Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saint Scott: Patron Saint of All Cowboys

St. Scott with Floating Disk Halo

My old high school math teacher, Jim Scott, whom you see in this recent photo taken by his daughter Jeanie, is now close to 80, I suppose, though he doesn't look it to me. He was a very good teacher, especially for a tiny, isolated place like Salem, Arkansas, and he knew a lot of math, having completed all of his doctoral work in mathematics up to his thesis, which he never quite got around to finishing because of other demands on his time, such as family and work.

He happens to be one of the most talented individuals I've ever met. He first taught music at Salem Elementary School when I was a kid, though I think that this job of his ended just before I started school, but when I was in high school, I not only learned math from him, I also took part in his informal art class, our aesthetic project being a mural that he designed and did the perspective for, a street scene of an imaginary Medieval village. In addition to teaching, he had his own business, a surveying company, which I worked for one summer as a nineteen-year-old. I got to see a lot of backwoods Ozark spots, often very isolated, that summer. Jim was also a bareback rodeo rider, the sort who try to stay seated upon a bucking horse, and he was even an authentic cowboy for a while. Unlike most cowboys, however, his expertise extended to horseless carriages as well, and he could do his own mechanical repairs. He also knows a lot of science, down to the technical details, and he designed and built his own house. He continues to farm and ranch, and still has horses, along with his cattle and other farm and ranch odds and ends.

I know very little about most of these things in which he has expertise, but I enjoy getting a chance to talk with him whenever I'm back in my hometown, for he's a good conversational partner, a close listener with a fine sense of humor. I didn't have the chance to see him this past summer since my family and I didn't visit the Ozarks this time, so I was glad to get Jeanie's report, an update of sorts:
Dad and I were moving cattle . . . he just saddled up Old Paint right there in the pasture. We commenced to direct those kine using a bit of the John Wayne and a tad of modern technology as I was driving the Gator!

If you had been there, we could have also cut out a line and dropped a few pins . . . of course, I would have lost my number two status and once again been relegated to rear chaingirl!
Yeah, I would have regained my old position as head chainman, cutting a straight line through the Ozark wilderness so that Jim would be able to use his surveyor's transit unobscured. To 'drop' a pin actually means to hammer a straight metal piece into the ground for measuring off lengths of land with the 'chain', a long, flexible metal band (not really a "chain") with precise numerical markings -- feet and inches back in the States (maybe 100 feet long, if I recall). One also needs a hammer, a simple scope with a spirit level, wooden stakes, surveyors nails with their cupped heads, strips of bright orange surveyors ribbon, and a surveyors tool belt to carry everything (except the chain, which was lugged around by hand). Have I forgotten anything, Jeanie? Using those things is hard work, and heavy to carry around. I prefer teaching research writing rather than engaging in that hot, physical labor back in those humid Arkansas summers. Anyway, I replied to Jeanie's update with a bit of humor, which I based upon Jim's image in the photograph:
I see that Mr. Scott must henceforth be known as "St. Scott," given that 'halo', perhaps the patron saint of bareback rodeo riders even if he did 'saddle up' Old Paint, but that merely befits his newly sanctified status -- one designated as justified to ride high in the saddle -- so maybe he's even "St. Scott, Patron Saint of All Cowboys."

Despite the quotation marks, the capitalization, and even the italics, this is unfortunately an unofficial beatification since I have no authority with the Catholic Curia and your dad isn't Catholic anyway . . . but this image could find its way into Gypsy Scholar if no one objects to that sort of beatification.
Jeanie reassured me that her father would have no objections:
Dad NEVERS objects to any response that clarifies his talents for the adoring public! Truthfully, he deserves his status as a hard-riding Renaissance gent. That particular day was filled skittish horses, philosophy of the ancients, a touch of Hamlet, and an intense discussion of Google Earth.
That cetainly sounds like Mr. Scott, and a conversation I wish I could have listened in on.

Maybe next year . . .

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At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy smoke, Jeff, great post and great photo of Saint Scott. The image immediately goes in my ever-growing collection of Very Strange and Wondrous Photos. Thanks much--CPH

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Pete. I ought to alert Deva to this image!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:31 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Ah, Jeffery, you left out the ALMIGHTY plumb bob! The most famous one is somewhere in the wilderness of Arkansas as I somehow "misplaced" it. Dad had a back-up, and he casually mentioned during our lunch of sardines and crackers that my paycheck would reveal exactly how much another one would cost!
Since I also worked in the office, I had to order another one and suffer the indignity of writing out my own check, a little less than the number of hours worked revealed.

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I left out the plumb bob because the one that you lost was mine!

But your father taught you an invaluable lesson -- which, appearance to the contrary, means "valuable" lesson -- by charging you for the loss.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought a chain was sixty-six feet?


At 10:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The traditional chain was, but I can't recall if the band that we used was.

Jeanie, do you know?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Saw Mr. Scott at the Dollar Store in Salem yesterday and he didn't look like he had aged in the last ten years. A true gentleman and fine math instructor. Not that it shows, but I learned alot from him in Geometry.


At 4:33 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Brother Tim, for the update on Mr. Scott.

I'm also pleased to see that family members are still reading this blog. That means I've not yet embarrassed relatives by my private musings so publicly aired.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:24 PM, Anonymous tom leslie said...

i too was exposed to mr scott. first my father joe leslie hired his mom to teach second grade there in salem. ms scott was my second grade teacher down under old main. great teacher great skip tag in the room. jim also was my band teacher and physics teacher. was tough but good. i too surveyed with him one summer . prob one of the smartest men i have ever known. good memories from growing up in salem thomas s leslie m.d.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Tom, for the comment. I remember you as a basketball player back in Salem's glory days. I was probably four years behind you, so you likely don't recall me.

If you search my blog for "Ozark" you'll find a lot of material, my nostalgia, mainly.

Jeffery Hodges

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