At the close of a busy day teaching twenty-six pupils in my one-room school, I did my janitorial duties. The wooden floor was sprinkled with a red cleaning compound, then swept with a wide-width broom; the three gallon crock jug was filled with fresh water from the pump outside which I sometimes had to prime; the across-the-room blackboard was cleaned by going vertically across the board with an eraser, then wiping that eraser with a cloth after each stroke. I went to the stove and put over my right arm a sleeve made from my Dad's worn-out overall leg so when I opened the stove door and raked down the fire I wouldn't get soot on my blouse. I put the empty coal bucket by the door. I dusted the window sills and made sure all the windows were locked by turning a latch fastened in the middle of the window pane, and then dusted the recitation bench. Last, I made the journey to the two outhouses to make sure there was a supply of paper - catalogue or newspapers - for the next day, and closed the doors securely.
I then went to the coalhouse with the empty bucket and filled it, taking it back into the school building. Ah! After my school duties were done, and school papers were in my home bag to be corrected, I stepped back and admired my Thanksgiving-decorated schoolroom. How I loved the energetic children and this schoolhouse! I locked the schoolhouse door.
Early Wednesday morning, my mother took me in a one-horse drawn buggy three miles to my school. It was a very cold November day and snow was on the ground. The chilly wind told me I'd need to build a very warm fire before the children arrived to warm the schoolroom.
After telling my mother thanks (she taught at this same school before she married,) and unlocking the door, I stepped into the room. Was I ever surprised! The room was warm. There was a good fire going in the stove. I wondered what had happened. Glancing around the room my eyes spotted a nicely written note on the blackboard. It read:
"Thanks for a good night's rest and for a warm room. I refilled the coal bucket. Forgive me for eating the apple and candy you had in your desk. Tell the kids to work hard and learn-knowledge is power. - A Thankful Tramp"
I often wondered about the unseen visitor. How did he get into the room? Why he turned out as a tramp when his writing indicated he was educated, and the room was left in perfect condition, I guess I will never know.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.