With a wink and a grin, old timers love telling kids about the long, arduous paths they walked to school waaay back when. You know the stories. They often involve deep snow, threadbare shoes, and steep hills (both to and from the schoolhouse).
But I bet you haven’t heard one that boasts a hurricane.
Students of Barstow Memorial School in Chittenden, Vermont, have a walk-to-school tale that rivals the best of the old timers’ yarns.
Hurricane Irene ransacked Vermont’s Green Mountains right before school was scheduled to start. Homes, businesses, and long stretches of road had been swept away in record floods. There was no easy way for kids in outlying areas to make it to the first day of school at Barstow Memorial.
No easy way.
Much to the principal’s surprise, 18 kids from the isolated outskirts of Chittenden showed up for class, right on time. To reach their bus stop, the kids and their families had hiked a half-mile trail through the forest. Following the young trailblazers’ lead, other rural residents began hoofing it to town for work, groceries, and mail. Soon, hundreds of people could be found trekking along the trail, spurring local donations of snacks, portable potties, mulch for traction in the mud, and golf carts to transport those who couldn’t make the journey on foot.
It may be weeks before the roads are ready for traffic again, but the kids of Barstow Memorial aren’t letting the rugged route to school get them down. When a reporter from the New York Times asked a kindergartener how she does it, she said, “I just walk straight ahead.”
A little bit of wisdom for all of us.