I have been known to forget the basic plot or even who starred in a movie within a day or two of leaving a theatre. These days I write my Passport Number on a form at least once a week but do you think I can remember whether it ends with 5081 or 0518? My short term memory is average to horrible. My long term memory is a different story. What I am particularly good at is recalling obscure events and conversations from my childhood and adolescence.
One particularly vivid memory is of my first day in Grade 9 at Stouffville District Secondary School. My Home Room teacher was Mrs. Hoogenboom, a petite woman of about 30 who lived in Toronto but planned to make the daily commute to what was then a rural farm community about 30 miles north of the city. To us country kids Mrs. Hoogenboom was the very definition of “city slicker.” From her name to her designer clothes, her above-the-knee patent leather boots, even the brand new Audi Quattro that she drove, everything about Mrs. Hoogenboom screamed “outsider.” To make matters worse, this was her first teaching job in the sticks and our first experience with a teacher who wasn’t named McDonald or Brown or Wideman.
I can’t remember exactly what was said but seeing as Grade 9 boys will be, well, Grade 9 boys, I’m sure we deserved the class detention that she handed out about 10 minutes into the school year. I wasn’t particularly happy to stay after class but I didn’t have anything else to do, and since I lived a mere five doors from the school I could still rush home and tell my parents that I had stayed for “club sign-ups” or “student council elections” or something. They’d never suspect a thing. Not everyone in Mrs. Hoogenboom’s class felt the same way.
Rodney and Ken were good friends who rode the bus to school from their family farms north of town. A class detention meant they would miss their return bus and a parent would have to drive into town to pick them up.
“We can’t stay after class,” declared Ken, matter-of-factly.
“You don’t have a choice,” replied Mrs. Hoogenboom, peering over the top of her oversized Sophia Loren-style glasses. “You’ll be back to my classroom at 3:30 and you won’t leave until 4:30. We’ll see how funny you think ‘Hoogenboom’ is then,” she fumed.
“But you don’t understand,” whinged Ken. “We HAVE to be home at four o’clock, sharp!”
“I’m sure The Three Stooges or Leave It To Beaver will be on again tomorrow,” said Mrs. H, sarcastically.
Rodney hadn’t said much until this point but he knew that Ken’s vague excuse wasn’t selling. “We have stuff to do at home,” he piped up. “And it has to be done at a certain time.”
Mrs. Hoogenboom had clearly intended to lay down the law on Day 1 and she wasn’t going to let these farm boys off that easily. “And what exactly is it that you do after school?” she asked.
Without even the slightest hint of inhibition, Rodney replied proudly: “We have to pull tits.”
Mrs. Hoogenboom’s heavily made-up face turned three shades of red. She was speechless. A 14-year-old boy had got to her on Day 1.
I don’t recall if the boys talked their way out of that detention or not but I did remember Rodney’s line when I was crouched under a cow shortly after 7:00 AM on the morning of Saturday #129. I was with a group of eight Dragoman passengers and crew who were staying at a farm high in the Himalayas, and if we were to have milk for our muesli or cream for our coffee, we would have to milk the cow – or “pull tits” as Rodney would say.
To be honest, my tit pulling technique needs some work. I didn’t get more than an ounce or two from the cow before begging the farmer to take over. Thankfully he knew what he was doing and even some of my travel companions proved to be exceptionally good tit pullers.
The rest of Saturday #129 was spent wandering around the Annapurna Eco-Village and the neighbouring community of Astam. There isn’t an awful lot to do in this neck of the woods, but the view is pretty good. Wouldn’t you agree?