Sunday, May 19, 2024


Moving from the sprawling metropolis of Coulterville with its Dairy Queen and IGA (population 1000) to the tiny backwater of Cutler with its combination post office-general store (population 400) felt like the end of the world. But, it turned out that Cutler was really good for me. 

Cutler didn't have one of these. 

Cutler wasn't large enough to have its own school. The kids from Cutler as well as those from half a dozen other small towns (most even smaller than Cutler) were all bussed to a centralized school called Tri-Co. Tri-Co changed my relationship with school. 

My transcript from Coulterville was beyond terrible. Tri-Co placed me initially into a special education class. Fortunately for me, Tri-Co seemed well versed in transitioning students from other schools. I was moved out of the special education class after the first hour. I don't really know the different levels that existed to move me through, but I was moved again at the end of the first day. By the end of the week I went from being a drop out in Coulterville to attending advanced classes in Cutler. 

This was an incredible boost to my ego. I had NEVER thought of myself as even an average student let alone advanced in anything. I started trying harder, and I did well. I missed my friends in Coulterville, and mom and dad (aka step-dad Fred) would take me there on Tuesday nights so that they could go to the Coulterville VFW and play BINGO. 

I visited my friend Peyton every Tuesday night during that school year. But, I also made friends at Tri-Co. So many of these kids were just as far outside their element as I was, and I brought knowledge of D&D with me. I made new friends. I was invited to parties and overnight D&D games at people's houses. I was a different person living a different life. 

But, mom hated Cutler. Fred went to work. My sisters and I went to school. She was alone in the tiny town of Cutler with nothing to do, no friends, and a toddler to take care of. By the end of the school year, Fred found mom a different house and we moved back to Coulterville. I threw another fit. I'm sure that mom must have thought at this point that there was absolutely no pleasing me. 

My return to Coulterville was something of a mixed bag. My friends were now out of high school and moved on to college. I was alone and headed into my junior year at the age of 19. At first, it seemed like school was going to be the same terrible experience that it had been in the past, but this time, I was present. I applied myself, and teachers who had previously written me off slowly began to treat me differently.

One teacher in particular did a complete 180 where I was concerned. He changed from a despised teacher to my favorite teacher. He even sent one of my essays into a contest for which I won "Student Historian of the Year" and was presented with an award from the governor. School was turning out to be a good thing. Then I took the PSAT exams. 

I did really well on the PSATs. I got the highest score in my class. I also got called into the Principal's office for a consultation. It turns out that I was not eligible for any academic scholarships because I would be in high school for more than 4 years. My grades didn't matter at this point. The Principal's advice was that I drop out and take the GED. With that, I could reach out to Vocational Rehab and get into college with assistance because of my disability.

That's what I did. But this wouldn't last. One evening my mom called my sister who had moved to Tulsa. "You need to come get your brother." She pleaded. "Fred is going to kill him." 

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