Thursday, August 30, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch: The List

Like many would-be poets of my age, I have felt the influence of Walt Whitman. I've just been reading a little of Whitman this week. I bought the book, The Last Child in the Woods, on the recommendation of several contributors to Learning in the Great Outdoors, the Carnival of Environmental Education (Including Tricia of Monday Poetry Stretch fame). A Whitman excerpt begins the book. That inspired me to open A Child's Anthology of Poetry edited by Elizabeth Hauge Sword, to read the Whitman poems there.

And now Tricia wants us to write a list poem. The fact is I use list in some degree in many of my poems. Perhaps this bit of rhyme in honor of my mother is the most apt example:

Dandelions in a Milk Carton

Thank you, Mama,

For nursing me and diapering me,

For a dry set of sheets when I wet another,

For the Bible story book and Uncle Remus,

For all five sisters and my little brother,

And all the good eating stuff
Like biscuits from wooden bowls,
datenut cakes, and lemon fluff,
Like Russian tea and yeast rolls

For Jesus-loves-the-little-children and Deep-and-Wide,

For walking to school that first day by my side,

And for your loving smile when I came in a run

With dandelions in a milk carton for all you've done.
-Terrell Shaw

So a list....


Once again I feel the need to make excuses... It doesn't feel quite whole. It began as a list, but may no longer qualify. It got all rap happy, began rhyming....
It's a Stretch.

Bloggers certainly are a curious lot,

Strange as the names they select.

Look at the bunch my sidebar's got -

Who ever heard?
The Miss Rumphius Effect?

Learn about Biden, Barack, and - shoot --
Help blue the whole country at
Swing State.
Learn how to vote while you play a
Cold Flute,
Oh!Pinion will show how to punctuate.

The Median Sib's grandgirls are cute.
Joan's paint their fingers and toesies.

Sleepless Juggler has turned quite mute,
so Joan tells all at her
Daddy's Roses.)

Julie, swings from Pines Above Snow,
And walks
in the steps of Ms Carson.
A Volkswagon thief and door wirer, though,
Walks around as a Right Reverend Parson!

And now Terrell, when Mike takes the whim,
Is not, after all, so alone on his Limb.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Learning in the Great Outdoors: On your mark!

The September edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors, the Carnival of Environmental Education, is just a few days away! Have you written a nature-related post? Have you found a website useful for teaching about the environment? Have you got a nomination for a Virtual Outdoors Site of the Month. Please make a submission and get your submissions in soon! Submit your blog article to the September edition by using our carnival submission form or by sending a link directly to Terrell at thelimb [at] mac [dot] com.

Learning in the Great Outdoors will be back home here on the Limb for September. Thanks to Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effectfor her excellent care of the Carnival as the first guest host in August. Julie at Pines Above Snow, will host the October edition. If you would like to host a future edition of the carnival please let me know!

Monday, August 27, 2007

PTSW: The Inchcape Rock

Mrs. Aurora Ritter

Beware. Your sins will find you out.

Mrs. Aurora Ritter was a big lady who wore her hair up high in a knot with two sticks in it. Very regal. Her eighth grade charges at Elizabeth Cobb Junior High School in Tallahassee were expected to memorize many poems all through the year. Sheila says each student was required to choose a "long poem" for a grand class finale. Sheila chose "The Inchcape Rock" that spring of 1963. With a little coaching she might still, lowering her sweet voice to a spooky whisper, recite a bit of it for you.

A very old map that shows the "Inchcape" Bell Rock on the coast of Scotland.

The Inchcape Rock

No stir in the air, no stir in the sea,
The ship was still as she could be,
Her sails from heaven received no motion,
Her keel was steady in the ocean.

Without either sign or sound of their shock
The waves flow'd over the Inchcape Rock;
So little they rose, so little they fell,
They did not move the Inchcape Bell.

The Abbot of Aberbrothok
Had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock;
On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
And over the waves its warning rung.

When the Rock was hid by the surge's swell,
The mariners heard the warning bell;
And then they knew the perilous Rock,
And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok.

The Sun in heaven was shining gay,
All things were joyful on that day;
The sea-birds scream'd as they wheel'd round,
And there was joyaunce in their sound.

The buoy of the Inchcape Bell was seen
A darker speck on the ocean green;
Sir Ralph the Rover walk'd his deck,
And he fixed his eye on the darker speck.

He felt the cheering power of spring.
It made him whistle, it made him sing;
His heart was mirthful to excess,
But the Rover's mirth was wickedness.

His eye was on the Inchcape float;
Quoth he, 'My men, put out the boat,
And row me to the Inchcape Rock,
And I'll plague the Abbot of Aberbrothok.'

The boat is lower'd, the boatmen row,
And to the Inchcape Rock they go;
Sir Ralph bent over from the boat,
And he cut the Bell from the Inchcape float.

Down sunk the Bell with a gurgling sound.
The bubbles rose and burst around;
Quoth Sir Ralph, 'The next who comes to the Rock
Won't bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok.'

Sir Ralph the Rover sail'd away,
He scour'd the seas for many a day;
And now grown rich with plunder'd store,
He steers his course for Scotland's shore.

So thick a haze o'erspreads the sky
They cannot see the Sun on high;
The wind hath blown a gale all day,
At evening it hath died away.

On the deck the Rover takes his stand,
So dark it is they see no land.
Quoth Sir Ralph, 'It will be lighter soon,
For there is the dawn of the rising Moon.'

'Canst hear,' said one, 'the breakers roar?
For methinks we should be near the shore.'
'Now where we are I cannot tell,
But I wish I could hear the Inchcape Bell.'

The Bellrock Lighthouse by JMW Turner

They hear no sound, the swell is strong;
Though the wind hath fallen they drift along,
Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock,--
'Oh, Christ! it is the Inchcape Rock!'

Sir Ralph the Rover tore his hair;
He curst himself in his despair;
The waves rush in on every side,
The ship is sinking beneath the tide.

But even in his dying fear
One dreadful sound could the Rover hear,
A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,
The Devil below was ringing his knell.
-Robert Southey Bristol, 1802

This is how the lighthouse at "Inchcape" Bell Rock looks today.

Curious about the Inchcape Rock? Here is an early account of the signal according to the Bell Rock Website:
“By east of the Isle of May, twelve miles from all land in the German Seas, lyes a great hidden rock, called Inchcape, very dangerous for navigators, because it is overflowed every tide. It is reported in old times, upon the saide rocke there was a bell, fixed upon a tree or timber, which rang continually, being moved by the sea, giving notice to the saylers of the danger. This bell or clocke was put there and maintained by the Abbot of Aberbrothock, and being taken down by a sea pirate, a yeare thereafter he perished upon the rocke, with ship and goodes, in the righteous judgment of God.”
-attributed to John Monypenny (1633)


The series of posts, A Poem to Start the Week, is my little anthology of poetry, many of which I have used with my students in elementary schools during 27 years of teaching.

Previous Poems to Start the Week:
The Inchcape Rock • Ogden NashTrash
Hearts, Like DoorsCasey at the BatAlways a RoseHome at Last
Bag of ToolsCarpe DiemPoems About PoetryMan's Best Friend
Spelling is Tough Stough!
Blue MarbleTacks, Splinters, Apples and Stars
Oh, Captain, My Captain!MetaphorIntroducion to Poetry
Loveliest of TreesFlax-Golden TalesThe Dinosaurs Are Not All Dead
Owl PelletsMummy Slept LateJust My Size
The Kindest Things I KnowMiles to GoLove that Brother
Oh, Frabjous Day!

Other Posts about Children's Literature:

The Lion's Paw top kid's OOP book!
Aslan is Dead!
Multiplying People, Rice, and Readers
A Teacher's Life

You can read some of my own efforts at poetry here.
And then there's Alien Invasion.

A weblog dedicated to Poetry for Children.
Watch Sonja Cole's reviews of children's books at
The PBS series Favorite Poem Project.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wint Barton

George Winton Barton was born the year the Titanic went down, on a 300 acre farm near the Pocket up in that panhandle extension of Floyd County, Georgia. Next week he will celebrate his 95th birthday. He has had a hip replaced. He's alone now, Miss Frances died two or three years ago. He suffers from macular degeneration. "If it's right in front of me, it's not there," he says. That means he can't drive or weave baskets anymore. "I went out with my nephew to show him the kind of tree to cut for baskets, but I couln't even see enough to tell."

Despite all that, his mind is sharp as ever. Sheila and I give him a ride to and from church every Sunday morning. And he is downright jaunty as he walks to the altar at church to kneel for communion while people half his age stand because of bad knees. He likes to get to church a few minutes early so he can visit in the vestibule with other members before the eleven o'clock service. This morning the usher came out to tell us that our laughing and talking was disturbing the new middle service still proceeding in the sanctuary.

On Friday I stopped by the retirement home at 7:30. Mr. Barton was sitting on the bench out front raring to go. We drove up highway 27 toward his old stomping grounds and our modern elementary school. This day Wint Barton would be our "primary source" for our first week of social studies lessons. I suspect his visit will be one of the events of fourth grade that my charges will remember.

The librarian and I had set up the science lab for his interview -- a comfy leather chair at the front with a table along side for any show and tell he brought along, semicircles of chairs for the students, a loaded video camera on tripod preset to record the event for posterity, a big stack of photocopies of an article about Mr. Barton and his baskets from The Progressive Farmer, 1983.

I wondered if he could really fill the hour alloted for each class. I needn't have concerned myself with those thoughts.

Introducing him to my students, I said that I had known Mr. Barton since 1962. I asked if there were any math whizzes who could tell me how many years I had known him. Hands went up and we were started.

"I was born way back in," he raises his voice to a near shout, " 1912, and in ten days, I''m gonna have a birthday. Can anybody tell me how old I'm gonna be?"

The man was born for the stage!

When a child mentions her old North Floyd County surname he jumps in, "Are you kin to Weldon Touchstone?"

"That's my Pawpaw!"

Such joy on the faces of the ten year-old and the nonagenarian.

He answers questions::
  • Yes, 6 sisters and three brothers, all gone now. Six others lived into their nineties. The six girls were the oldest. He was the middle boy.
  • He started school "just up the hill" in Barton School. There was one teacher and about 25 students fron nearby farms. It got its name because his grandaddy had donated the land for the school.
  • No, they didn't have a cafeteria. You either packed a lunch or went home for lunch. His little first grade brother, Raiford, had begged his mother to pack him a lunch. Most of the other students lived too far to go home for lunch like the Barton children. Raiford wanted to eat with them and play during the lunch period. She finally relented. That was the morning that a student looked up at about 10:30 and noticed a glow in the cracks of the ceiling. They emptied the one-room school of children. The big boys managed to get all the desks out the door before the fire became too hot. But that was the end of Barton School and the end of Raiford's sack lunch.
  • He walked to Barton School, of course, but when it burned a neighborhood man modified a Model T truck chassis to hold a bed with a plank bench down both sides and one in the middle and a canvas Conestoga-wagon-style top. As far as we know that was Floyd County's first school bus. On it the twenty-five Barton school kids bounced down the dirt road three miles to the larger Everett Springs School. Everett Springs had three and sometimes four teachers.
  • As a boy his only "allowance" was any money he could make selling rabbits in Rome on Saturdays. For that enterprise he built thirty rabbit boxes and set them out around the farm. He checked them every other day. "Sometimes I'd catch none, or one, or two. But one day I caught nine!" He'd tote them back home in a burlap bag and put them in a holding pen. On Saturday, he would kill them. dress them, and take them to town to sell for 25¢ each.
  • No, he didn't fish much but some of his friends, such as Quillian Mills, liked to go "sacking". They would attach two bags to hoops, a large one and a small one. One boy would wade upstream on John's Creek with the sacks held at an angle to the bank. Another boy would wade downstream toward the other poking a stick under the bank to scare the fish into the sack. When the sack holder felt a fish in the sack he would twist the top quickly to capture it. Wint only tried sacking a couple of times and never had any luck with it.
At the end of each session he showed off his baskets.

"My daddy made baskets out of oak splits -- for picking cotton and other things. When I retired I decided to see if I could make one. And I could! After I retired I went to over 150 craft shows in 4 states and I sold over 3,000 baskets. I visited schools more than a hundred times to show basket making, till my eyes got too bad. For this basket I cut down the white oak tree, split the wood, and weaved the basket."
Of course some of the questions gave me an idea of the work I have ahead of me this year:

Child: Did you know [grandparent who lives in Ohio or North Carolina]?
Child: "Mr. Barton, did they have mail when you were a little boy?"
Child: "Did you live during the War of Independence?"

I've only scratched the surface of the questions he answered and the tales he told. He had a ball and so did the students and their teacher.