Memoirs by Pearl Peppmuller, South Dakota homesteader and teacher
The next was the Atall School about three and three-fourths miles northwest of home. A small school, but there was a barn for the horses. Pupils there were Alvin Liston, Lucille Liston, Francis Remington, Lyle Giddle, Matt Weber, Genevieve Weber and Harry Parsons. That winter turned out to be a bad one. I remember going to school one morning in a blizzard. I bundled up in my husband’s sheepskin coat and started out. I had to go north, and then cut across a section in the opposite corner where the school house was. I followed the path for a while, but the heavy wet snow blinded me as we were facing the storm and the ground being covered with snow, I could no longer see the path, and before long I was riding along a fence, which of course I shouldn’t have been. So I let up on the reins, thinking Bonnie would take me home, for I was sure she could find her way, and was more than surprised when, after a little while, she stopped right in front of the school house. Lyle Giddle was the only pupil I had that day.
Chalk Butte School
I taught the Chalk Butte School about two miles from the Chalk Butte store and post office. This was one of my larger schools. It was too far from home to ride back and forth, so my husband fixed up living quarters in the back part of the school for me. My nephew, Orville McMurtry stayed with me part of the time. However, we didn’t get the housekeeping part set up for a couple or three weeks, so I boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald for that time. I was amused one evening when Mrs. Fitzgerald asked how old I was. It happened that I was 33. She said, when I told him, “Well I gold Herman you would never see 30 again.” I had to laugh.
All three of the Tom Finn children rode one horse to school each day. All were good, bright children, but the second boy, Harold, I guess didn’t care too much for reading. There were three in his class, the third grade. He always sat in the middle during recitation period. I got suspicious that he studied only the third paragraph of each lesson, so one day I rearranged the seating order, much to his chagrin, as it didn’t please him at all. One day he went to the front of the room for a drink of water and while my back was momentarily turned, he grabbed one of the girl’s bonnets, put it on his head just as I turned around. I told him he looked very nice in it and to just keep it on. Of course, he couldn’t get it off fast enough. Bless their hearts, all of them. If only I knew what life has had in store for them since.
It was here one day that the hired man of a neighbor suddenly knocked on the door and said there was a big bull snake out there trying to kill a rattlesnake. We had always heard that bull snakes killed rattlesnakes and he thought it would be nice for the children to see the struggle. He thought they would like it and it would be something of a nature study, so we all rushed out expecting to see a deadly battle. Well, it turned out to be two bull snakes during the mating season, so we told the kids it was a couple snakes fighting, and went back to work. We didn’t talk about sex in those days.
My students here were Johann and Cora Smith, Vernon Aphser, George Van Dermarks, Orville McMurtry, Marie and Henry Smith, Beulah Saxon, James Finn, Lyle Gaffin, Gussie Schrader, Marie and Eugene Palen, Harold and Maxine Finn. A nice school.
The last and most up-to-date school building I had was the Elinor School about four miles from home. I taught there about 1929. It was a nice building, fully equipped, also had a good barn for the saddle horses. We had several programs and plays during the year, which were interesting and entertaining. One of my boys, Alexander Darg, lost his life in World War II.
I have wondered many times how many of my former scholars have spent time in the service of our country. If only we could keep in touch. The pupils were Tandy and Clifton Hale, Moran and Edmund Hale, John Wahl, Evelyn and Elsie Wahl, Russell and Charles Speed, Mable and Alexander Darg and Dalton York.
I received my highest salary at the Elinor School, one hundred dollars per month. I remember I gave half of the last month’s salary toward the purchase of a manure spreader and how proud we were of it!
I had no disciplinary problems with the students at any of the schools where I taught, which speaks well for each and every one of those who came to school to me. To me it was a pleasure and a privilege to help in some small way to mold these young lives. My hope is that each and every one has had a happy and successful life.
Pearle Puppmuller was born in 1886, and with her husband, William H. Peppmuller, was a homesteader in Meade County, South Dakota.