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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Accent (02/21/13)

TITLE: McGuffey Reader Memoir
By Pam Ford Davis
02/27/13


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As a Montana schoolmarm, I fight melancholy. I’m from one of Boston’s most aristocratic families, meaning nothing to people who have never traveled more than fifty miles from their birthplace. I’m an outsider with no one in which to confide.

Yet, I cannot renege on my pledge to God to instill knowledge in impressionable young minds. As Mr. Hankins, owner of the mercantile, would say, “By cracky that’s just what I’m gonna’ do!”

“Children open your McGuffey Readers. Today we will continue our study on the proper use of accented syllables.”

Twelve-year-old William rolls his eyes, stretches lanky legs under his desk and slowly reaches inside for his tattered book. Placing it atop the desk, he leafs through pages and looks upward at instructions on the blackboard.

“Turn to page thirty and copy the list of words onto your slates. After completion of that task, divide the words into syllables and underline syllables that you would accent. You have twenty minutes to complete your assignment. After you have finished, turn your slates over.”

I will never adjust to the irritating squeaking of chalk on slate. The class of fifteen does their work hastily. I announce recess and they head outside for swinging, jumping rope, and games of ball or marbles.

Collecting slates, I stack them on my desk and begin to grade student’s work. As a fledgling teacher, I find satisfaction in seeing how many have accurately worked with syllables.

Deborah, a strawberry-blonde in ringlets, with brown eyes and freckled nose, peers through an opened window.

“Teacher, can I ring the bell when recess ends?”

“Yes, you may now ring the bell.”

I view her standing tiptoe to pull the bell’s hemp rope. Smiling like a Cheshire cat, she watches classmates scurrying past her. Freddy, the class bully pulls her hair, as he kicks up dust, before coming inside. Wincing, she drops the rope.

“Freddy, I saw you pull Deborah’s hair; apologize this instant!”

He shuffles his feet on plank flooring as he approaches Deborah. In humiliation, he gruffly says, “I’m sorry I pulled your hair.”

“Class, I’m dismissing you early today because I have a meeting with the school board. I will see you Monday morning.”

Hearing the surprise of an early end of class time, boys and girls join in unison.

“Good bye, Miss Dunster!”

The room empties as my mind fills with anxiety.

Have parents complained? Will school board members terminate me?

Trembling, I gather my books and place them inside Grandmother’s tapestry satchel. I straighten my gray brocade suit and reach back to adjust braided hair. Sitting rigidly in a straight back chair, I hear footsteps coming up outside stairs. I rise.

Three school board representatives file through the opened door, and down the aisle.

“Good afternoon. Please take a seat.”

Mr. Griffin, spokesman-standing, wrings his wide brimmed straw hat with calloused hands.

“Miss Dunster, sorry ta’ bother ya’ Ma am, but we been talkin.’ Towns folk just can’t ford’ to pay ya’ a full months’ pay. Drought’s got ranchers in a fix.” He studies his scuffed boots, and then slowly looks up, searching my eyes.

Smiling, I warmly address the concerned gathering of country folk.

“Don’t fret; I have a small amount of money set aside from my last birthday.”

Tense muscles in necks begin to relax, as I move from behind my desk, to stand directly before them.

“I am willing to fill this teaching position, one month at a time, if that’s agreeable.”

Nodding heads of approval and extended hands to shake mine seal the agreement. I walk outside with them, lock the door, and meander to the mercantile.

I hope to receive long overdue letters from family and friends. Inside, I notice Mr. Hankins handing a pouch of pipe tobacco to an impeccably dressed man.

“Apple-blend, sir, you have made my day,” said the stranger. He pays with current exchange, turns towards me, and tips his Derby. “Good-day, Miss.”

I detect a Boston accent; heart aflutter, I search for a way to query his reason for coming to Montana.

“Hello; please don’t think me forward, but I’m far away from my home in Boston. I believe I detect a marked Boston accent.”

“Indeed! I’m Jonathan Loughton, here to research Chippewa for the Gazette newspaper. You would be Miss Dunster, the daughter of my editor and friend!”

With a steady gaze, he looks into my tearful eyes.

“Oh, for goodness sakes; you know Father!”

“Yes, and he sends his love!”


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This article has been read 433 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dannie Hawley 02/28/13
I loved this bit of historical fiction! I could easily picture myself as the MC, and my heart was beating fast to know why the meeting was called, too! I think the the "in which to confide" should be "in whom" but I'm not totally sure so hope that someone else sees my comment and tells us both! In any case, this was well-written and a really fun read!
Camille (C D) Swanson 03/02/13
Hahahahaha. This was so funny, clever, and witty. I enjoyed the entire piece, from start to finish. Thank you!

God bless~
Ellen Carr 03/02/13
I really enjoyed your story which was very believable. Have you thought of a continuation of the story? I can imagine it going on - the new arrival, her continuing teaching, etc. Well done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/02/13
This is like an excerpt from a Janette Woke book. My only complaint is I wanted to keep reading. You did a wonderful job of developing the characters in such a short piece. I also liked how when ewe feel so scared and alone God shows us the world isn't as big and scary after all.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/03/13
I don't read the comments before commenting myself. I agree with Danny that it should be in whom not we which since it is a person in whom the MC wishes to confide. I didn't catch that, even though it was early on, I was already engrossed on the story.
Judith Gayle Smith03/05/13
Absolutely captivating! What a delightful read! I want MORE!

Loving you in through and because of Jesus, the Christ . . .

Have you "thrown a brick"?
http://www.faithwriters.com/Boards/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=56&t=36621
lynn gipson 03/06/13
At the risk of repeating the others, I would love more of this story. Exactly my kind of read. Excellent writing and very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Myrna Noyes03/06/13
What a lovely, heart-warming period tale! I love the old-time setting and way of life depicted in this! You were nicely on-topic and kept my interest all the way through to the touching ending! :)
Cheryl Harrison 03/06/13
Sweet tale. I'm glad you threw a brick! Great descriptions and character building. Would love to read another chapter.
Bea Edwards 03/06/13
Oh how I enjoyed your yarn!
Fantastic story telling and I look forward to reading more interesting tales from you.
Bea Edwards 03/06/13
ps You winged His words indeed!
Loren T. Lowery03/06/13
This has shades of Janet Oke. I love reading her works (all of them) and this ranks right up there. Great work.
Alicia Renkema03/06/13
This also has shades for me of the novel Christy which was turned into a TV series that I loved to watch. Note: series -- your characters as already pointed out are so rich and real you can practically touch them. I loved all of the old home -spun language of the time in which you wrote about. This was a real gem. Thanks, and blessings.
Noel Mitaxa 03/07/13
Thank you for this first chapter of what will be a very enjoyably absorbing book. I echo that flushed sense of unexpectedly discovering a voice from home, as it has happened to me when travelling overseas. Congratulations on your placing. Great work.
Dannie Hawley 03/07/13
Congrats on Third Place and an E.C.! Super terrific and I'm headed for the M and M's right now to celebrate! I'll toss a few your way, too! I'm happy to see the judges also loved your story.
Alicia Renkema03/07/13
So glad this cozy gem placed and got an EC to boot! I am awaiting the next installment...
Judith Gayle Smith03/07/13
Thank you for glorifying God with your true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy winning entry! God bless you.

Love and verbal hugs, Judi

KJV Revelation 14:12 "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
Beth LaBuff 03/07/13
You took me to a different time and a different place. I was wanting to stay there and discover more. Thank you and congrats on your Editor's Choice award!
Camille (C D) Swanson 03/08/13
Congratulations Pam!
God bless~
Claudia Thomason 03/08/13
Agreeing with the others, this would make a terrific opening for a book. I could picture the classroom and the lanky student--and the handsome stranger. Congratulations on your 3rd place in Masters.
Olawale Ogunsola 03/13/13
Congratulations! You are a winner all the time.
Olawale Ogunsola 03/13/13
Congratulations! You are a winner all the time.