High school would have been a lot more tolerable for me if it had not been for all those stupid classes.     
    There may have been a few classes that did me a teeny bit of good. For instance, in English class I heard a vague rumor about something called “syntax.” I had no idea that there was a levy for breaking the Ten Commandments.     
    My favorite class was shop. Nothing fires a teenaged boy’s zest for learning like having access to an array of razor-sharp, high-speed power tools.
    Shop is where my pal Dale proved that the human body definitely conducts electricity when he thoughtlessly grabbed both leads of an arc welder. Dale claimed that it did not affect him, but his hair would not lie flat for the rest of the day.     
    Sometimes our school tried to force us to learn things that were obviously untrue. For example, in history we were told about Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address. Like I am supposed to believe that a guy would really stand up in front of a crowd and say, “Four score and seven years ago.”
    Have you ever heard anybody talk like that? Me, either. I bet our teachers also thought we believed in the Tooth Fairy.     
    Nothing was worse than the classes where you were supposed to learn about things you would never use. A prime example was crafts.     
    Crafts was taught by Mrs. Hoffelt, who had earned a nice rating from the student body. But her class was totally worthless as far as I was concerned. My life’s goal was to become a farmer; the only clay I would ever deal with was the kind that stuck to a moldboard. And what, exactly, is batik or macramé? How would learning about these things help me as a farmer?
    Dale and I both had scornful attitudes regarding crafts, so we began to skip Mrs. Hoffelt’s class. Mr. Grebner, our high school principal, would summon us to his office and deliver his you-should-take-school-more-seriously sermon or his your-education-is-up-to-you lecture. We would listen respectfully and skip crafts the very next day.     
    We began to pass the hour allocated for crafts by walking two blocks to the house where Dale’s widowed grandmother lived. Gramma was a sturdy old county woman and a bit on the crusty side. She always opened the door with a wisecrack such as, “Look at what the cat dragged in.” Or, “If it ain’t Pete and Repeat.” I got the impression that had we brought Gramma a live hog, she was fully capable of butchering it on the spot and would have sent us home with fresh homemade sausage.     
    “Set yourself down,” Gramma would command gruffly, gesturing toward a timeworn wooden kitchen table. Gramma’s boyfriend would already be seated at the tableside. That is, if you can use boyfriend to describe a guy who has over eight decades on his odometer.     
    A deck of cards would be produced, and Dale and I would engage Gramma and her companion in a few hands of euchre. Gramma would offer Dale and me a beer, which we invariably declined. Not just because we had to return to school, but also because Gramma bought the cheapest rotgut beer available.     
    Gramma would hand her chain-smoking companion a brew, shake her head and mutter, “He only comes here for one thing.” Dale and I would blush. The old codger would fiddle with his hearing aids and ask, “What?”
    Gramma would shout, “I said you shouldn’t be so stingy and bring some beer.”     
    “You don’t need to holler,” he’d reply. “I have hearing aids. And I’m as cheerful as the next guy.”     
    Gramma would roll her eyes, saying, “It would help if he trimmed his ear hair. It looks like he’s growing cotton balls.”     
    Dale and I passed many pleasant afternoons with Gramma and her octogenarian chum. We would snicker when Gramma scolded the old coot for playing the wrong cards or when she threatened to leave him out in the country where he could eat cattails instead of gobbling up all her hotdogs.”
    Dale had known Gramma his whole life and privately assured me that her threats were empty. Beneath that gruff façade beat the heart of a sweet old grandmother.
    Mrs. Hoffelt may have seemed nice, but that was just a front. I could not believe it when she gave me an F for crafts based upon the flimsy technicality that I never attended class.
    So, I missed my chance to learn about bisque and glaze. But somehow, our afternoons with Gramma left me feeling just as edified as if I had gone to crafts.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.