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March 8, 1999

I went to grade school in Sulphur Springs, Arkansas. This was in the 50s. The entire twelve grades had about 500 students in the 50s when I was there. They have since closed the school and consolidated with Gravette. Sulphur Springs is in the very northwest corner of Arkansas and was a very poor area. The land brings in tourists now, and did to some extent then, but it is a poor land for farming, and most of the people scratched out a living on land that had more rocks than dirt, it seemed, and raised chickens.

We lived in a children's home during the school year and went down to Mexico to stay with our parents during the summer. There were several houseparents. Some I liked better than others, but none were terrible, though I didn't always think so at the time. When you're six years old everything seems terrible when you don't see your parents for nine months. One couple had lived on a farm and they got a cow and a couple pigs as we lived out from the edge of town a bit. We had fresh milk and cream that had been freshly separated. I hated it when they butchered the pigs, but I did eat the meat. I remember that another houseparent could walk up and down stairs on his hands.

This was in the ozarks and I can remember playing in the woods by myself. I didn't worry about snakes or ticks or any of that. I loved the fall when it was just a cloud of color and spring when the new leaves and flowers turned the trees and bushes into a tapestry of color. Even winter was great, except that we had to walk to school in the snow and ice. We had about a mile to a mile and a half walk downhill to school and then back up again in the afternoon.

We slid down the hill to school through mud and snow and ice. Oh, the ice storms made the woods look like a fairy godmother had enchanted everything. I'm sure we were cold but I can't really remember and I had to wear a dress to school. All the girls did. In the spring we walked through the fresh green color and dogwoods in flower and wished we could just play hooky, but there were too many of us and someone would tell. In the falls we ran through the leaves tossing them into the air. Oh it was a wonderful place for a child to play.

There was one area that came out onto a bluff that was mainly rock and had few trees or bushes and it reminded me of the land in C S Lewis' "The Silver Chair". I remember walking through the woods when there was a fog and pretending that I was in fairyland and was having an adventure.

This was already the land of the chicken farms. They weren't as automated back then and I can remember going home with a friend for the night and helping her feed the chickens in the huge chicken house. They didn't exactly run free but they were treated as inhumanly as they are now. I always hated the smell of the chicken house, especially in warm weather when it just reeked. In college I went home with my roommate who lived on a dairy farm in western Oklahoma and we got to help feed the cows and clean the barn. I can really pick em! They were both good friends so I didn't really mind.

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©Rachel Aschmann 1999.
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