My Memoirs: I Won and I lost — or How More Is Less, Pt 4


Beautiful Elaine Stubbs, image posted with her permission 

We left off in Part 3 where I had almost gotten back up into the “A” section of our class. Then my eighth-grade English teacher, Miss Naegle, suddenly and unexpectedly had snatched up her black Grade Book, saying:

“I told you I would surprise you as to when I would give out your final grades for this first semester’s Report Card. Well, now is that moment!”

As I said before, she determined it willy-nilly: i.e., by whatever section of her class we were sitting in whenever she chose to give out the final grade for our Report Card – be it the “A” section, “B” section, and so on down to the “F” section.

In other words, this LDS teacher was making sure I did not get on the Honor Roll list again as an “A” student, and thus be once more headlined, like the year before, in the Mormon town’s newspaper. The Mormon faculty now knew well who this outstanding, attractive, talented, new student was: A Plyg from Short Creek — or someone  small-town Hurricane did not want to be making headline news. 

As I had said in my last blog, there was an uproar in Hurricane, Utah in 1958 when the little town newspaper printed my picture along with a piece about me being “The Top Student,” and the only one to obtain straight “A’s” out of all of the students from 7th to 11th grade.

The town and teacher-faculty uproar came after the news got out that the “Straight-A 7th Grader” the newspaper article talked about was me, a Mormon fundamentalist! I was a leper in that little town, so how was it I could be showing up all the rest of the students from good LDS families? 

So now you understand why my teacher got out that Grade Book before I could move back up into the “A” section. And why she once again betrayed me – and in so doing, continued to show the class how to persecute the “Plygs:” My classmates sat and watched Miss Naegle give me my first B+ in class, down from the A+ I’d had the whole semester and year before – ‘till that opportunistic moment in her grading system where she was able to give out our final Report Card grades for the semester simply based on where we were sitting the moment she precariously decided to give us our grades.

But hey! It appears that this action kept her in good favor with Sammy, Jr.’s family too. His father had just been in to see Miss Naegle saying,

” Sammy tries so hard to get an “A,” but no matter what he does, he can never get into the top section so as to come home with an “A” in English like his older brother in High School always does!”

(You should know that Sammy, Jr.’s father was Sammy, Sr., better known as “Bishop Sam Johnson” — the most important position of power in that town.)

Our teacher could only give so many “A’s,” “Bs”, and so forth, or our school would lose its accreditation. So little C-average-Sam got his first “A” that semester, or probably ever — and  was so happy – and I got my first B+ – and was so unhappy – and Miss Naegle stayed in good with all the Saints in that small town.

Well, it was not a good example to let us “polygamists,” or so-called “apostate Mormons,”  outdo “the Saints’” kids. So the LDS faculty did their utmost, after finding out who I was, to keep me from shining too much. Meanwhile, they also did their utmost to try to put “the Saints’” kids above me, whenever possible. (Having Mormon fundamentalists’ children as shining examples did not set a desirable president for the “little LDS Saints.”)

A few months later, as luck would have it, the second semester was looming to an end, and Miss Naegle’s final Report Card grades were due to be given out again at any moment … when suddenly she gave us the most formidable homework assignment I have ever experienced or ever hope to experience again in my born days:

While peering over the horned rims of her 1950’s cat-eyed, rose colored glasses, and staring sternly down at us, as she did when she wanted to punctuate her words extra strongly, that little blond haired, red faced, red necked spinster in the little red brick schoolhouse assigned to us the whole 105 prepositions of the English language, stipulating:

“These words are to be memorized in alphabetical order by Friday’s class!!” And  knowing that our last day of 8th grade was only four days away, she boomed,And whosoever doesn’t memorize the list gets an “F” as their final grade for the year!!”

I had already committed to memory her list of the Helping Verbs: Is, are, was, were, has, have, had, does, do, did, am, be, been, being, may, must, might, can, could, shall, should, will, would.

And I had memorized other lists of words she had assigned us to learn, such as all the Conjunctions, Subordinate and Coordinate Conjunctions. And rules like: “Adverbs tell how, when, where, why, affirm, deny.”  And: “Adjectives tell what kind, which one, how many, whose.”

So as I hung out the wash that Monday evening, I began the daunting task of trying to memorize, in four short evenings, the whole monotonous mass of 105 prepositions — on top of doing all the other homework from my other six classes!

An hour passed while I painstakingly pinned wet clothes on the line at the same time I concentrated on trying to commit to memory that meaningless list of nonsense words. I was about to be hung out to dry, myself.

Having only memorized the first forty words, or the prepositions beginning with “A” and “B,” I found myself wishing language had never been invented.

Even worse, my mind took a downturn as I decided this was actually going to be the first assignment in my life I was going to fail: The “F” word, mind you! The thought curdled my brain! I could picture Miss Naegle and the class crying again,“Beulah, go to the bottom of the class!” — a hard thing for an “A” student to have to do.

So heading for the house before I had a full-blown nervous breakdown, I cried,” Mama! I can’t do this! I can’t memorize this boring homework list!! I can’t even stand trying to!!!”


I will stop here and finish this story in the following blog, Part 5 —an interesting finish, to be sure! I am looking forward to hearing feedback from you. Until then, ciao and I’ll see you later.

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