Monday, March 30, 2009

How I Became Student Body President of Pocatello High

When I was a sophomore at Pocatello (hereafter referred to as "Poky") High School, the student body president was Stan Spicer. Stan was that rare athlete who was not only good at athletics and, hence, popular, but also genuinely humble and, hence, even more popular. At the time the president of the United States was Dwight Eisenhower--a popular war hero. I mention this because in a way their positions were analogous, i. e. both were popular heros who proved to be well-liked and admired as politicians. If Stan Spicer was the Dwight Eisenhower of Poky High, then his vice president, Steve Pugmire, was the Richard Nixon--not only because he was the vice president, but because, like Nixon, he was a thoroughgoing politician. His whole extra-curricular focus was school politics, and he planned, as one would expect, to become one in real life after first getting a law degree.
Steve succeeded Stan as student body president, and his vice-president, Raymond Scheele, was cut out of the same mold as himself. He had, like Steve, been very active in school politics from the time he entered high school, and probably even at his junior high, and he planned to make a career out of politics. It was also assumed that he would succeed Steve as student body president. Indeed, it looked like we were in for a long run of career politicians as presidents.
The day that it was announced that nominating petitions for student body officers were due in a couple of days, I was walking from a class in the main building to one in the gym building when Nancy Robinson came up to me and said, "See this?’ She showed me a sheet of paper attached to a clip board. "This", she announced, not waiting for my response, probably realizing that since I had become to vain to wear my glasses, that there was no way I could see what it was anyway, "is a petition to run you for student body president. Several of us are out getting people to sign these petitions." I really don’t remember what I said. I’m sure it was something very profound, very wise, and, above all, very humble. Actually, what I probably said was, "you’re kidding, of course." But whatever I said, she assured me that I was being placed on several petitions to be the next student body president.
At this point, I think I should try to explain why anyone would even think of putting me up for student body president. Of course, whenever I would mention, as when I was in college I did on many occasions, that I had been student body president of Pocatello High School, everyone to whom I mentioned it assumed that what had happened was that the five or six members of the senior class gathered in a circle and someone passed out straws and the person with the longest straws became student body president, the person with the next longest became senior class president and so on until it got down to the person with shortest straw who became school mascot. But actually, it wasn’t like that at all. At that time there was, as I think I pointed out in a previous article, only one high school in Pocatello which was the second largest city in the state of Idaho. Now, although Boise was bigger, it had more than one high school, so we sere the largest in the entire state of Idaho. Now, of course, it being Idaho that was still no great shakes, but still we had too many people to decide school officers with a simple straw pull, at least two or three times too many. What I am saying is that you had to do something to distinguish yourself before you could expect to be chosen, or even be chosen by your friends, to be student body president. I did two things.
Well, actually, the first and most important thing I did, I didn’t do at all, my parents did. Of course, I am certainly not the first person, nor, I suspect, will I be the last, to ride into an important public office because of something his/her parents did. What my parents did was have my sister just one year after me, so she was a sophomore when I was a junior. She was in her own right, popular, and that helped, of course, but the thing that really put it over was that she was very outgoing. It used to bother me at times that she was so outgoing, because I sometimes thought it was a bit embarrassing, but, trust me, if you are thinking of running for a school office, or even if your friends are thinking of running you for that office, having a very outgoing sister just a year younger than you is an enormous asset. But even that would not have done the trick were it not for the fact that early in my junior year, dad had purchased a book entitled "Braude’s Book of Humor. Now it would be very helpful to this whole story if I could say that it was my idea, but since my sister is still around to set the record straight, I’m going to say that I’m not sure whose idea it was, but one of us got the idea to try out as joint MC’s for the school traveling assembly.
Now the person who chose the MC or MC’s for the traveling assembly was the choir teacher, Mr. Gabbard, which you might have thought would give me an advantage seeing as how I was in the choir. Unfortunately, I was a bass who every time the basses had to sing a note above middle C, which was quite often, I could only make it by going into falsetto and whenever I did that Mr. Gabbard would give me a stern look and rather often would add his lecture about singing from the midsection. "A bass who has to sing high should never strain his vocal cords, he should sing from his midsection. By the time choir is over every bass should be sweating because he has had to work his midsection so hard." Well, I never could figure the midsection thing out so I continued to get dirty looks.
The other problem was that the people trying out for MC were more popular than we were and many had had experience in that sort of thing. Nevertheless, Loni was undaunted and so we worked up a routine using jokes from Braude’s book and a few that I threw in from some old Archie and Jughead comic books, admittedly, pretty corny.
Well, at tryouts, I was as nervous as a cat. First, the Anderson twins--two very popular identical twin boys, got up and told a joke, that I thought was pretty funny and I couldn’t help but notice, so did Mr. Gabbard. The joke depended on the fact that they were identical in appearance. After telling the joke, they simply said that if they were chosen they would tell some more just like that, only even funnier.
After the Andersons, Fred Wynn tried out, but he didn’t even bother to have a joke, depending, I think on popularity and the fact that he had been in some plays. I can’t remember who else tried out, but we were last.
Admittedly, we were the best prepared--in two ways. First, we actually had a routine, and second, Loni had gotten several of her friends to come as a sort of cheering squad. It was the cheering squad that did the trick. After every joke they simply roared. Some of the jokes were so corny that they didn’t know when to roar, but they roared anyway--usually when we were only half-way through the joke. But you would have thought that we were the funniest thing to come along since Will Rogers, in fact, if an executive of CBS had been there, I suspect that he would have canceled Jack Benny’s contract and turned his show over to us.
The result was that we got the job. The further result was that I got what in advanced political circles is known as "exposure", which is very helpful; indeed, almost necessary if you want to run for an important political office.
But I would hate for anyone to think that I depended on the result entirely on my parents and sister. My own contribution, and, I believer, looking back, that it was substantial, came about because somewhere toward the end of my sophomore year I noticed the truth, first enunciated by Dorothy Parker, that girls seldom make passes at boys who were glasses. If the glasses are thick, which mine were, you can replace the "seldom" with "never", so I simply stopped wearing my glasses. This created another problem, however. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I did have a few and those few became somewhat miffed when I passed them in the hall without so much as an acknowledgment that I knew them. This, of course, occurred because I couldn’t see them. To remedy this situation I simply started waving and saying "hi" to everyone in the hall. At first I thought I would be considered a nut because I was waving at people I didn’t even know, but I soon learned that most high school students are as socially insecure as I was and they didn’t mind at all being waved at, even by a stranger. So I became known as someone who was extremely friendly. Now if you want to be popular, especially with the "in" crowd, this is no asset, but if you want to run for an office, it is.
Now the result of all of this was that, of the five or six candidates in the primary, Ray Scheele and I made the finals. Of course, you are probably thinking, having made the finals, I was faced with having to give a campaign speech. Actually, by this time in my life, I was pretty comfortable doing public speaking. The real problem was that it is sort of expected in a campaign speech that you will make promises about what you will do. My quandary was, not having the foggiest notion of what the student body president, or anyone else in student government for that matter, was supposed to do, I had not a clue as to what I should, or could, reasonably promise to do. I solved this rather sticky dilemma by again referring to Braude’s book, selecting four or five of what I considered his best jokes that Loni and I had not already used in our MC routine, and using that as my speech, concluding with the promise that I would do my best to do whatever I did do. I was very careful to leave out any reference to intellectuality or making any promises about doing my best to be intelligent, which I had learned from previous experience, is more or less like promising to bring the spinach to the party--it simply doesn’t put you at the top of list, which, of course, if you are running for an office is where you want to be.
Well, as you might expect, Ray Scheele gave a wonderful talk outlining all of the things that he planned to do and I, well I described my talk above. I was very impressed with Ray’s talk and as I remember, I voted for him myself and almost everyone in my class did likewise. However, I won the election, the reason being that Loni got almost everyone in her class, in spite of my talk, to vote for me, and the seniors, who probably should not have been allowed to vote at all, also voted for me, probably reasoning that they appreciated my jokes, and since they wouldn’t be around to appreciate Ray’s program decided to vote for something they could appreciate.
Ray was elected Senior Class President in the class elections in the fall. As might be expected I did not make a very good student body president. Fortunately, the discontent over my poor performance did not spill over into actual physical violence. It may have, however, at the class graduation banquet where I was to give a speech. I do not think the thing would have come to actual bodily harm, but I think that a few of the more malcontents were preparing themselves with over-ripe tomatoes and rotten eggs, but, as luck would have it, the morning of the banquet I was thrown from a horse which left me with such a severe limp that even the malcontents felt sorry for me. However, on the occasion of the 10 year reunion, I no longer had access to horses, and I suspected that even if I had, the years of anticipation of some kind of reprisal, might make even getting thrown again from a horse of little avail. So even though I was in town, I decided to let prudence be the better part of valor, and skip the reunion. After all, Pocatello High had some pretty big bruisers when I went there.
I really don’t remember why I missed the twenty year reunion. By that time I was finally married, but just, so I may have been thinking that, although I hoped Shauna (my wife) didn’t marry me only because I had been student body president, I probably decided that just in case, it might be better to let the thing go by rather than have her find out I had muffed it. I did, however, fully intend to be at the 30 year reunion, but it turns out our family had a reunion at the same time, and by that time I had, not only a wife, but several children, all of whom, including the wife, voted for the family, as opposed to the class, reunion.
But at the 40th reunion, I was there. Ray Scheele was there also and when he saw me, he came up and we embraced. After all those years, all was forgiven, but he did say, "How come you never come to the reunions?" He then just laughed.
When I think back on the experience, I sometimes feel that it was a good thing I was elected after all. At the end of the year, Mrs. Rice, who was the student government advisor told me that I had been one of her very favorite student body presidents. Besides being the advisor to student government, she also taught government classes, and like most who do, she was a liberal who believed as most of them do, in the adage, "That government governs best that governs most." But interestingly enough, where student government was concerned, she outdid even Thomas Jefferson, believing essentially that. "student government governs best that governs not at all". Which explains why I was such a favorite. Had Ray Scheele, on the other hand been elected, who knows what might have happened. Ray went on to get his doctorate and teach political science at Ball State University, and like most political science professors, he was caste very much in the "governs most" mode, but, unlike Mrs. Rice, he carried it over to student government, in fact, you could say he was--as concerns student government--in the "governs most, and then some" camp. I like to rationalize my own experience by reflecting on Calvin Coolidge--one of my favorite presidents--and his most famous saying, "The business of America’s student governments is nobody’s business."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My First Campaign

The First Campaign
I was just getting used to the switch from attending Jr. high (at Franklin Junior High) to attending High School (at the time about which I write everyone in Pocatello attended high school at Pocatello High School, the school board at that time not giving anyone much choice), when they announced that nominations for Sophomore class officers would have to be turned in the next day. I didn’t think that the announcement much concerned me since I was about the shyest kid in the class and had done nothing in the way of athletics or, for that matter, in anything else to distinguish myself. In my second or third class, however, my friend, Clark Bartley, came up to me and announced that he had turned in my name to run for the representative from the class to serve in the school Senate. "Why on earth did you do that?", I asked wondering whether to be piqued or flattered. "I don’t know anything about school politics and there is no way I could get elected."
"What this school needs," Clark explained, "is more intellectuals in student government. Now I have a plan that will get you elected. All you have to do is get past the primary and I will write a speech for you that will knock the socks off the kids in the class. After you give your campaign speech, they will never vote for anyone but an intellectual again."
"Speech," I protested, "you mean I have to give a speech? Forget it!"
"Well, of course, if you get past the primary, you have to give a speech. I’m counting on that to get you elected."
"Well," I said (and I said it very emphatically), "you can forget the whole thing. I am not giving any speech. I hate it when I have to speak in Sunday School, and I wouldn’t do it then if Mom or Loni (my sister) didn’t write them out for me. I just read them, but I am not going to get up in front of the entire Sophomore class and make a fool of myself reading a speech."
"Well, if you feel that way about it," Clark reassured me, "I’ll give your campaign speech for you. Since I’m your campaign manager anyway, I’m sure they won’t mind. Most of the time the actual campaign speeches are given by the campaign managers. They actually write all the speeches but sometimes the candidate gives one or two in the course of the campaign when he has had time to memorize the speech the campaign manager has written for him, but we don’t have time for than. I’ll give the speech."
"Are you sure that is going to be OK?" I demanded skeptically.
"Oh sure. In junior high things are different, but in high school most of the speeches are given by campaign managers, just like in the real world."
Reluctantly, I agreed to go along with this arrangement, mostly, I think because I was pretty sure I would never get past the primary. I mean, besides Clark and a few other close friends, nobody even knew who I was.
At this point I think I should explain how Clark came to think of me as an intellectual in the first place. Of course, there were the glasses, but they didn’t impress Clark. What actually happened was a few months earlier I had accompanied him to the college where he took his private tutoring lessons in calculus from a professor known as "Captain Brown". I sat outside Captain Brown’s office and read while Clark took his lesson. After the lesson Clark and the Captain came out and the Captain (he was retired military) asked Clark to introduce his friend. "Oh, this is my friend< Merrill." Then he added, "He’s none to bright--especially in math."
"Well math isn’t’ everything. What are you reading, Merrill?"
I proudly displayed my book, "The Three Musketeers", I replied. I say proudly, because normally I would have been reading the Hardy Boys, but I felt since I would be at the University I should have something at a little higher literary level
"That’s one of my favorite books!" Captain Brown exclaimed (I later found out that he had donated a large collection of Alexandre Dumas novels to the University library). "Your friend is as intelligent in literature as you are in math, Clark, and I’m not sure I would put one above the other." With this compliment I moved up considerably on the intellectual scale--at least in Clark’s eyes.
Two days later, at the beginning of home room, which for me was PE, the principal announced that Sophomores would be voting for class officers during home room and that our teachers would be writing the names of the candidates on the board and we were to make our choices on our own paper and turn in the "ballots". The teachers were to tally the results and turn them into the office. My PE class, which consisted of about 70 or 80 boys, was team taught by Wally Kelly and Ernie Sheurman. Mr. Sheurman had been the star of the local semi-pro baseball team a few years earlier, but had retired to teaching. I had actually seen him hit a home run during the one game to which my father had taken me as a boy. He was quiet, but firm and a wonderful teacher. Mr. Kelly, on the other hand, was very outspoken, and usually took charge of the class until we got into the actual activities. We called him "General No-Toes" because as a soldier in the Korean war the toes on one foot had become frostbitten and had to be amputated. On hearing the announcement of the election, he merely muttered, "Oh H---"(which was a no-no back then, but a no-no that he committed fairly often), "Mr. Sheurman will take care of that when he gets back from the equipment room."
Mr. Sheurman, probably oblivious to his newly delegated responsibility, went on with class as normal until toward the end of the period a boy walked up to him and said, "They sent me from the office to get your election results. You are the only class that hasn’t turned them in."
"Wally," he muttered, "I thought you were going to take care of that."
"Oh D---"(another no-no), "I completely forgot. I’ll do it now." He read off the list of candidates for class president. "Any of those guys in this class?" No one raised their hands. "Anyone know any of them?" A couple of boys named a friend. "Alright," the General barked, "who wants this kid’s friend for class president?’ Several hands went up. He quickly counted them. "I’ll assume that the rest of you want the other guy’s friend for class president." He went through the other officers in similar manner. It became clear that we actually only had the choice between the two candidates (usually of about 5 or six) that were known to someone in our class. Finally he came to the contest for senator. He read the list and as before barked out, "Any of those guys in this class"" Hesitantly, I raised my hand. "Oh good, finally a candidate in our class. What’s your name." I told him. "Anyone in this class who doesn’t want his fellow classmate, Merrill Gee, for class senator?" he asked with a note of defiance. No one raised their hand. "Glad to see your spirit of class loyalty." Having thus given us our opportunity to participate in democracy in action, the General dismissed the class.
At the first of the next period the winners in the primary were announced and I was relieved that I was not among their number. However, at the end of the second period the loudspeaker again came on. "Some of the results came in late. The late results did not alter the line-up of candidates in any of the races except for class senator. Merrill Gee will be added to the list of candidates for class senator. We will simply add his name and there will be an extra candidate in that race in the final election." The people, exercising there freedom to vote as they chose, had spoken. I was to be a candidate after all.
Needless to say I was very nervous. The whole "campaign manager bit" sounded a bit fishy to me, but Clark assured me that it would be OK. All I would need to do would be to stand by the podium while he delivered his speech, which, he felt, would make William Jennings Bryan’s fabled Cross of Gold speech sound hollow. After that speech, Clark assured me, my election was a sure thing and with an intellectual senator the school would finally be in good hands and the rousing success of our school year would be assured.
I was still nervous. I went home a stood in front of the mirror trying to look as intellectual as possible. I had to admit that without the glasses there was absolutely no hope. Fortunately, my father, always one with a sharp eye for a bargain, had purchased the glasses with the cheapest frames and I had to admit, even though I hated the glasses myself, that they definitely looked like a pair of glasses that Socrates or Aristotle would have worn if they had been around to wear them.
Two days later I stood along with all the other candidates off stage preparing for our respective entrances. I was somewhat less nervous than the others, because, of course, Clark was there to give my speech for me, but I was still pretty nervous wondering if I could look as intellectual as the situation required. Mr. Gooch, the school counselor, always cheerful and encouraging, read off the list of candidates and had each hold up his hand when his name was called. Having completed the list he turned to Clark, "And who, pray tell, are you?"
"Oh, I’m Merrill’s campaign manager. I’m going to give his speech."
"Campaign manager? Whoever heard of a campaign manager in a school election? No one is going to give someone else’s speech."
"But he’s not prepared. That’s not fair."
"That’s true," I agreed vehemently, "I’m not and it will be terrible if I have to speak."
"Nonsense," Mr. Gooch said, trying to be stern and yet encouraging, but obviously amused, "you’ll do just fine. Now I don’t want to hear any more about someone else giving someone else’s speech and that’s final!" With that Clark sat down on the floor obviously dejected.
When it was my turn to speak I stepped out, shaking. "If I’m elected," I promised in a tremulous tone of voice, "I will do my very best to do my best." With that I realized that I had said all I had to say--and then some, but remembering Clark, I added, "What this school needs is more intellectuals in student government. There is a definite lack of the intellectual element in our student legislature. If I am elected, therefore, I promise I will try to be as intelligent as possible. Thank you." With that I bowed and dashed off-stage. I hardly dared look at Clark.
"See, just as I said, your friend did a great job, " Mr. Gooch said to Clark as we all headed back to class.
Anyone reading this sketch, will hardly be surprised to hear that, as is so often the case in American political life, the intellectual candidate in that election went down to a crushing defeat.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Going to Pocatello High School I--the great speech

For the next couple of blog entries I am going to return to the spirit of some of my earlier blogs about growing up in Pocatello and tell about some of my high school experiences.

I was always rather shy, something did not bother me much until I reached 9th grade. It was then that I noticed that girls were not much attracted to shy guys--or at least, so it seemed to me. My father was a lawyer and seemed not shy at all. I determined that it must have been the fact that he was a good public speaker that got him over any shyness he may have had, so I determined to become a good public speaker. Hence, I began to volunteer to give talks in Church, took a speech class in high school, and entered a couple of speech contests. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I rated myself as a pretty good public speaker.
Like all sophomores at Poky High, I was required to take a biology class. There were two biology teachers--Mr. Whitmore, who was considered a biology fanatic, and Mr. Glendiman, who was considered, when he was considered at all, a pushover. Fortunately, not being much interested in biology anyway, I drew Mr. Glendiman. Mr. Glendiman was an elderly man, large of stature, but very leisurely of habit, and very--even extremely— short of sight. He had glasses whose lenses resembled the proverbial coke-bottle bottoms more than any others I have ever seen. His easy-going nature and his near-sighedness resulted in his being taken advantage of most terribly, I thought. He would take the role at the beginning of the class, but shortly thereafter many of the students would reseat themselves toward the back of the room and then when he had his back turned writing on the board, simply leave class. Later, if he called on someone who had left, a friend would call out, "He got sick" or " she had to go to the office", or, more often than not there would be no response at all. I doubt that it was as bad in his other classes as it was in mine, but since ours was the last class of the day, there was an irresistable temptation for many in the class to get away from school early. Mr. Glendiman knew, of course, what was going on more than most of the class members gave him credit for, but I think he felt that he was about to retire and it was not worth making a great fuss about if some class members decided to sneak out. Of course, if he called on them and they didn’t respond, then they simply lost class participation credit.
Mr. Glendiman decided that the best way to cover our section on conservation would be to assign class members to give a five minute verbal presentation on any aspect of the subject they chose and hope that the class members would choose enough diverse topics that we would get a good over-view of the subject. He gave us an entire week to prepare our presentations, but the whole thing totally slipped my mind until I was sitting in geometry class--the class I had before my biology class. At first I was in a state of shock, bordering on panic, but shortly a calming wave of rationilization swept over me. "I’m a really experienced public speaker," I assured myself. "I’ll just wing it. I will simply wax eloquent on the tragedy of the disappearing buffalo and explain how a good conservation program would have prevented the tragedy." With my speech thus adequaltely prepared I allowed my mind to return to the complexities of geometry.
As I actually entered Mr. Glendiman’s class I became a bit nervous about my presentation and was, therefore, relieved to discover that he intended to spend the first part of the period finishing a previous unit. After he had taken role--there were, as usual, many students absent, but no non-responses, since friends of the truants responded "here". I delayed the speeches as much as I dared by asking several questions, but finally, about half=way through the class period, Mr. Glendiman said, "I think that we’ve covered that unit enough. Now let’s begin with your speeches."
It actually looked like I might be given a reprieve, because the very first girl he called on actually had a speech prepared. It was a sort of capsule history of Yellowstone Park. It was short of the required five minutes, but it obviously had been prepared in advance because she read it verbatim. He then called on several others, who either responded with "Not prepared" or failed to respond altogether. I became very nervous as he was getting very close to my name. Just before me, however, was Ralph Harper. Ralph was, next to myself, the most diligent student in the class, which, in that class, meant that he was prepared about half the time. I expected, therefore, that he would be prepared, but I was in for a surprise--not only was he prepared, but he was prepared like a law student facing his first real jury. He had charts, pictures, graphs, and a speech so well rehearsed that it sounded like he was entering a contest. Suddenly, my planned harangue on the disappearing buffalo palled into insignificance and I prayed fervently that I might be given a day’s grace in which to prepare.
To my relief, he skipped over my name. Obviously, I was to be the grand finale, but since there was only about five minutes left in the class, I felt a surge of gratitude and relief. Surely, even in that class there would be at least one other person prepared.
No such luck. Mr. Glendiman read through the entire rest of the role with no takers. He layed down the role and said, "Well, that’s it. We’ll now hear from Merrill. We know he’s prepared."
Trying to look as confident as possible, I walked to the front of the room and launched into my speech. "We all know how terribly important conservation is," I began. "A tragic example of the lack of an adequate conservation program can be seen in the buffalo, which, due to lack of conservation, is almost extinct."
With a shock, I realized that I had just delivered the prepared part of my speech. The rest went something like this. "We used to have buffalo everywhere in this country--especially on the plains, but even in the mountains and other places too, but what happened? People starting killing buffalo right and left. They should have known that they needed a conservation program to save the buffalo, but they didn’t and now we hardly have any buffalo."
I paused as if to let this terrible truth sink in. What I was actually doing was hoping for some kind of inspiration. It came in the form of a book title I had seen my grandfather reading. "Most of you have heard of Zane Grey’s book--or possibly you saw the movie, "The Thundering Herd". Why did that herd thunder? Because there were thousands--probably millions of buffalo thundering and thundering." Of course, I had neither read the book or seen the movie--if there was a movie--so I had no idea if the thundering herd refered to horses, cattle, or even goats, but I hoped that it was refering to buffalo or that everyone in the class--especially, Mr. Glendiman, didn’t know either. "And," I continued with an increasing tone of desperation in my voice, "why did we need all those buffalo? I’ll tell you why. People depended on them for food and clothes. A hungry Indian would put his ear to the ground and hear the millions of buffalo thundering thundering toward him and he knew he would have food and a new buffalo robe and buffalo skin for his tepee and he would smile. But now what does he do? Because we had no conservation program, he cries. When was the last time you saw a tepee made from buffalo skins? And why? Because just at the time when we needed a conservation program we didn’t have one." I paused again, mostly because my voice was getting as high pitched as the top of the buffalo-skin tepee.
I was about to throw in the towel when I suddenly got a flash of inspiration. "Not only the buffalo, but the passenger pigeon and some kind of wild duck. Buffalo, passenger pigeons and special kinds of wild duck were common in this country. You saw them everywhere--on every prairie, on every mountainside, almost in every town and even on the streets. And what do we have now? Not a buffalo, not even a passenger pigeon or a wild duck in sight.There were plenty of them to enjoy and everyone loved having them around, but they’re all gone now. And why? We just didn’t have the conservation program we needed in time to save the passenger pigeon, the wild duck and, above all, the buffalo."
At that point the bell rang and never was a sound so welcome. "I’m afraid you’ll have to stop," Mr. Glendiman interjected. Then hastily added, "The three who gave their presentations get "A"’s the rest of you fail the assignment. Class dismissed."
I dived for my desk, grabbed my books and bee-lined as fast as I could out of the class and out the front door. I headed for the most secluded spot I could find--behind the gym building, hoping that no one would see me. I sat down to pein away the time until the bus came, wondering how I was ever going to face my classmates again. I was sitting there brooding, when a familiar voice sounded behind me. "Say that was a pretty good speech." I turned to see that Ralph Harper had followed me to my spot of seclusion.
"It didn’t sound too bad?" I asked hoping that it might not have been as bad as I thought.
"Didn’t sound bad at all." He reassured me. He paused for a moment to let his assurance sink in, then he added, "And you sure were right about one thing."
"Oh yeah? What was that," I asked hopefully.
He raised his hand to his forehead as though he were a hunter scanning the horizon, "Not a buffalo in sight." With that he laughed and ran off leaving me all the more to wonder how I was ever going to face my classmates again.