School days, school days, I followed the rules those days.

By Don Rush

This week sure as heck feels like a “back to school” week. Which makes sense, of course, because most kids are back to school after their summer breaks. When I write “feels like” back to school time, I mean my internal clock/calendar registers in my brain, “summer is over, back to the books.”

There is something in the air and maybe it’s just the actual air. It’s not as humid. The air’s a little more crisp. Just last Wednesday it was gray with a high temperature somewhere below 60 degrees. Brrr! Shadows these days are a little longer in the evening. The mornings aren’t as bright as they were just a few weeks ago. The days are shorter. It just feels like it is time to go back to school.

Looking back, by any measure you can throw at me, I was just an average, normal kid with unruly hair and freckles and at the end of every summer I looked forward to the change of pace. I wanted to get back to class. “What time is the bus getting to the bus stop, Mom? 7:30? Fine. I’ll be at the stop by 6, just get me to school.’’

Come on, man. There’s only so much fishing, swimming, bike riding, lawn cutting, summer-funning a kid can take.

I enjoyed going back to school, except for that one year. That wasn’t a good year for one Dandy Don Rush.

That was the year Mom and Dad decided to move their clan of four young Rushlings and one trusted hound from Redford Township to somewhere Dad called “God’s Country.” God’s Country was in a neighborhood of hilly, bumpy dirt roads in north Oakland County. That was the year I started the third grade at Ashcroft Elementary School on West Chicago Street (across from St. Roberts Catholic Church) and ended it at Bailey Lake Elementary School on Pine Knob Road (next to a farm with cows and fresh smelling manure) in Independence Township.

The fact that we would move from the only home and friends I, in my short life, had ever known didn’t register until the beginning of the school year. I was a wild and goofy third grade boy and all my wild and goofy third grade boy friends were joining the Boy Scouts of America. Naturally I wanted to join. I brought home the letter for Mom and Dad to sign so I could get involved — this was going to be cool (we still used that word back then). Not that I was spoiled, or always got my way, but I was not prepared for the giant parental veto on my scouting bill. I was shocked and stunned. To this day I don’t know the reason I couldn’t join, but my recollection was it was because we were moving. I hated the idea of moving then.

Oh, cruel world, why, why, why me?

Sensing my dismay, the folks (bless them) quickly jumped into action and found something little sis Barb and I could join to end this urban tragedy. Ah, youth. I’m just going to say, it’s a good thing kids are resilient. While all my buddies were learning to use compasses and jack knives, camping, tying knots, the eight year old me got a brand new pair of shiney, black tap shoes and would be dancing with my sister.

One, two, three, one, two, three, heel, toe, heel, toe.’’ Tippity, tap, tap, tap.

Oh, the shame of it all!

The male ego is a fragile thing and even at that tender age I sensed something was amiss with dancing, when the other boys were whittling and scouting. I think I was then ready for the move to Clarkston and my new life at Bailey Lake Elementary School where nobody would be any the wiser of Twinkle Toes Rush.

Bailey Lake Elementary and Ashcroft Elementary were two elementaries in the same state from different realities or timelines. At Ashcroft one day, some farmer brought his farm animals to school for us city kids to see. I think he milked a cow. So, I had that experience. Whoopdi-do, now let’s go play some marbles.

This is how I went through most of third grade at Bailey Lake Elementary School. This was from the Clarkston News in the early 1970s.

After recess one day at Bailey Lake, we third-graders in Miss Melkim’s each went to our desks and there on my desk I saw a huge, red, juicy cow heart. Gulp. I looked around and on each of the student’s desks were fresh, plump cow hearts. If I remember correctly, classmate Dave Hertel’s family raised cows and had recently had them butchered. The teachers and administration at Bailey Lake figured it would be a good educational tool for us kids to see and poke around actual, real hearts of cow.

At least I think the other students poked around their hearts. I quickly turned green and had to be escorted down to the nurse’s office where I was laid down on a cot with a wet rag on my forehead.

At Ashcroft you got to look at a cow. Once. At Bailey Lake you not only got to look out the window at the cow farm, during recess play next to said cow farm and smell it every day, but you also got your very own cow heart to do, whatever it is they did.

Good times.

I’m surprised I made it out of the third grade.

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