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James R. Stout

Snoopy Vs. The Wicked Witch of the West

            In February of 1967, our family moved into the house that I would do the remainder of my growing up. I was 11-years-old at the time. I moved out of that house in September of 1976, but my parents stayed there until 1979. When I was growing up, I mostly had good teachers. Some were better than others, but only a very few had no business teaching kids. When we moved into that house, I only had 3 months of elementary school left. I would be going to junior high school that fall. I’ll never forget that first day at Ridgecrest Elementary. It was an eventful day in my life. I met several kids that I am still friends with today. I was also assigned to a teacher who was about as nuts as a barrel of Planters. Frankly, I had never met an adult like her.

            My father took me to school the first day to get me registered and the principal took us to my class to meet my teacher. I had been very fortunate to have had some great teachers since 2nd grade. They were loving and helpful besides being terrific at teaching us. The principal introduced me and my father to the teacher and she seemed to be a sweet and wonderful lady. But it was all an act for my father’s benefit. She was personable and friendly and appeared to be another great teacher in my life. Dad said goodbye when the bell rang and the teacher (I’ll not name her despite the fact that she is likely long dead. I don’t want to get some kind of lawsuit!) assigned me a desk.

            So, it’s time for roll call and I’m thinking things couldn’t be better. When she gets to my name she calls out “James Stout”. Well, I’ve always gone by Randy and she had just been informed of that when we were introduced. I said “here” and then added, “I go by Randy”. That’s when I first heard the cackling that she displayed so well. She scolded me for talking and it was extremely embarrassing which I believe was the point. What I quickly learned was to never speak unless asked a direct question. She would pace the floor and I have no doubt had she had the proper attire could have been the Wicked Witch of West’s twin. Over the next three months I was afraid to ever ask a question because it might illicit ridicule. She walked around the room with a wooden ruler and would slap it on her thigh for effect. I would quickly learn that the only thing she appeared to love was her horse. She drove a Chevy Nova and the back seat and trunk was full of hay for Old Pye.

            The fifth-grade classes all ate at the same time in the cafetorium. Each class had a couple of long tables and I sat with a couple of guys that I had become friends with. Guy and Bobby were their names. If it was possible, they were even more scared of Mrs. A. than I was. One day we were talking about our favorite current records. There was “98.6” by Keith, “I’m A Believer” by The Monkees, “Talk Talk” by The Music Machine, “Happy Together” by The Turtles, “Kind of a Drag” by The Buckinghams, and a recent favorite, “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron”. At the mention of that final song the three of us started to sing it. We all had the lyrics memorized. It’s not like we were singing loud and disturbing anybody. However, a very disturbed one-eyed girl who was about as wild as any hyena the Serengeti ever saw, went to Mrs. A and told her that we had been SINGING AT THE TABLE! Heaven’s no! So, Mrs. A came over and made us stand up in front of the other kids while she gave us a tongue lashing. We were punished by having to clean off the tables after the other kids all went back to class. She left us with strict orders to clean the tables and then come straight back to class.

            So, there we were cleaning off the breadcrumbs, spilled milk, and a stray green pea or kernel of corn and our fearless hero came to the rescue. Yes, Snoopy took on the Wicked Witch of the West. How? Well, he convinced us that we should sing his song while we worked. It felt like being untied and set free. The best part of it was we garnered an appreciative audience. The cafeteria ladies all came out and listened to us sing and then applauded enthusiastically when we finished. I’ll forever be thankful to Snoopy for his support!

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