I’m not sure what was in the water in Perry County in the late 60’s to procure a first grade class of 14 boys and 4 girls but I’m pretty sure Sister Ruth hadn’t enjoyed an experience less before or since our arrival. The majority of the boy delegation consisted mostly of harmless rednecks in training and small town punks. I was part of the latter group of Schwinn riding, Little League playing, Dairy Queen dwelling city slickers. I’m not a scrapper by nature, but on that first morning of first grade Dave Dawson brought out the darkness in me and I landed a shiner on him even before saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Amazingly I don’t recall getting in trouble, but do vividly recall Sister Ruth’s thin-lipped stare when I walked into class with my Snoopy lunchbox, vinyl book bag and horn-rims. The rest of the first grade didn’t go so well from that point. Sister Rosemary (Knuckles) was a common visitor to our angelic classroom as both backup, security and to tag out with Sister Ruth when we started to turn on our handler. We boys would get our collective shit together when we heard her shoes clicking down the tiled hall in our direction bound for some level of infliction. John, Ed and Kevin were on the short list of her visits usually but the girls were included on rare occasions. One girl, I’ll leave anonymous, was too scared of Sister Ruth to ask to go to the restroom and peed herself in class on two different occasions. Nuns get a stereotypical bad rap I know, but one gave my uncle, one of the genuinely kindest men I’ve ever known, reason to leave school for good in the eighth grade. I’m sure it’s cruel and unusual punishment to expect an educator on any level to wear a polyester dress in Ohio September’s and do their best. No different I guess than us six-year-olds being subjected to button up uniform shirts and clip on neck ties and effectively learn Grade school smoothed out in the years to follow, we got used to the ties, cursive and not tempting fate with our teachers and maybe vice versa in a few cases. Upon graduation from eighth grade it was no secret or accident that our small town Catholic school had spit out yet another group of smarties prepared for the world beyond the county line in spite of polyester clothing and being outnumbered eighteen to one.