As you wind your way along Randolph Road heading north out of Blair, Kansas, you leave the narrow, flat bottoms of the creek pretty quickly. The road drifts north and west for a while. If you happen to do your traveling in the hues and views of a dry October, you’ll notice the colors vibrant above the dust line of the gravel roads. The powdered limestone coats everything low and on both sides of the road. Even the autumn brilliance of sumac barely shows through the hue of tan. But in the hills, the full shine of the season takes over: golds, tans, yellows, reds, and tints of orange charge the hills for miles.
Between the thin ribbon of the flats of Randolph Creeks and the miles-wide bottom of the Missouri River, one of the downhill sweeps takes you past the still-standing specimen of an old one-room schoolhouse. It sits downhill, between the bank of the road and the near bank of a little creek that spills over stones on its way to the river. Many years ago, a teenage boy sat in a row just in front of a girl he “was sweet on.”
“I kept a mirror in my desk,” he confesses, “So I could look at her without turning around.”
His crush cost him. He explains with a chuckle, “I couldn’t pay attention to her and pay attention to the teacher. I ended up having to do eighth grade again.”
I can’t remember if the mirror ended up being confiscated or not but at any rate, both of the kids eventually graduated from high school. She went on to college and taught school for a while. They married and bought a farm. He also worked a day job at the Quaker Mills plant in Saint Joseph. Over the years, they’ve kept the home fires burning and last month celebrated their Golden Anniversary. His eyes still light up when he looks at her.
Sometimes those old school infatuations last a lifetime.