Welcome to Hootin an Hollarin!
Welcome to the 58th celebration of Hootin an Hollarin, always my favorite festival in my favorite little hometown. This year’s theme is “Fun from the Old School,” and that kind of fun is something I’m very familiar with.
You see, my mama, Edith Gaulding, taught in “old schools” – the one-room schools of Ozark County – for more than 20 years before she moved into town to teach at the “big” schools in Gainesville and later at Lutie.
Early in her teaching days, Mama rode her horse Topsy to the Nottinghill schoolhouse – and picked up a few kids on her way, sometimes with one kid in front of her on the horse and two in back. She was the Nottinghill schoolbus – and I’ll bet they had fun on the way to school!
After I was born, I went along with Mama to those one-room schools for 10 years – quite a feat when you remember they were for first- through eighth-graders. What happened was, when I was born, Mama took two years off to stay home with me. Then she went back to teaching and my daddy, Horace Gaulding, was my babysitter for a year. After that, it was off to school for me every day with Mama, wherever she was teaching – Nottinghill, Pine View, Oak Dale, Rockbridge (Brixey) and Hammond (Turkey Creek). There was a little desk for me right up front.
And let me tell you, old school was fun. During recess, we played games like Board on Deck. It used a rubber ball and a flat board whittled out at one end for a handle. Mama played with us, and she was good at it, much better than me. I was usually one of the last ones chosen, and my nickname was Tater Digger, which says a lot about my ability. If you struck out, you went to the base and waited until someone hit the ball and you ran to the stump. To get a player out, you hit them with the rubber ball. And let me tell you, Mama could burn a blister on you when she hit you with that ball!
We also played Anthony Over, where you threw a ball back and forth over the schoolhouse roof. (At other schools, it was called Annie Over, but we weren’t high class enough to play the Annie version.)
Out in the woods around the school, we built playhouses. We swept the dirt floor and made rooms and put little rocks around the edges. Even today, when I see a pretty little mossy place in the woods, I think, “That would be a good place for a playhouse.”
Fridays were our favorite days. That’s when we had ciphering and geography matches. Oh, they were fun!
When Mama taught at Pine View school, she and I came in a pickup, and we had to cross Lick Creek, which ran right by the school. All the other students walked trails through the woods – they didn’t have to cross the creek to get there. Mama knew when it rained real heavy, the creek would come down and we couldn’t get home. So, whenever it was pouring down rain, one kid would be posted to watch out the window to see when the creek was coming down. When it did, Mama would dismiss school real quick, and she and I would run to the pickup lickety-split so we could cross the creek before it got big. I can remember looking out the pickup window one time and seeing the creek coming down right as we crossed.
Also at Pine View, two boys were assigned to bring a bucket of water each day from Scott Price’s spring, and everyone but me drank from it with a dipper. (I had my own cup; Mama was the original anti-germ person.) One winter, it snowed and the hill to the spring was icy. Mama parked the pickup at the top of the hill above the spring so we could get home if it got slick. Then, when we were heading home, Mama slipped on that ice and broke her leg. Honestly, I don’t remember how we got home after that, but when we did, she told Daddy to go back to the school and write on the blackboard, “There will be no school for two weeks.” (None of us country people had phones back then.)
Except for Mama’s broken leg, those old-school days were some of my favorites, and this year we’re planning that same kind of old-school, old-time fun at Hootin an Hollarin. Wherever you come from and whatever your age, we hope you have a lot of fun while you’re here!
Nancy Walker, Hootin an Hollarin committee chairperson“for who knows how long”