In 1936, Mrs. Owen, the teacher in the Bratton Branch one-room schoolhouse, asked her students to write the three things in their notebooks they felt they had learned during their time there that would serve them best in life.
Fern wrote, “I learned to have humility, gratitude, and patience. I think these three virtues will serve me best in life.”
She graduated with perfect grades later that week.
She took a walk that hot, sweltering day, taking her puppy who was learning to walk on a leash. She lived in the country and the road in front of her house was deserted. A day could pass, hours would go by with no traffic coming or going. She thinks that her sneaker caught on broken asphalt and down she went. She was walking too fast. For some reason, she couldn’t get up. Hours passed. Her puppy laid down beside her. She raised her hand in desperation, hoping someone would see it above the weeds.
He liked to sit in his yard at night and light sparklers. They reminded him of her shining, bright eyes when she looked at a flower, the blue sky, a puppy, or him. He was sad when they went out. He feared that, someday, her eyes would cease to sparkle for him.
He walked when he needed to think. He walked wherever his feet took him. He had to decide what to do about her. He found himself outside the military depot. Inside they kept hazardous waste. Maybe their relationship was just that. Hazardous waste.