Our homophone sets this week are:
horse – animal
hoarse – lack of voice
stationery – pen, paper, envelope etc.
stationary – still, unmoving
At the Upstate Youth Outdoor Rehabilitation School, affectionately called UpYORS by the kids, Ben supervised troubled kids from the inner city. The school served as a way to remove these kids from street gang influences while training them to be more self-confident, and independent, by introducing them to rural self-sufficiency skills.
All of these kids had never, ever, seen a ‘real’ cow or horse so Ben was responsible for their basic education on “do’s and don’t’s” in those animals’ company.
The letterhead for the school stationery had a silhouette of a boy milking a cow and a girl riding a horse but before ANY of them reached that goal, they would need to learn ‘animal manners’ to prevent them from being kicked in the head or bitten in the thigh!
The school had recently been given a generous donation and had purchased life-sized, stationary, representations of every farm animal they’d encounter. Ben schooled the kids on how to approach, how to control, and how to calm the animals, as well as, their basic anatomy and body language.
The one rule he repeated until he was hoarse was to “NEVER approach a horse from behind without first alerting it to your presence.” . The onsite horses and cows had all passed a rigorous temperament screening but Ben knew ANY horse might kick if startled.
Through the years, Ben had had a few kids who rubbed him the wrong way but ALL had come around and had responded well to his trainings. The kids were not on their “home turf” so that ‘unsureness’ made them compliant.
This year was different!
A burly, brute of a kid, named Mack, made a joke of everything when he wasn’t ignoring instructions or bullying everyone. He’d obviously gotten into the trouble that brought him to the school from that attitude. As for his 6’4″ 250 lb presence and a full beard at 17 years old, that was the reason no one had ever bothered to push back either.
Ben had to admit some of his jokes were pretty funny, just the same. Mack sauntered up to ole Bessie the cow, on day two, and pumped her tail like a water pump complaining she must be empty. But, Mack was going to be trouble.
The duties were on a rotating basis on paper. By day 7, Ben was sick of that kid so he assigned Mack to clean and groom Diablo, their most spirited horse kept for those who became experienced riders.
When Mack sat down to supper that night, his attitude had miraculously changed! So had his appearance. Some folks just need to learn things the hard way.