Miss Bragdon teaches a blizzard

It does seem to me that, as things roll along, our sources of information know less and less about more and more. Take one of our TV channels. It has a weather man who is "chief meteorologist," and the other evening he said we'd have southeast wind and heavy snow. This is possible, because along the coast of Maine all weather suppositions are possible, but I don't remember in a long series of potentials that we ever had a heavy snow on a southeast wind. I speak cautiously because I live surrounded by experts who listen to TV weather only to check how close the chief meteorologist comes.

Let me say that in my youth I never heard the expression, "a goosebone weather prophet." I never did. It was not a term used easily by Downeasters even though we'll understand what you mean if you use it. It means an untutored oracle who foretells long-distance weather after consulting the merrythought of a gaggler. You can do the same by the shucks on an ear of sweet corn, the burs on a beechnut, or by holding two wet fingers to the wind. Folks around here know what the weather will do well before the 6 o'clock news is aired.

In my youth, alluded to respectfully above, we did not have radio, television, or newspapers that arrived after the weather was already doing what the papers told us it would. Not much point in paying two whole cents for a paper when you could just look out the window. I was in my second grade in school with Miss Bragdon when she taught the weather one whole day and covered about everything.

Teachers knew how to do things like that back then, and Miss Bragdon had just finished high school last June. It was a January day right after the January thaw, which always came in January, and a good part of our snow had been melted away by the warm rain of that annual event. Bare ground showed, and the wind was chill, so we came to school that morning well buttoned and mittens on, and the sun that had risen so clean at dawn was now behind thin clouds and growing dimmer by the minute. As we left for school my mother said, "It'll be snowing at school-out."

We had silly opening exercises then. All at our seats, ready to go, we waited for Miss Bragdon to greet us. She would bow as if she loved every one of us and we loved her, which was true. Then we would repeat the Lord's Prayer and sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Miss Bragdon would read a Psalm or perhaps some of the Beatitudes. And on this particular January morning she concluded the exercises by saying, "Now, people, today a blizzard is making up, and I'll interrupt our studies from time to time and we'll notice how things go. It will be snowing hard when you start for home this afternoon. And Rolvin, what time does the tide serve?"

Gladly did she know and gladly teach! Rolvin was the Dearnley boy from the landing, living at the salt sea's edge, and his daddy and older brothers clammed, caught lobsters, and did some ground fishing. Rolvin's father was harbor master. Rolvin was the boy in our grade who would know the time of the afternoon tide.

Rolvin stood and said. "Yes ma'am, Boston high water at 2:47. We correct with 20 minutes."

"Thank you, Rolvin," said Miss Bragdon. "If it starts to snow on the high tide, we'll be walking home in a storm."

Alack, my dear friends, and fie! The school lunch had not then been invented and the dinner bucket, hamper, firkin, and nose bag were respectable. Youngsters who usually walked home for noonin' carried their dinners when it stormed. So this day we didn't break for lunch. We just brought our lunches in and our storm watch continued.

THE best part of our school lunches was swapping cookies. No two alike, each the pride of a different loving mother, we'd pass cookies back and to, and every cookie was the greatest. And knowing it was making up a storm and we'd have a full house, Miss Bragdon (who boarded and did no cooking) had a box of "boughten" cookies from the store as her treat. They were Fig Newtons, and were a pleasant novelty.

And all day long, including lunch hour, Miss Bragdon called our attention to the gathering portents. We might well be, she said, in for a reg'lar Downeast blizzard, but that called for stiff wind velocity and how cold it got. So we learned about velocity and watched to see if the limbs on the trees told us anything, which they did, and then we turned to "joggerfy."

Miss Bragdon told us the wind was already northeast and it was getting colder. She said the first snowflake would show up at high tide, and if the drifts began to build she'd let us out early. Meantime we'd move to spelling. Rolvin Dearnley was the winner, to put it one way. He interrupted classwork with, "High water! It's snowin'!"

The first flakes of a severe storm were coming down. Then the wind moved up a notch and more flakes cut at the window glass. I think we were not "let out" early, but Miss Bragdon came along with us to the place she lived and stood outside to see us trudge homeward in knee-deep snow. The next morning we were buried under deep drifts and didn't go to school. Miss Bragdon was the teacher who told me, ante-school bus, that I needn't be late to school on stormy days. She said, "Just start sooner."

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