We Don’t Need No Book Learnin’

25cents a pull

The town meeting to build a school was held in the newly constructed Grubbs Mercantile. Ignacius Grubb has sold mule shoes, single sips of wildfire hooch through glass straws, and tobacco out of barrels since the first gold claim in Two Pan.  And still these are the only items he carries. He claims he’ll offer more variety in dry goods as soon as wagons can get over the mountain. He gladly pushed barrels against walls and corked the whiskey straw as folks disputed the necessity of schooling.


"Repugnant" is not in this speller, but erysipelatous is (see footnote)

“I need my boy in my smith shop.” Leander Dooley, best known for the distance he can spit and the speed he can hammer out a horse shoe, made a convincing argument.  “The only book-learning my son needs is to add up 50¢ per shoe. 75¢ for ox.” This brought a mumble of complaints about the 12 pennies he charges to make an ax wedge.

Mrs. XX interrupted, waving a copy of McGuffeys  2nd reader. “We’ve gotten along quite well with my dame-school.” Many folks felt the two days a week she taught little ones their letters in her home was sufficient.

“My girls don’t need book-learning either,” added XX. “They need spinning and cooking lessons…and how to keep a house clean.” However, a few people added that learning a bit of writing wouldn’t hurt.


Mrs. Patricia Woolsey, the most vocal proponent for the school took the floor, shaking off her husband’s last-minute clutch on her arm. “If I can’t get the whores out of Two Pan,” Mrs. Woolsey stood with a shout, “I’ll at least educate our children how to spell “repugnant” when they pass them on the street.”

At this point Big Opal, matron of The Sporting Palace, arose from her back-row seat, pointing her umbrella at Mrs. Woolsey. “ I’ll donate the land and pay the teacher’s wage for the first year, on the condition that woman never pickets or publicly slanders my girls and my fine establishment again.”

A silence fell over the crowd. Mrs. Woolsey stared, then finally gave a hair’s width of a chin nod and sat down.

I'm ready for you. You little bean-nose urchins.


It was agreed the valley-folk would build the school.

Clella Hackbert would be hired at one-cent-a-day-per pupil.

And each family would provide a cord of firewood to heat the school house.

The times…they are a-changin’

*erysipelatous-an acute, febrile infectious disease. This and a number of other poly-syllabic diseases are lessons in the Speller.

About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in Change, Humor, Pioneer Friday in Two Pan and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to We Don’t Need No Book Learnin’

  1. Helen says:

    Hilarious with a touch of irony…


  2. Nisha says:

    Yay! As much as I hated school, I have to admit, it is necessary.
    Looking good by the way, Headmistress Barb!


  3. Arindam says:

    It’s a really great post. This is some how similar to the condition & mindset of many interior places & the people in my country. Like the whole idea behind this post a lot.


  4. Silva Gang says:

    Funny story Barb! Ms. Clella Hackbert sounds like a teacher I wouldn’t wanna mess with… no ma’am!


  5. Al says:

    Great story. That school marm would put the fear of the Lord in many a child’s heart.


  6. Phil says:

    I wonder if dear Opal is going to run any charity fund-raising events to help with the continued financing of the school. I hear the men-folk around Two Pan are eager to contribute and sponsor such a worthy cause. Their wives – not so much…


  7. Hi Barb, I nominated you for the HUG Award, check it out at my blog! xx


  8. digipicsphotography says:

    Teaching the basics must have been an ordeal….readin’ writin’ and arith..arith…math!


  9. Red says:

    XX is trying to keep her name a secret, since the younguns cannot spell it no way.
    Some of the names for things were simply as horrific as the diseases. See, Two Pan may not need a doctor after all 😉


  10. mj monaghan says:

    Very informative and creative, Barb. Love these posts on Two Pan! It must have been quite an environment in a new town, no infrastructure, just people and buildings popping up in the middle of nowhere. Fascinating to think about.


  11. Ooooh. Two posts in the one day and one of them from Two Pan. A red letter day for which I would gladly pay my one cent a day for the educashun I receive here. And Big Opal is one of my heroes. A body would have to get up very early to out smart her.
    Mega thanks.


  12. souldipper says:

    “Charge the parents a penny a day for not sendin’ a young un to school! That’ll make ’em think a time or two about turnin’ ’em into child labururs.”


  13. dan says:

    I think the straw probably prevented tobacco backwash.

    I heard in some states you can get thrown in jail for smuggling books, and from what I’ve seen in the papers I believe that to be a fact.


  14. I hope the times are changing in Texas, but somehow this story sounds a lot like Texas’ present legislature. Thanks for another good tale, Barb.


  15. moma escriva says:

    You never know what diseases might pop up in Two Pan…especially at the two bars. Two bars in Two Pan. Sounds about right for a boom town.


  16. Alice Lynn says:

    Barb, thanks for the inside view of politics in Two Pan. Hurrah for Patricia Woolsey. 🙂 Love your school marm picture.


  17. magsx2 says:

    Loved the read, I could just picture Mrs Woolsey face when she was basically given what she wanted, but with conditions. Good one. 😀
    23 cents a pull, that is really hilarious, great job on the picture. 😆


    • Barb says:

      True story. They had glass straws back then, and it was hard to transport drinking glasses over the mountains. (Think about that when you watch those westerns where they take a shot and throw their whiskey shot glasses at the mirror behind the bar). So a number of those edge-of-civilization joints brought in a barrel and charged for a pull on a straw.


  18. Roxie Matthews says:

    God have mercy on Miss Clella Hackbert!

    By the way, got any good recipes for “Whiskey?”

    Applause, applause! I love the tales from Two Pan!


  19. A glass whiskey straw, huh? Never heard of that before. Sharing a common straw might’ve helped spread some of those multi-syllabic diseases in that speller, but then again, maybe the hooch was strong enough to kill most germs. Another great post, Barb.


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