By Barb Hauge
The winter of 1935-36 was terribly cold. That was the year Mother taught the Berger or Middle Butte School. We lived in a one-room schoolhouse heated only by a potbellied stove. Our ranch house seemed like Paradise when we got to go home on week-ends. Buster, my classmate was a really nice boy but I did take advantage and boss him around. Mother did a good job of teaching because I entered Chinook School with high grades. Berger School was closing so the County Superintendent encouraged Mother to make use of the books left in the schoolhouse. Mother was only paid $30 per month. That winter was so bitter-cold we all deserved combat pay.
In first grade Mother had sent for The Calvert Method and in no time I had read everything about May and Will. Before that I taught myself to read can labels like Ovaltine and Wood Cross Tomatoes and funny papers Aunt Floy Harlen Wade sent from Oregon. By third grade I had read all the books in our bookcase and in fifth grade all those in Berger School from Louisa May Alcott to James Fenmore Cooper and "Black Box" to "Scarlet Letter" although some were beyond me.
My parents had fought Trustees of District 29 (which included Mert and Woody Matheson, G.H. Willman and Gerald Brummer) trying to get a school for us. It has always amused me that the very people who conspired to deny me public education and left the early years to my progressively minded mother, are the ones who have been so agitated by my writing. Through media for whom I've written, I've enjoyed exposing pompous, abusive people and neo-fascists who think they have a God-given right to rule. No one has. In a Democracy the power to rule must be earned. The test of any law is, "What will this do to the people?"
Before Mom taught Middle Butte we combined our Christmas Program one year with Berger School. I was to be the Christmas Angel so did not wear my long underwear which would have shown beneath my white dress. I nearly froze when our car got stuck and we had to complete the journey in a neighbors open sleigh. Dad changed my nickname from "Blondie" to his "Frozen Angel." Back then I was a brown-eyed blonde.
I wrote "40 Below" about Middle Butte School. The winter of '35 Mom and us kids lived in Berger School. Mom taught all the grades and gave us full knowledge about the Golden Rule. We were the only school in Blaine County that kept going all that year 'cuz we lived in the schoolhouse and the Berger kids lived near. They made it through the snow at 40 below. Daytime we circled around the stove like pioneer wagons of old; then we'd all get up and reverse our desks till the other side got cold. Up there on the potbellied stove Mom was cookin' a kettle of stew. We'd sop it up with bread for dinner and it tasted real good too. We couldn't have recess in the snow; not when it was 40 Below!
The poem I recited for our Christmas Program that year was "Peace On Earth, Good Will From Heaven; how it rolled along the sky and the Ages of all have listed as its echoes passed them by. Even now the star is shining though its light is soft and clear and the Angels still are singing; if we will but pause to hear. Louder, louder grows the Anthem; Nations swell in glad refrain telling unto future Ages all the glory of His name. Unto Earth a song was given and a Prince of Peace was born. Let us join the Angel Chorus on this Joyous Christmas Morn!" Our program ended with everyone singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."