You can take the girl out of Clay County, but you can’t take Clay County out of the girl.
I haven’t lived in Clay County for over 25 years now, but that is where my heart still abides. I especially long to be there on the third weekend of September.
In 1974 I attended my first semester of college at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, of all places. (It wasn’t yet Midwestern State University, it didn‘t have a football team and the basketball team was called the Indians).
I was 18, fresh off a south Clay County farm, living on campus in Killingsworth Hall, the girl’s dorm.
I was totally surprised when the American history professor assigned a test for the third Friday of September.
What was wrong with that guy, I wondered. Didn’t he remember that we didn’t have school that day?
I even raised my hand (yes, I really did!) and reminded him that there would be no school that day.
Dr. Monahan was a droll, humorless little man who looked for all the world like Atom Ant. He didn’t take kindly to my questioning of his calendar. He quickly put me in my place. He said I was required to be in class to take that test.
That was the first time I realized that the third Friday of September was not a national holiday. Instead of being embarrassed by my ignorance, I was devastated that I would have to go to school that day. I even cried after class.
I just couldn’t believe MU wasn’t going to shut down for a parade and music on the courthouse lawn. Call me naïve, but I just didn’t think I could live in Wichita County any more.
That Friday I reluctantly went to my history class and took the test. I went to my other classes as well. Yes, I went to class, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was in Henrietta.
I didn’t want to be in a “foreign” classroom where no one understood the significance of the day. I would have much rather been standing on a hot, crowded sidewalk in front of the dry cleaners across the street from Wacker‘s five and dime, shielding my eyes from the bright September sun, jostling for a position to get a good look at the queen’s float as it passed by.
When my classes were finally over that day, I jumped in the car and raced to Henrietta. Relieved, I got back to Clay County as soon as I could. I missed the parade, but enjoyed all the pleasures that remain after it. And I went back on Saturday, too, because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
This year, 37 years later, on September‘s third Friday, I’ll again be stuck in a “foreign” classroom in Wichita Falls, of all places. I will reluctantly attend my classes. My heart won’t be in it. But, this time I am the teacher and I’m required to be in class so I can get a paycheck.
I won’t be able to get to the courthouse lawn in time for the parade or even the music. But I’ll get there as soon as I can.
And I’ll come back on Saturday, too. Because, you can take the girl out of Clay County, but you can’t…….well, you know the rest of that story.