I wasn't a serious student of history during my matriculation at Hinton High School. Somehow history seemed distant and boring to a kid who couldn't wait to buy his first car. Everyone has priorities.
Maybe my lack of interest in history had something to do with my high school history teacher. He always wore a gray suit, white shirt and navy colored necktie. Usually his suit coat was unbuttoned and he sat on the front of his desk a lot of the time reading some phase of human or world history. His monotone could sing the wildest squawking bird to sleep. There was no humor, no excitement, no phrasing that would ever raise an eyebrow. Our main work in history class amounted to memorizing dates in time that had little to do with why we were sitting in those desks and how we got there.
Our history teacher never told us about the time that Jesse and Frank James rode through our wild, Iowa territory. He never told us about the indigenous people who were displaced to the west and north by the plow. There was never a mention about how our little town came to be named or how our pioneer forefathers braved weather, insects, bad economies and wars to stake their claim and homestead out on the high grass prairie. That discussion might have cleared up the glazed-over eyeballs of my history period classmates. It never happened.
My family has just recently run into a little history lesson. My great-great-grandfather and grandmother came to that part of Iowa in 1874. They bought 120 acres of prairie and soon had most of it under tillage. They waged battles with disease, grasshoppers, wild fires and economic depression along the way. But, somehow they managed to hold on to that piece of land and pass it on down through the generations.
They had good neighbors who shared the load. Their kids married into different families and soon a social fabric of sorts was created. The new land provided an existence that they would never have been able to experience in the "old country," as they called it.
Kids were born, kids died, adults lived out their lives and died, all within just a few miles of that little homestead. A small cemetery was established atop a grass-covered knoll not far from the farm. It was used by my family, my family's relatives and there is even one guy with last name of Johnson buried there who was blown to bits while blasting cottonwood tree stumps out of the ground with TNT. The cemetery holds the remains of all these long departed souls.
This year a road improvement project was announced for the road that passes by that little cemetery. A question came to our family as to whether that piece of earth should be moved to make way for the new, improved roadway. History came to the front. All of a sudden, relatives I had never met began to write letters expressing their concern over this possibility. We learned more about our family's history in two weeks than any of us had known in a lifetime.
The county engineer has agreed to looking into just putting a slight curve in the road as it passes that little cemetery. He learned something about the county's history as well as us. We're all hoping that what's left of our ancestors will continue to reside on that last vestige of Iowa prairie.
If my history teacher in high school had talked about history such as this, I might have gotten an A instead of a C.
See you next time. Okay?
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