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About School Days: Words of Wisdom

When I received my degree and teaching certificate, my dad said he wanted to make sure I understood something about a child's school days. I arrogantly thought to myself, "What can he tell me about teaching? I just got a college degree, and he didn't even finish high school!"

Daddy began his lecture by asking if I knew he had run away from his home in Monahans, Texas, during the eighth grade. Mother had told me as much, so I wasn't too surprised. But she hadn't told me the rest of the story.

His teacher told each student to stand and tell the rest of the class what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives. When my dad's turn came, he proudly stood, holding his tall, thin frame erect, and stated he wanted to own a ranch and raise horses when he graduated. The teacher proceeded to laugh and then humiliate Daddy by commenting that he would never own anything, let alone be able to raise horses and own land.

Daddy walked home, went to his mother who was preparing the evening meal, and told her he was going to drop out of school and leave town to go find work with his uncle. His mother did not try to stop him.

On that afternoon in 1933, my father walked away from his home and education. He worked at hard physical labor from before dawn to after dark, and dreamed of horses and green pastures. In the early 1960s, Daddy borrowed money and bought 346 acres of barren land with no water on it. He spent the rest of his life using conservation techniques to improve the land and provide a water supply for his horses and cattle. He eventually created a land with lush native grasses, and, with his own equipment and own hands, built 15 ponds for water on his property.

"No matter who you are, or what you teach, it is never your right to tell someone he or she can't be whatever it is they want to be," Daddy told me. "I want you to promise me you will never destroy a child's dreams."

That day, I learned a lesson they don't teach in college.

Patsy Tripp Hall is a reader from Richland Spring, Texas.

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