I haven’t been sleeping very well lately.
A few nights ago I had a hazy dream that until a day or so ago I thought was just that, a dream.
I dreamt I had moved to a little town about 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth in Wilbarger County near the Oklahoma border to retire. It seemed like my ideal kind of little rural outpost, the place featured in all the financial planning ads promising fiscal security, a happy place to ride off into the proverbial sunset. I walked around town, got a cup of coffee and heard that the school board was meeting that night. This dream was leading me down the path of an idyllic mix of pastoral carefree days and civic inclusion so I decided to attend the school meeting. After all, I have two children who are teachers in another state so I dreamed what a wonderful opportunity to see how they do it in rural Texas.
I arrived at the meeting a little early figuring to meet a few of the locals with a bottle of Ozarka in hand and baseball cap on sideways. Lo and behold, tethered to a hitching post were two shining white horses being attended by two rough and tumble wild west types, each sporting a shiny tin badge with the letters HARROLD ISD. I introduced myself to… Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. This dream was taking me back a ways but I just couldn’t bring myself out of the slumber. The foggy recollections were getting uneasy but remained persistant.
Doc and Wyatt (they insisted I call them by first name) told me they had just been hired by the school board as principal and superintendant to ride herd, with six shooters at their sides, on the 110 students in the district. I asked if these were unruly youngsters with a reputation that warranted such apparently drastic measures. “No, not particularly, but the president of the board had lunch recently with Governor Perry and the school discipline topic came up. The Governor suggested that he thought his grampa had once told him how they used to do it back when “men was men.” Even in la la land this scenario was beginning to get a little crazy so I inquired how they got onto this gig.
Since Wyatt and Doc were looking for some part time work they answered an ad placed by Blackwater USA to “clean up the Harrold ISD.”
“If we can clean up Iraq, we can do the same in Harrold” the ad concluded.
Reasoning that they had cleaned out unruly mining towns, cattle drive centers, railroad construction camps and other historic scenes, Harrold ISD seemed like a logical next step up the ladder of quelling civil unrest. The thought of kindergardners throwing lollipops and third graders wiping paste on their shirts was almost more than they could tolerate. Certainly, their brand of justice would fit right in with this crowd of hooligans. I was starting to come out of the haze but remained just a little groggy.
I woke up about mid morning, read the paper, listened to a couple of newscasts and realized why I haven’t been sleeping very well. With the OK Corrral Crowd at the trigger, there’s little chance for a good night’s sleep anymore. I’m trying to get refocused with the hope that perhaps we can get back to teachers concentrating on lesson plans instead of the Glock model they will be issued the first day of classes. Please, let the lawmen tote guns and teachers tote slide rules, I implored to myself.
As hard as I try to regain some nocturnal equilibrium the flashbacks keep coming. I can only envision Gunsmoke makeovers with Matt Dillon as the study hall monitor, Miss Kitty as the cheerleading advisor and Festus as school custodian. Apparently riding off into the sunset just isn’t what it used to be, in spite of what the financial planning ads promise.
John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Tuesdays. E-mail him at email@example.com.