I taught at the tiniest of schools my first few years teaching. The graduating class that first year was eight…yes, eight. The community was situated close to ten miles from three different towns in the middle of the Kiamichi mountains down in the southeast corner of Oklahoma.
I rented a house from the school and lived across the parking lot from where I worked at this point. Because I was a beginning teacher, I struggled with time management and grading. I graded everything and this is not necessarily the best strategy. As a result, I’d have all night grading sessions at least once a week.
Sometimes I wouldn’t make it home with everything that I needed. Thus, I’d find myself crossing the parking lot and keying into the school to get one thing or another. This even occurred late at night. At other times, I’d go and work in my classroom after I took care of supper tasks and putting my kid (who was in the fourth grade) to bed for the night. I was close by and didn’t worry too much. She could call me if I was needed.
On several nights that caught me at the school late at night, I’d pick up on an eery chill in the air. Being an adventurous sort, I’d grab my ball bat (one should be adventurous with a means to protect oneself) and wander down the hall. The school was laid out with one hall that held the classrooms. Down close to the front end of the hall, you would find the office, the teacher’s lounge, and the library. The library was carved out of a portion of what is known as the old gym. A wide hall cut off just past the library that would lead to the bathrooms and the rest of the old gym.
This old gym was fine in the daytime. Often the other teachers and myself would be comforted with the knowledge that our kids could burn off steam in that old gym shooting basketballs and chasing each other down while never leaving the building. On the wall that cut the court in half and separated the gym from the library, someone painted a buffalo to represent the mascot of the school.
However, at night it took on its own persona. I often heard people talk about how it seemed as if the eyes of that buffalo painting followed them around the room even in the daytime. This seemed even more pronounced at night. However, if that was all I had encountered, I would just shrug it off and move on.
It was after ten one night and I was wrapping up my grading. As I said, the bathroom was down next to the gym and nature calls at the most inconvenient of times. Thus, I found myself on the opposite end of the hall. As I came out of the bathroom, I heard basketballs bouncing and the squeak of tennis shoes. I am thinking to myself, “How did those kids get into this building?” It wasn’t unusual for the community to enter the main gym to play basketball. Small town, open court.
I entered the gym and noticed the lights were on dimly. A basketball rolled up to my feet and stopped. I ignored the cold of the air and began to investigate. All of the entrances into the school were secured and nobody appeared to be hiding. I left the room thinking about the oddness and started to head back to my room.
As I rounded the corner onto the main hall, I glanced back. The light was back on. I ran back a little annoyed to see if I could catch the kids in the gym. However, nobody could be seen. As I reached for the light switch, a ball began to roll on its on accord and stopped next to my foot once more. My eyes widened and I flipped the switch. I left in a hurry and wrapped up in my classroom in a hurry. That was enough grading for that night.
[NOTE: On the other side of that gym existed a much neglected museum of native American artifacts. It was never open to the public by that point and I never laid eyes on the displays. I only knew of its existence because of word-of-mouth. ]