Edgerton’s School Stories, Part 1

The rural area surrounding the Village of Edgerton was at one time home to 22 school districts.
Most were founded in the 1910s to provide an education for the children of homesteaders and settlers and were dissolved in the late 1940s and early 1950s, with the students being incorporated into the Edgerton School.
One contributor to Edgerton’s ‘Winds of Change’ local history book described this consolidation as “Progress, certainly, but with the closing of these smaller school, a bit of the “spirit” of the district has disappeared.”
Edgerton feels that with our upcoming 100th celebration in August 2017 it’s important to celebrate the humour and the struggle that dictated the rhythm of life in those days.
In the next few weeks we’d like to look at this spirit and share some of the stories that made those rural schools so special.
Being rural schools meant long treks by horse or by foot and freezing mornings, using pencils until the ink thawed.
It also meant you were surrounded by nature and wildlife, often against your wishes. Bloomington Valley School District No. 1757 has a story about an unfortunate lad, Cloyd, being involved in an altercation with a skunk on the way to school.
No one ever really wins a skunk fight. The teacher, wanting to keep her lunch and likely already having lost her breakfast, sent poor Cloyd home early. No doubt the other boys were looking for skunks the next morning.
Other times the boys actively sought out animals, like at Dolcy School that appeared to have a racket of some sorts.
One former student recalls some classmates and himself snaring a dozen gophers and tying them together with binder twine, the intention of course being to create a team large enough to pull a block of wood.
Unfortunately the experiment failed but, being entrepreneurs as well as husbandmen, the boys dispatched of the uncooperative gophers and collected their tails, which were worth a penny.
This crew had learned that putting the tails in a pail of lard meant the squeamish buyer wouldn’t actually count them and the dozen tails could become 20.
The students at Porter Lake also had a penchant for gopher hunting and would proudly place said drowned gophers in the teacher’s desk.
Another tale of bravery comes from Empire School, No. 2414, wherein several crews spread out in the woods around their school and herded terrified rabbits into a grove. Pen knifes were brought out to sharpen sticks and most were able to bring supper home that night.
Even gentle saddle horses were victims. The La Pearl school was known for miniature rodeos behind the school barn, but with no broncs or wild bulls on hand they resorted to placing rose bushes under the saddle of the family horse. No names were named, but it sounds like the rodeo was known beforehand to all but the rider.
The students and teachers at our rural schools fought to bring education and order to the countryside, often against the odds. They also brought their own unique character and spirit to the process.
These stories highlight some of the ways this has been remembered, and our next installment of tales looks at human victims of rural mischief and the time honoured struggle to get out of schoolwork.
** Source: Edgerton History Book, Winds of Change.

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