Looking Back: Golden Rule days, Pt. 2

Stories from the one room schoolhouses still abound in this area, and so the “when I was a youngster” tales passed down from grandparents are dramatic and vivid. One Axial Basin old timer’s account of his earliest schooldays brings to mind the wide variety of excuses that teachers continue to hear from tardy students.
Edwin Ernest Collom recalled in the Rio Blanco Historical Society’s “This is What I Remember” riding a horse seven miles each morning and afternoon from his family’s homestead to attend school in the Axial Basin. His account gives new meaning to the time-honored “why I was late to school excuse.”
“That first term I rode the seven miles behind my brother, Vincent, who was six years my senior. After that, I, Vincent, and my oldest brother John, each rode separate horses of our own.” He continued his remembrance of some of the difficulties of arriving at school on time.
“We rode to school five days a week. The seven miles took us a little less than an hour from home to school. A horse will walk about four miles from home, but we always galloped our horses to school. To begin with there was no barn or feed at the school for the horses. They were pretty tired and hungry when we arrived at home in the evenings, so we always had to trade to a different horse out of the remuda on the following day.”
Children today continue the tradition of talking about things that happened on their way to school, but none of them could compare to the day Edwin’s brother lassoed a badger.
“One time, while riding our horses to school, we had just passed near Jub Creek — a short distance from home — when we overtook a badger. Brother Johnny lassoed the animal which then preceded us down the trail a short distance, then it made a sharp turn to the right and made for the hole — rope and all. John attempted to pull it out of the hole, using the horse, but was not able to do so. We had to unloop the rope from the saddle horn and leave it with that badger. On the way home that evening we found the rope some distance from the hole. The badger had left the hole and dragged the rope through the rabbit brush until it was quite frayed and he worked it loose. That was quite a memorable experience for three young boys in those days.”
Getting to school with time enough to play outside before the bell rings has always been most children’s primary concern, and even in the late 1800s, children enjoyed playing with each other early in the morning. Collom’s story of one day’s frightening surprise during that playtime is even more memorable.
“One morning during the first school year, we were playing a game of hide and seek in the vicinity of the schoolhouse. There were several large rocks near there that had rolled or fallen down from a rocky bluff. The bell rang, calling us into the morning class. This started a general chase into the schoolhouse. Being the youngest and smallest, I made a run for the building behind everyone else. I tripped and fell down. As I hurriedly got back on my feet, I discovered a 14-inch long, three-button rattlesnake hooked to my suspender button. It was doing its best to work loose, which indeed it did right away. Apparently it had struck just as I fell. I scrambled the rest of the way to the schoolhouse, a very frightened little boy.”