1949. She personally delivered this diploma to Smitty's home in her black Chevrolet the week following Christmas.
I don't recall laying eyes on Smitty again after that sad Christmas time, but in the years intervening there has never a Christmas occurred that I don't recall those long ago years and the cruel derisive laughter of Mr Hamontower ringing out in the schoolroom when Smitty quoted his part in the play about the birth of Jesus: " She Done All She Could."
Which when you think about it, pretty much sums up a lot in this old world.
Thanks David, I know the readers will enjoy your Christmas story.. Gennell and I want to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and until next week.....Ray
The "Rockwood Memories" books, BOTH Volume One and the new one, Rockwood Memories Volume Two are now out at "Shacks", Yonder Hollow, "Gail Score's Western Apparel" (next to Junior's Restaurant) and at David Webb's "Rocky Top General Store, in Harriman. Thanks

If "grown ups" would just

If "grown ups" would just stop and think about how their words or actions affect little ones, this world might not have so many problems.
The one thing I remember about one of my teachers in grade school was how she called me to the front of the class during a a health class that included social skills and pointed out to the class how my shirt didn't match my pants! It was my favorite striped shirt and I had worn them with my favorite paisley pants that day!
It was embarrassing to say the least but it stuck with me all these years and I NEVER wear outfits that don't match now!

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