After my family moved to Texas in 1963, I attended Reese Elementary School near Wolfforth. I started 4th grade there. Reese Air Force Base was my father’s duty station and a mere stone’s throw from the school grounds. Jet airplanes often flew over our building drowning out the teacher’s voice.
Living in Alabama beforehand, I learned as a kid how to take a piece of soapstone, and using a small pocket knife, bore a hole through one side to the other. If you did this multiple times the rock turned into a sort of flute; crude sounding as they were.
On the playground at Reese were soft rocks similar to soapstone. During one recess out of curiosity I took my pocket knife and started drilling. It was tougher going than Alabama stone but I eventually got through.
I sat beside a brick wall of the building out of the sun each recess making stone flutes. Another classmate came by one day wanting to know what I was doing. Continuing to whittle away I told him,
“Making stone flutes.”
He wanted me to show him how and I did. The next morning the kid arrived with a tiny knife. We spent both recesses plus lunchtime drilling holes.
By the following week most boys in Mrs. Hagan’s sixth grade class were sitting beside me doing the same. The only ones playing like they were supposed to were girls. One of them eventually joined us.
One morning before class started Mrs. Hagan informed her students that there’d be no more hollowing of stones during recess. All pocket knives were to be left in desks during that time. That put a damper on our recess for a short while.
A kid that I no longer remember the name of brought a bag of marbles to school. He let several of us use them to play ‘chase’. That’s a game where you try to keep from being hit by an opponent’s marble. Within the end of the week almost every boy in Mrs. Hagan’s class had a bag.
Not satisfied with playing marbles in a circle, students began playing ‘chase’ for ‘keepsies’. That was a game term meaning: If your marble is hit by an opponent’s, that player gets to keep it. Steelies were the prize marble to win. They weren’t actually marbles, but round ball bearings used in automotive and industrial equipment.
Things went well for several weeks until a few boys became aces. They were like the Tiger Woods of marble competition. These kids (me included) began cleaning up on lesser skilled players. Because of this fights were common.
I got into a dilly of a fracas after hitting this boy’s huge steelie with my pearly. A pearly is an all white marble. The steelie owner didn’t want to give up his gem claiming we were playing ‘friendlies’. That was game terminology for giving back those marbles won. Seems like the teacher had to step in and settle things.
After so many skirmishes Mrs. Hagan put a moratorium on playing marbles for keeps. The sport pretty much died after that. Excitement just wasn’t there.
We went back to jumping out of swings and hanging upside down from monkey bars where kids often got hurt. One day a classmate brought in a deck of cards. Before he could start dealing, Mrs. Hagan confiscated them. I suppose she saw potential harm in her students losing lunch money and other worldly goods.
When I think back to making flutes out of stones while sitting quietly against a school building I have to chuckle. There were no fisticuffs doing that time. In fact, all was peaceful and quiet.
I moved to Alaska after 6th grade ended. I often wondered if Mrs. Hagan had regrets over curtailing flute making at Reese Elementary. Perhaps she took activity money for the following year, and purchased pocket knives for the whole class; including girls.
Mimeographing instructions on how to make stone flutes, the now much wiser teacher passed them out the first day of school.
“You kids sit against the school building during recess and make flutes like the Indians. I’ll be sitting right next to you smoking my cigarettes and drinking coffee!”