Chances are most of you know what a blackboard eraser is, but, I’ll bet you a dozen of Barrack Obama’s super-delegates against two dozen of Hillary Clinton’s that unless you’re over sixty, you don’t know how they were cleaned once they filled with chalk dust.
The cleaning of them was a process called dusting.
And for a third grade boy who couldn’t set at his desk without making obscene sounds with his lips against his arm or trying to hit his recess buddy across the room with a spit wad, the height of his day was to be sent to dust erasers.
Now dusting erasers was not one of those tasks that the teacher’s pets pursued. The job was relegated to that select group of us ruffians who constantly stayed in trouble with the principal. We acted like we hated the job, but instead, we loved it for that was our only way to escape the confines of class legally. We were the Eraser Dusting Gang.
Naturally, dusting erasers doesn’t take much experience or, as reluctant as I am to admit it, not much talent. All you have to do is bang one against the other. Chalk dust billows out.
We always did our best to raise thick clouds of chalk dust, knowing by the time we returned to class, we would be covered with a layer of white powder. The teacher, to our delight, always sent us to the boys’ room to clean up. More time out of class. Yep, we could be devious.
One lazy spring afternoon, Jerry and I were given the task of dusting erasers. We loaded them in a box and carried them around to the side of building so the wind wouldn’t carry the dust through the open windows of the classrooms.
Directly behind the school was the football field, and that day, our little school was hosting a track meet for six or seven schools around us. Athletes from other districts were unloading from their buses no more than thirty yards distant.
Now, I don’t know why kids do what they do. Somewhere deep in their brain, something short-circuits logic. That’s the only explanation I have for what Jerry and I did. Put yourself in our place. We had a box full of missiles, and the enemy was within range. Forget the consequences.
All those old schools had fire escapes on all four sides, so with our box of erasers, we scrambled to the roof of the three-story building, taking care to crouch below the windows on each landing so we would not be seen.
Once on top, we hid behind the parapet that rose a couple feet above the roof on all four sides of the building.
We had around thirty erasers, and from the three-story roof, we could lob those little suckers out about fifty feet. We pelted the shouting and cursing (this was a farm community in the forties) athletes below. They were shaking their fists at us, dodging erasers, then hurling them back at us in glee. It was a regular shootout.
Talk about fun. Well, for two or three minutes at least.
Jerry and I were laughing so hard that once or twice we even threw the eraser into the parapet. Suddenly, angry shouts from behind froze us.
The principal and the football coach were scrambling over the parapet, blood in their eyes.
We bolted like frightened quail.
I bolted into a steel exhaust vent and knocked myself senseless.
Jerry made it back down and into the classroom where he stuttered and stammered for a sensible explanation about the missing erasers.
For the next two weeks after a hasty lunch under the glowering eyes of the principal, we swept out the school, all three floors. We tried not to look at each other, for when we did, we’d break into giggles. It was worth it.
Today, they’d probably put us in jail for terrorist attacks.