Insights from Morton High

Why there are telephone poles on the prairie

The days have been warm and spring-like, and there are cattle near the house just as there were last year at this time. Several days ago there was a calf out of the pasture near the road. When I got home, I made a phone call to let the owners know. It was on a similar day just a year ago that Noelle and I were on our way home from school when we noticed a young calf grazing outside the area fenced for the cattle and very close to the highway. I stopped the car, got out and told Noelle to drive back to the Key's to let someone know that one of their calves had gotten out.

As I attempted to get the calf into the pasture I realized how little I knew about farm animals. It was afraid of me, and I was having trouble getting it to go where I wanted it to. I glanced up suddenly locking eyes with, what even I recognized to be, a bull. His eyes betrayed a bit too much interest in me and my attempt to return the calf to safety. I felt a twinge of fear as I saw the car and Noelle fast disappearing in the distance. Looking around there was nothing that offered protection near enough for me to win a foot race with a bull.

Calling on resources I didn't know I had, I remembered that you never look a wild animal in the eye or make any fast moves--so I moved ever-so-slowly away from the cattle. Placing myself on the far side of the highway and a telephone pole where I awaited Noelle's return.

As I related this story later B.J.'s eyes twinkled. "Well that was the right thing to do," he chuckled. B.J. was the first real cowboy I ever met. He won the national calf roping championship 13 times in a row. When I met him he was the Principal of one of the elementary schools in Clovis, New Mexico. When you put the cowboy in a Principal's chair, he has simply traded one saddle for another. B.J. exemplifies all the best in the Western stereotype; from believing his word to be his bond, to always treating a lady well. Of course he was taking obvious pleasure at this city slickers dilemma. He and his wife, Sue, introduced us to rodeos, and Dean introduced their son John to the piano.

Two years ago John graduated from Northwestern with a degree in Engineering, and has been working for an international relief agency first in Bosnia, and now in Russia. When he was home at Christmas we learned that he had an Internet address. It's a much more efficient means of contacting him than phone or mail (which is never very reliable in a country which doesn't even have stamps)!

All of that to say that last week we talked--half a world apart--and he consented to be part of Ms. Tolliver's World History class, allowing students to ask questions and learn about life in a country where there is often only a few hours of electricity each day. There is nothing like a real person to make real events in history interesting and immediate. Two points seem important here--the first, a half-a-world apart is just a close as a keyboard and a fiber optic cable. Secondly, we (meaning educators) will all become more adept at using the Internet, mining, its resources and utilizing them with and for your children as we learn by doing, but students will have to be patient with us as we, like them, learn!

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