Lyndover Elementary, Maplewood, MO
In 1939, our English teacher was brilliant. He taught us creative writing when we did not know what the term meant. He began with the short story and had us bring our favorite short story to class and read it aloud. I used the Mark Twain/Tom Sawyer tale of “Whitewashing the Board Fence” and the class enjoyed my reading.
Next, we, as students, were requested to compose our own short story from our own experiences. We were excited! My composition, as I remember, was “Snipe Hunt,” a true story about my Boy Scout years. A synopsis of the story from decades ago:
Our Maplewood Boy Scout Troop was on a weekend camp-out out at Lions Den, a Scout Camp spot about an hour south of Maplewood. With our mess tent and pup tents erected, we settled in for our initial night of camping. I was only a Second Class Scout, so I watched as the older scouts gathered our half-dozen “tenderfoot” scouts and handed each a burlap bag. “You are on your first camp-out and get to try to capture the little fowls know as ‘SNIPES’ and bring them back to our camp We will turn them loose but you each will get credit.” The tenderfoot scouts took their burlap bags and went happily on their way. We stoked up our camp fire and told stories and laughed at the youngsters’ foolish venture.
About an hour later, there was a real commotion and the tenderfoot scouts brought the burlap bags to the camp fire and took out one of their squawking “guinea hens”. I knew what they were because my own grandmother kept guinea hens at her own country home to act as an “alarm” for foxes or other intruders. The little hens squawked so loudly they awoke everyone.
Our Scout master said the boys would take the guinea hens back to the farmer and the older scouts would apologize to the farmers after dawn. We toasted marshmallows for the tenderfoot scouts and let them feel good about themselves.
Our teacher retyped my “SNIPE HUNT” story and submitted it to our Boy Scout magazine, “Boys Life”. The tale was published and they sent me a check for $27.00. Dad cashed the check in singles and I gave it to our English teacher for treats for our class. In 1939, $27.00 kept us in treats for eight weeks so we celebrated Billy Jones’ first published article.
Billy Jones, Jr.