One of the best things about living and working in this small Southeastern Utah village is walking Grange to school every weekday. During this time of year, the mornings are crisp and stunningly, arrestingly sensory. The natural light comes sneaking in from the east; skips across the frost covered, crystalline grasses which lay dormant along the rough, broken streets leading to Bluff Elementary School; and illuminates the red rock walls that embrace the town. The air is crystal clear, and carries sound at an amplified frequency. Trying to absorb all the natural beauty often overwhelms my senses.
The walk to school from Twin Rocks Trading Post in Bluff, Utah
I have used our morning walks to convince Grange that running is actually fun. Almost every day we have foot races from the Far Out Expeditions sign to the "All Year;" a distance of about half a block. The All Year is a yellow sign at the intersection of Black Locust and 7th East, which cautions motorists that school is in session year round. If Grange wins the race, he gets a quarter. And if he loses? Well, somehow that hasn't happened; I am always the payor, never the payee.
Most often I stop at the corner where the old Twin Rocks Store and Bar used to stand and let Grange proceed the last half block by himself. I am not as necessary as I once was, and walking the distance himself seems to give Grange a sense of universal autonomy. Once in a while, however, I go visit his teacher, Kathy Carson, who is generally acknowledged to be the best kindergarten teacher in the world, to ensure Grange is properly progressing.
When I walk into Ms. Carson's room, all those tan faces, interspersed with a pink one now and again, remind me of 40 years ago, when I learned reading, writing and 'rithmetic in that very same school. As I look into the faces of those eager children, I see my own classmates; a generation or two removed. The shaved heads, jeans and plump cheeks of the little boys are much the same as they were when I was young.
During our walks to school, I frequently think of Penny Grange and the old saying, "See a penny, pick it up, all day long you¹ll have good luck." Penny, who passed away recently, is one of the people who lent Grange his name, so I am constantly reminded of her as he skips his way south to school. Realizing that I was exceptionally fortunate to have had a friend like Penny, I have considered salting Bluff with hundreds of pennies. That way everyone who knows the secret about picking up lost pennies can be as fortunate as I have been. The only thing that holds me back is that I do not know if the magic works when the coins are intentionally planted, rather than being carelessly misplaced.
On Tuesday, when I went to Kathy Carson's class to retrieve Grange, he was working on his Lego masterwork, so I had to wait several minutes while he finished. It must have been my afternoon for a little humanization, because, as my eyes wandered about the room, I noticed a copy of the Robert Fulgham credo, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, hanging in the corner of the classroom. In a masterstroke of simplicity and wisdom, the credo advises:
•Don't hit people.
•Put things back where you found them.
•Clean up your own mess.
•Don't take things that aren't yours.
•Say you are sorry when you hurt someone.
•Wash your hands before you eat.
•Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
•Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
•Take a nap every afternoon.
•When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
•Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows why, but we are all like that.
•Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup-they all die. So do we.
•And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned-the biggest word of all-LOOK.
Having read Mr. Fulgham's advice, I realized how much I had forgotten about how to live a balanced life, but also how much I still knew. I walked away reminded of life's basic principles, and pleased that Grange had taken extra time to finish his project. As we crashed through the front doors and tumbled out onto the sidewalk, one of Grange's buddies stood on the walkway, talking with his mother. A honey bee which had been fooled into thinking it was surely spring buzzed around the woman. When the bee fell to the ground, the boy asked, "Should I squash it?" Possibly hitting on one bit of wisdom Robert Fulgham had not included in his message, the woman said, "Let it live."
The End of the Race
Living among the sandstone skyscrapers of Southeastern Utah has allowed Grange to be as wild and free as the honey bee. I hope I can raise him to be independent and free enough to live, laugh and love in his own special way.
With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.
Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post