A Tribute To Ms. Butterfield
Ms. Butterfield is most likely gone. God bless her. I loved Ms. Butterfield despite a shaky start to our relationship. Ms. Butterfield was my third grade teacher at Boardman School near Youngstown.
Ms. Butterfield beat the hell out of me one day. It all started from my very innocent flirtation with Karen. Each day Karen would come to the bookshelf near my desk, make her selection, pretend to be reading as she approached my extended leg.
She was well aware of my trip trap, would always stop at the last second, look at me with feigned disgust, hands on hips. It was a ritual. We both knew we would one day marry. One day she was really reading. That day Karen tripped flat on her face and cut her lip.
Ms. Butterfield invited me to the hallway, stood me up against the lockers. In a looping swing that felt like it started at the cafeteria, Ms. Butterfield caught me square on the side of the face. I experienced those stars seen mostly in cartoons.
Say what you want about corporal punishment, I never again tripped a girl.
Unlike Ms. Butterfield with whom my relationship improved markedly after I understood her terms, Sister Anne Marie, a fifth grade teacher in Redlands, California, thought the Ohio transplant was a smart aleck.
Based entirely on that misguided concept, she caught me off guard one morning with two whirlwind hands simultaneously emerging from her flowing habit and pancaking my little face into puffed lips and twirling eyes.
As to the effectiveness of corporal punishments, I would say I am 50-50.
You probably guess I plan to pontificate on corporal punishment, but that is not the case. Ms. Butterfield came to mind this morning not because she gave me a near concussion, but because she led me astray about Christopher Columbus, common among 1940s and 1950s teachers.
To develop this thesis I must pay tribute to the Albuquerque Journal’s Winthrop Quigley who, in my estimation, is the most important journalist in New Mexico not because he is the best and the brightest, but among the best and the brightest he has the widest reach.
“The idea that Columbus was a kind and generous friend to the Indians he met when he landed in the Americas…” Quigley writes, is basically poppycock, misinformation perpetuated by a Washington Irving book written in 1928.
Irving’s “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus” ascribed to Columbus virtues he did not have, and was largely debunked by later works.
The declaration of Columbus Day was the result of an Italian-American political movement that ultimately pressured President Franklin Roosevelt to honor Italians by honoring Columbus, Quigley writes, his failure to do so putting at risk the Italian-American voting bloc. Roosevelt caved.
Writes Quigley: “That Columbus’ men raped Indian women and pillaged native villages does not appear to have been on anyone’s mind at the time.” Europeans who followed Columbus were often brutal to Indians and Spanish.
Is it any wonder many in the Southwest don’t get all that sentimental when we celebrate Columbus Day?
I still love Ms. Butterfield. She was a teacher of good intent. Except when she was throwing a left.