When I got to Apache Oklahoma I had already finished high school. Minimum effort had gone into my matric and I was keen to put minimal effort into this second matric, or ‘senior year’ at Apache High. In my mind I had been sent to America to socialise and be an ambassador, ‘period’.
So I carefully selected my subjects –
I had to take American history and English (compulsory according to Rotary as we were ‘foreigners’). I chose typing, ag shop (agricultural workshop – farming, welding, etc making me a member of the FFA – Future Farmers of America), annual staff (making the school annual, acting as a journalist, selling ads in town – a hoot!).
Here’s me focusing on my typing. I reached a blistering 19 words a minute with ten mistakes.
Fellow annual staffers Robbie Swanda and David Lodes slave over their hot typewriters.
When I told host Dad Jim Patterson my subjects he grimaced then grinned and said –
“Peter, are you sure they didn’t offer basket weaving!”
Jim was a great teacher. He taught me all about ‘counting fence posts’. He would pack a sixpack of Coors into a cooler on ice and we would drive around the district in his old red Ford F150 pickup along the farm roads with Jim recounting all the tales of who lived where, what they farmed and some history of the area.
We were ‘counting fence posts’.
Here’s Jim and that pickup.
Granpa Crews also took me fence-post counting. He just didn’t call it that. A memorable incident happened on one of those drives. Before we left South Africa on our exhange student program we had a weekend session here
where they told us what to do and not do (“Don’t fall in love”; “DO NOT DRIVE” and other valuable lessons). Also, they said “After six weeks you will get homesick and lonely” and I quite clearly and consciously thought Ha! What rot! Not me!
So we’re driving along a country road and Granpa Crews says “What’s wrong?” and I chirp a bright Nothing! I’m fine! and a flood of nostalgia washes over me and my eyes welled up with tears. Weird! Experienced old Granpa Crews had noticed something I hadn’t.
I’d been in Apache six weeks exactly. Every now and then (not often) as a youngster you had to acknowledge there was something to be said for the wisdom of experience.