The rocks stung as they whipped past my arms and legs. I choked on the dusty, chalky air, my hands cupped around my eyes as I faced the brick wall waiting for the next strike.
No, I wasn’t being bullied. Or tortured. Except by the weather.
First grade I attended a really new school. The carpets were still the right color, for heaven’s sake.
For some reason I’ll never understand, the designers put rice-sized gravel on all of the playgrounds, but every side was sharp.
The angle of the wind in the depression where the school was built made for what we called dust-devils. These miniature tornadoes whipped up tumbleweeds and plastic bags…and sharp gravel…almost every day at recess time. I swear it just waited until it heard the bell for us to go outside.
Pretty soon after the schoolyear started, the kindergarten sandbox wasn’t one any more.
A siren cry would rise as soon as someone spotted the whirlwind starting, and we’d all rush to the red brick of the school wall, hunker down, cup our hands around our eyes, grit our teeth, and endure another blasting.
When it was really bad I used to cry because the gravel stung my legs. Tumbleweeds swatted at us, too, great beasts big as baby hippos sporting thorny tentacle arms skipped pell-mell through the storm and SWAT!
I’d finish recess with grit in my hair and dust all streaky from the tears on my face.
The plastic windows of the school got so battered they looked smudged all the time—-sandblasted, I suppose.
To this day I’m not sure exactly why they didn’t always let us all run inside when the wind was so bad. Maybe they do, now. Or the construction’s overgrown enough that the fingers of the wind have nothing to grasp to throw at little kids anymore.
I never explained to my mother why my clothes were so filthy from school. I wonder what she thought I was doing?
—Elizabeth Ellen Everson