Did you hear about the two guys from Texas who were caught stealing textbooks out of colleges in Wisconsin? They were selling them to some firm in Texas who was reselling them to students. It’s a case of high academic intrigue.

You know what I thought of immediately. Where were these guys in 1960? And why didn’t they take every English book in our junior high! I hated the grammar, I could not diagram a sentence and you won’t believe how many times we were forced to read about that “Harp-Weaving lady”……..who looked a lot like Edna St. Vincent Millay.

If Miss Mary Nell Bryant hadn’t a’takin’ a liking to me, I would never have passed seventh grade English! I don’t know which one of us was the proudest of that D minus. She patted me on the back the last day of school, “Kesley, it’s all right. Not everyone grows up to be a writer.”

Of course, when you think about it, a junior high English book in 1960 wouldn’t be worth a plug nickel—then or now. Who in the world would buy, or steal, a book on conjugating verbs, identifying subjects and predicates, how to isolate and rectify a dangling participle and contained a literature section full of poetry and short stories written by people you’d never heard of with funny names like Irving, Hawthorne, Poe, Lord Byron, Keats, Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson!

Halfway through the ninth grade I would have called these guys if I’d been wise to their scheme. I’d left the boiler room door open and turned a light on in Miss Clark’s English class. All I wanted in return was for them to haul off every copy of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” they could get their hands on.

And you know, since they were in the building, (call it a crime of convenience) they could have snuck a few doors down the hall and loaded up those algebra books Miss Carter was so proud of. And if they had too much to carry off in one load…..at least snatch out the pages that had those awful bar graphs on them!

I don’t know much about stealing, but wouldn’t these two guys make more money robbing a convenience store. Or driving off with somebody else’s Lexus. Or selling fake Oakleys. Surely there are more conventional ways of larceny out there.

And why Wisconsin? Do they have smarter textbooks up there? Or less educational security? (I put in some incomplete sentences in honor of Miss Mary Nell) The news report didn’t really go into it, but I’m wondering what type of textbooks were taken. Are math books worth more on the black market than an economics book? Surely they weren’t taking anything related to nuclear physics—that would be aiming at a very small market.

We know for dead certain positive they didn’t take any poetry books!

All I can figure is these textbooks must have contained the answers. It’s the only solution that makes sense. There is no profit in it without the answers—even a D minus student could figure that out!

And I can’t for the life of me see the profit here. As soon as any professor worth his salt realized something was amiss, he would change the questions immediately. That’s what Miss Polly Rucker did.

She taught us senior English. And we were having this big multiple choice test on some literature stuff we’d been studying. We were supposed to match the author with his, or her, most famous work. Well, as you might imagine, me and Yogi and Buddy didn’t know Geoffrey Chaucer from Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

I’m not sure about the statue of limitations so I can’t tell you the name of the three boys who scaled the fire escape under the cover of darkness, eased into the third story room of Miss Polly and might have found, and copied, the answer key to the big literature quiz.

The glint in Miss Polly’s eye the next day should have been a tip off. She knew! The friendly, but diabolical smile, as she passed out the exams told us our goose was cooked. The multiple choice test had tuned into an essay quiz which contained one question: Compare and Contrast the Thought Process of James Fenimore Cooper with Henry David Thoreau and Explain How this Process was Manifested through their Writings.

People, I stared at the blank space for ten minutes without moving. I finally picked up my # 2 leaded pencil and wrote the only answer I had; d, b, c, a, d…..

 

Respectfully,

 

Kes