A Bad New Year (1/10/2020)

What better way to start a new year than with a visit from our friend Joe Scatterscrew? If you remember from some past Friday Footnotes, Joe is a fictitious agriculture teacher invented by E. V. Walton, a faculty member at Texas A & M. These stories were used in preparing agriculture teachers back in the 1950s.
With the advent of a new year, we often have resolutions about getting our agricultural facilities better organized and to eliminate some of the clutter that somehow seems to magically grow in our agriculture facilities. Perhaps this story will motivate you to spend some time at the start of the year eliminating clutter from your facilities, home, and life.



E. V. Walton

Joe Scatterscrew looked at the black smoking remains of the Agriculture building.  The firemen had saved the shop but the class room was a total loss.

“It just goes to show you,” Joe growled through his blistered lips, “it don’t pay a man to try to do nothing.  Here me and the boys was all set to make us a pot of FFA money by selling fire works.  Musta had two or three hundret pounds of rockets, fire crackers, cherry bombs, roman candles and all.  Who would of thought them blasted thangs would blow up, burn down the Ag. building and blow a hunk of wood into my — well, it was lucky I was headed toward the door.”

He flicked the ash off of his cigar with his unbandaged hand and shook his head.

“Superintendent mad, school board mad, tax payers cussing . . . Well, its a blessing, I say.  More teachers ought to do this.  Be better all the way round.  It’s the only way to get better facilities.”

He walked away limping a little on account of the south part of his left hip.  The superintendent was waiting for him on the steps.

“When can we get started on the new building, Mr. Grimley?” Joe asked pleasantly.  Mr. Grimley glared at him before answering.

“I just don’t know.  I just don’t know.  Have to have a new bond issue and frankly Joe, I don’t know if this community will support your program that strong.”

Joe lit a fresh cigar.

“I don’t see why not.  I needed a new building any way.  That old one was too little to begin with.”

Mr. Grimley turned red and had trouble replying.

“Joe, if I have told you once, I told you a hundred times that you had enough junk in there to take up over half your space!  If you would ever clean up, throw away useless material     Dammit!  You didn’t need half the room you had.  And storing fire works.” (Mr. Grimley sat down on the steps and he1d his head in his hands.)

Joe looked around wishing he could get away but finally stammered.  “It could of been worse.  Lucky it didn’t catch fire to them 2 barrels of gasoline I had in the shop.  I personal kept a fire hose sprayed on them.”

Mr. Grimley jumped up from the steps so fast Joe looked to see if a stinging scorpion had bit him.

“Whaaat!”  Mr. Grimley screamed, “Two barrels of gasoline in that … that cluttered shop!”

Joe backed away a few feet in alarm.

“Well, yeah!  Heck we got it cheap for cleaning up motors and such-as-that.”

Mr. Grimley looked around fast for a rock or a stick or something.  His face was so purple Joe thought of calling a doctor.  Mr. Grimley’s hands were shaking but he finally calmed down enough to ask in a strangled voice.

“Joe, tell me.  Just tell me.  You don’t happen to have any blasting powder of dynamite in that shop . . . ?”

“No Sir-ree!  Nope.  I know better than that.  I’ve got that in the pick up.  Me and the boys figgered on blowing some stumps out of Charlie Fisher’s pasture last fall.  It’s in the pick up . . .”

Joe got some water and he and the janitor finally brought Mr.  Grimley to.  It was a pretty bad faint but after while he got up strength enough to look at Joe one time and mutter.

“Thank God, I never carry a pistol.”

Mr. Grimley tottered into his office and with shaking fingers dialed his phone, made application for two other jobs and finally called Bob Craig.

“Mr. Craig, you got any specifications for an Ag. building capable of withstanding a hydrogen bomb, big enough to teach boys in, and too small to store anything in?”


Curator’s Footnote: I have had more than one student ask me if a specific Joe Scatterscrew story was written about his or her agriculture teacher because some of the things written sure sounded like their agriculture teacher. What is ironic is that I did my student teaching at Valley View High School in North Texas in the Spring of 1969. Before I arrived for my student teaching experience the ag shop did burn down. I don’t know what caused the fire but clutter probably provided fuel for the fire.

Clutter is a major problem in some agriculture programs. Barbara Hemphill, an organizing expert, maintains that clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions. A motto that I use in deciding what to keep and what to toss is “If in doubt, throw it out.” This applies to mail, scrap pieces of wood, leftovers in the refrigerator, etc. Research shows that 80% of the items we file, keep, hang on to, etc. are never used again.

One of my favorite quotes is  “When Things Aren’t Adding Up In Your Life Start Subtracting.” Gretchen Rubin says it a little differently —  “Outer Order Contributes to Inner Calm.”  So perhaps a New Year’s Resolution that might be in order is to eliminate clutter in your life. You will feel better.