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“BY A COUNTRY GIRL”

I am writing this piece of personal history, not because it contains any great amount of interest for people in general, but because it may be an inspiration for some young woman who may chance to read it—and she may be induced to step out and try a similar plan for herself. Therefore, prosaic though it be, it will be, nevertheless, a true story from first to last.

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I was born and grew up like many another healthy youngster, with no marked precocity. Because there were no good schools near by, the children of the family were taken to a village in the county, and placed in what was then the best private school in that part of the State. I was then eight years of age, and this trip of sixteen miles in wagons across the snow one January day was my first glimpse of the outside world. I recall vividly now the impressions that came to me that first night and during the first days. There were in the family two older sisters and a brother, and four or five cousins and half-uncles. I had heard them discuss the wonders of this new world before we made the move. We had 201 a play-house in the barn. It was in this barn that the marvelous stories were told, and plans were made for what we meant to do and to be when once we were there. I remember that I would dig my toes in the ground, standing ready to swing, but listening open-eyed, and then let myself go high in the air, dreaming of the great future. So, the village, quaint and quiet, except for the school, was to my youthful imagination a part of Paradise.

We lived in this village and attended this school for three years. My mother died the first year, and a married sister came to take charge of the household, which was co?perative in its nature, every member of the family having his share of the daily tasks. The school was a good one, not only for its time, but judged even now by modern standards. It knew little of the principles of pedagogy, and had meager equipment in library and laboratory, but for a period of a quarter of a century, under the influence of its one principal, it had the power to transform the lives of hundreds of crude country boys and girls. What was taught was well taught, and the men and women who went from the school are known to-day in places of great responsibility. But the facts learned were a small part of that school’s work. Somehow, under the inspiration of that principal and the assistants whom he had the wisdom to employ, the school had a spirit akin to that of Rugby.

And so my story is more than half told. When once the mind is awake and the soul is stirred, there 202 is something within that bids us neither stand nor sit, but go!

After this I had two years in school nearer my home. When I was fifteen I was offered a position as assistant in a school and in my ignorance as to its responsibilities I accepted. I liked the experience, and decided that I had found my calling. The way opened for me to attend a normal, and in one year I was graduated—full fledged, with a permanent certificate. (I count this year as one of the best of my life, because of the influence of one teacher there, and for this I can pardon the absurdity of permanent certificate.)

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The five years following this graduation I taught in the public schools—five busy and happy, but hungry and unsatisfied years. During these years I had the joy of waking up other boys and girls, and during these years at night I had my first opportunity to read good books.

And then the way opened for me to go to the University. I had saved what I thought was enough money to put me through, and though some people thought I “knew enough,” I dared to lay down my work and go. I have never regretted it for one day, in spite of the sacrifice, hardship and anxiety when funds began to fail, I had the foolish idea that I must get my degree before I stopped. And I did. Now, I should say, go as long as you can with health and comfort—physical and mental—and then, if you can not make your way, teach and 203 go again. You will be the better for the discipline, perhaps, and the university the richer for your maturity.

But, a teacher may ask, why set the university as my goal? “If I have a good position, and have managed by great privation to go through a normal school, am I not entitled to rest a while and let well enough alone?” Let me answer that no university claims to be the final goal. Take your respite, teach with all your might with the best light that you have. But go up for some summer session. You will catch the spirit; you will soon see that you need the university, and if you have in you the right fire, your university needs you. Then if you are too timid to give up your position, ask your board for a leave of absence and go back as you can and take your degree.

But my heart turns to the girl away back in the country, to the girl who has felt her soul stir within her, but has curbed every hope because she thinks herself shut within walls that cannot be broken down. Don’t believe it. Keep the fire alive. Let the university know who you are and what you want, and if you cry loud enough and long enough—and mean it, some one will come to your rescue. Take my word for it.—The University of Texas Bulletin.

PART II WORKING TO MAKE HIMSELF A MORE USEFUL MAN

F. M. BASSFORD