MY HUSBAND THRILLS in talking about the coyotes at Chimney Butte School.
You have to admit that just the name of the rural North Dakota school, which Randy attended for 14 months in the 1960s, draws you in to listen.
His tale is short. One day Randy and his classmates couldn’t go outside for recess because of coyotes in the schoolyard. That’s it. Yet, the story deserves telling. How many men in their early 50s attended a country school? Furthermore, how many of those students encountered coyotes on a school day?
Preserving such memories is important. So is preserving the actual school building. Last Sunday I stepped inside a one-room Minnesota country school that has been restored and transformed into a museum. That’s nothing new, really. Old schoolhouses have also become township halls, private residences and businesses, although some have been abandoned and simply fallen into heaps of rotting wood.
Members of The Christdala Preservation Association are assuring that doesn’t happen to the District 20 Millersburg School in rural Rice County. The association has acquired the former schoolhouse and is transitioning it into a museum for the Millersburg community.
Inside I discovered records and artifacts from the school and nearby Christdala Evangelical Swedish Lutheran Church, historic photos, an old buggy, military memorabilia and more.
Mostly, though, I appreciated the care taken to restore the building. Gleaming wood floors made me want to push back the tables and chairs and host a square dance. These preservationists paid attention to detail, right down to the American flag and portrait of George Washington.
As this museum evolves, I expect, hope, that the preservation association will open the doors on a regular basis to the public. And I expect, hope, that those who gather there will exchange stories about their days in a country school, coyotes or not.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling