Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Walking at the Harvest Festival


The last time my high school had a Harvest Festival was also my freshman year.

Harvest Festival was a week-long event, celebrating agricultural history and achievements. The final event was a public gathering at the school gymnasium, where representatives of each high school class would walk down the middle aisle of folding chairs and then sit in one of the front rows.

Students from each class elected a girl as Harvest Festival Queen. Each Queen selected a boy as her escort, generally with the question, “Would you walk with me in the Harvest Festival?”

The freshman class elected Patricia Minton as Harvest Festival Queen. Patricia sat in front of me in general science class. We often talked before class began and became casual friends. The school had two separate classes, first through eighth grades. I was in the B-designated class; Patricia was the A class, so we had not had much interaction before ninth grade.

Two friends, James and Jimmy, also had general science class with me. Jimmy sat behind me and one row to my right; James sat directly behind me.

About two days after class Harvest Queen election, Jimmy said to James, “Who do you think Patricia will ask to walk with her?” James said, “I don’t know.” Then he said, “Maybe she’ll ask Bob.” Both laughed as though that idea was the funniest they had ever heard.

Funny thing was, I figured she would ask me.

And that same day, not five minutes after Jimmy and James made the funniest joke ever, Patricia did just that. She came into the classroom, sat at her desk, turned, and said, “Would you walk with me in the Harvest Festival?” I said, “Sure.” I don’t remember what James and Jimmy had to say, if anything. My parents and my sisters and brother were quite impressed that Patricia asked me to walk with her.

For the Harvest Festival walk, boys had to wear a white jacket, black slacks, a tie, black shoes and black socks. I did not have a white jacket or a tie. My mother called all her relatives. One, her brother Randall, had a white jacket. Problem was, I was already six feet tall. Randall was not. But, my mother had found a white jacket, and that was the one I would wear. Buying a white jacket was out of the question. My mother did, however, buy a clip-on bow tie for me to wear.

I don’t remember anything about the Festival walk. I think Patricia and I were first, being freshmen and all. I offered her my arm, she took it, and then we walked down the middle aisle of about 200 folding chairs set on the gymnasium floor. The sleeves of my borrowed jacket were about four inches above my wrists. The gymnasium was packed. Any kind of school activity brought out a lot of people.

Somewhere in sophomore year, Patricia and her best friend, Martha Harvey, announced they would graduate a year early. Next school year, Patricia and Martha were seniors, while we lowly juniors still had two years remaining.

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