The eight of us

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It’s lonely here at the top. I’m the only one left.
Let me explain. I saw in my hometown newspaper that Sarah Kate died.  Sarah Kate and I go back a long, long way.
You need a little background: When mothers dumped their younguns off in the first grade room that year, there was much howling and moaning. “Momma! Momma! Don’t leave me!”
It was chaos. The main thing was, there were too many of us. The teachers finally got us quietened down and we got through the day; but something had to be done.
By the next day, they had come up with a plan: they put eight of us, at random I suppose, in the second grade room. We were still strictly first graders, but in a corner of the second grade room. One table: three on each side, one at each end.
You might think that Miss Moore would have trouble  keeping everybody quiet – one grade getting out of hand while she was working with the other. You didn’t know Miss Moore. She had the general attitude of a mean drill sergeant (there’s redundancy for you). No trouble at all, as I would find out.
Eight of us: Sarah Kate and Turner from way down Yellow Creek Road. Cousin Willadine, my very earliest playmate. Alma Sue, a town girl. Her folks ran the telephone exchange. Ann. She moved away after that year. So did Louise. And Virginia was from across the creek at the edge of town. And there was me.
Turner was the only other boy, so we bonded for life right away.
Eight of us. Learning about Miss Moore the hard way.
We brought our sack lunches. One day Turner and I got into a biscuit battle across the table.  When Miss Moore saw it, she made an indelible impression on the seat of our pants. I never threw another biscuit.
And there was the pencil affair. Yellow number two pencils were kept in a coffee can in the middle of the table. There were plenty for everybody. But one day Turner and I both grabbed the same pencil, and neither would let go. We broke it. Again, Miss Moore tattooed our rear ends. You couldn’t hire me to break a pencil.
But the worst was yet to come. One of the girls, er, had a little accident, waited too long to ask to be excused. Turner and I seized this opportunity to drive her crazy. “Didy, didy, didy,” we called her, over and over again, ran it in the ground and broke it off. Finally, one of her friends ratted on us, told Miss Moore about it.
Thus began the  worst 24 hours of my life. Miss Moore said to Turner and me, with her little slitted eyes glittering with malice, “Tomorrow, when the other kids go out for play period, you two stay in. We have a little business to tend to.”
Oh, my God. What would she do? The whip? the paddle? The noose?
The next day demonstrated that there is a God: It came a rain, a frog-strangler of a rain, a stump floater. So nobody went out. We all stayed in the room and played little games … and nothing else was ever said about the accident affair. But her point had been made. We didn’t call the girl didy, didy anymore – her or anybody else.
Sarah Kate was one of the special people in our special group. She and Turner and I were the only ones in the group to go all the way through the 12th grade together. Willadine and Alma Sue doubled up in high school and finished a year ahed of us. As I said, Ann and Louise moved away, and Virginia got married in the 11th and dropped out.
Then, Turner died several years ago. Now, Sarah Kate, leaving just me.
More? OK, she was special in another way. When we were in the 11th grade, Mr. Goodwin started a band program. I played trumpet; Sarah Kate played clarinet. When we were seniors, he took us on a road tour of the other high schools in the county: Kennedy, Millport and Sulligent. His idea was, I think, to expose those poor people to some culture and encourage them to start a band program.
In addition to the ensemble pieces,  Mr. Goodwin had me and Sarah Kate, with Charlotte at the piano, do a special piece. Thank goodness nobody recorded it. We might have set the musical programs at those schools back 50 years.
And we also did a special piece at graduation. The then-mayor of Birmingham was the main speaker.He seemed like a nice man. Later he was asked about our performance. He supposedly said that, truly, he had never heard anything quite like it.
So, rest in peace, Sarah Kate. I’ll remember.
Bob Sanders is a radio personality with 60 years at WAUD in Auburn. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@gmail.com.

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