The Leaning Cow

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Pandora’s Box

January 28th, 2015 ·1 Comment

Quite a few years ago, I needed a story for a filler – a little comic piece of nothing – and so I sat down and wrote about the Wickham Family from Malcolm Falls. I don’t know where the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of the members of the family came from, although there may or may not be some resemblance to my own relatives.

The Wickham Saga took on a life of its own and every month I would reveal one of the better-forgotten stories. This morning, something triggered my memory of Lydia Wickham and I decided to search my files. Well, I am going to have to go through some old hard drives to find her. BUT, some other episodes popped up.

I read through a couple, groaning. Misery loves company, however, so I’m pasting it here:

I don’t know why but Becky Wickham decided that she wanted to get married at the Grand Canyon – or rather in it. Actually, rafting down the Colorado River with the canyon looming above them – the groom, herself, the minister and the best man and maid of honor and guests floating along in accompanying rafts.

Well, I do know why. She told me and anyone who would listen that she thought bouncing along on the river would be a good metaphor for a marriage moving through time. She might have been right about the metaphor but when the she and her fiancé took a dry run – so to speak – down the river she decided she was wrong about the idea in general when somewhere between the first and second rapids the boat hit a rock and started losing air. The story gets a little confusing here as to who could and who could not swim but apparently the end result was that Becky and her fiancé weren’t exactly really all that devoted to each other.

Well, that’s why Becky wound up teaching third grade at the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School on Taft Street in Malcolm Falls. That may be a little too much of a simplification. Just because she didn’t get married didn’t mean she had to teach, or come back to Malcolm Falls for that matter.

It was just that it was easier for her to spend the year recovering from breaking her leg just as she was climbing the last step out of the Grand Canyon at her folks’ house. The cast was really big and clunky and it was a big help to have her parents with her, although her mother’s cat got the worst of the deal when the chair Becky had propped her leg up on tipped over. During the latter part of her recuperation, her father took a picture of her sitting on the sofa, cast on her leg, cuddling the cat on her lap. It was the fact that the cat had her own personalized and signed matching cast that made the whole appear “adorable” to her mother’s bridge club.

Everyone liked the 8 by 10 glossy print of the picture so well that her parents decided to have it reproduced as a large portrait and hung it over the fireplace – where it didn’t look quite so charming but no one wanted to cast the first stone of criticism.

Anyway, while Becky was sitting there in her folks’ family room, reading and watching TV and waiting for her leg to mend, a bunch of people were building a grade school down the hill from the house. Becky had graduated with a degree in elementary education but the all the positions had already been filled for the new school, so teaching there was not an option.

At least it wasn’t a possibility until people started to argue about what the new school should be named. With the exception of a small group of people who wanted it to be called the Erasmus Fletcher School after the man who built the first rope bridge across the falls, the town was divided right down the middle between Franklin Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt.

You actually couldn’t say the dispute got ugly, but you would definitely be safe in stating that the painting of the girl, the cat and the two casts was easier to look at.

It was sometime in February when the two factions sat down to see if they couldn’t stick to a big session of soft-speaking debate and reach a new deal that would bring the two sides together – not unlike the way the Panama Canal linked the two major oceans.

The FDR group found the analogy somewhat unsettling but decided not to hide and parked themselves at the table. After all, what did they have to fear? Why nothing, of course.

So it was that Teddy Wickham stood up and said, “Well, let’s think of this in terms of neighbors. Say, I’ve got a neighbor who has a baby and they haven’t got a name for it, so I’ll lend him my first name – Theodore. Now let’s say, the neighbor on the other side is Mr. Roosevelt and he says well, he’ll lease him his last name. Wouldn’t that be a happy day again?”

Well, of course, the FDR section smiled and thought, “Ha, we’ve got the last name. Better sign the agreement quick.” Just as the ink was drying on the paper, one of the brighter bulbs on the FDR side – Edison Wickham – exclaimed, “Now, wait a New York minute.”

But it was too late. There on the paper the final name was written: The Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School. For a couple of weeks, the two sides didn’t speak to each other too much and down at the Baptist Church where a majority of the congregation was on the FDR side, the minister got up in the pulpit and called the TR supporters bullies. But sooner than later, things settled down and people started talking to each other again at the oyster supper at the Bay Restaurant.

There were some grudges, such as Edison getting a dog, naming him Fala and training him to “garden” in Teddy Wickham’s rose bed, but mainly the FDR faction simply made a point of telling visitors that the school was actually named after Franklin Roosevelt’s last name. Then after awhile they stopped doing that – it just seemed better to be quiet.

Of course, the TR group realized they didn’t have a snowball’s change in . . . whatever of having the sport teams being called the Bull Mooses – and didn’t even bring it up.

But, Becky? Oh, one of the third grade teachers was so disgusted he quit and so she took the job and four years later married the principal in the south where he couldn’t get cold feet because they always have warm springs.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 pottermom // Jan 28, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    I love it. I think I am the odd person that actually looks at the names of schools, buildings and such and asks “who?” and then goes home and finds out. I was in a college class on NM history once and I asked the professor why the local airport was called the Zip Franklin airport. Come to find out I was the only person in the room that even knew it was named that and I was the newest resident of the area.

    I later found out Zip Franklin was a local aviator, rumors of WWII involvement and airplane acrobatics abound but I never found out the truth of them.

    Just last week I asked my husband who the Pearson building downtown was named after. I had forgotten about it and now I have to do some research and find out.

    Unfortunately my research rarely involves such lively stories as Becky’s.

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