Sophomore English

Who is Nathaniel “Natty” Bumppo and why should you care? These are two separate questions. First, Natty Bumppo is a fictional character featured in the Leatherstocking Tales published by James Fenimore Cooper in the early 1800’s. Natty is a white male raised by Christians alongside the Delaware Indians. His character is a fierce warrior and the stories depict some of this adventures with the backdrop being America in the mid 1700’s. He is featured in what some hail as American classics: The Last of the Mohicans and also The Deerslayer. Both of these books have had multiple adaptations made into movies.
So why should you care? Well maybe you don’t is the short answer. lol.

But heading into work this morning and sitting in traffic, feeling like an ant waiting to enter the ant hill, I was listening to Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me courtesy of the Pandora radio app. Understand? If you said yes, I am now concerned about your mental state. If you said no, ah, then  we are getting somewhere. What does Natty Bumppo have to do with Def Leppard? Glad you asked. Sit back and sip a beverage. Here. We. Go.
Bill, let’s hop in this time machine! No way Ted! Yes way!
So if you could peer into the past via a pensieve (see Harry Potter lore), you would see a non-HD memory of me standing in front of Ms. Cobb’s English class in the early spring of 1988. The assignment was to put ourselves in the soft, leather shoes of Natty Bumppo and imagine how our daily life would be different (mid 1700’s versus late 1900’s). Back in 1988 it was hard to imagine a world without small wrist watches, video games, cars, air conditioning, pre-packaged food, underwear with designs on them and TV.
At this point in my high school career, I was about a year from finding my academic groove and my GPA will bear this out. So for this assignment, much to the chagrin of Ms Cobb, I  put a little creative writing in play for my adaptation of Natty Bumppo.
I remember nervously shuffling sideways out of my seat and between the rows of desk from the very back of the class to the front. I stood in front of the chalk board and held a single sheet of notebook paper that contained my handwritten story. As is my nervous twitch, I tend to make a small clicking-smacking noise with my lips when public speaking, generally when I pause or at the end of sentences. So I begin my oral presentation by staring at the paper and not looking up until I am finished because I am petrified.

Pour Some Sugar On Me

I do not remember word-for-word from that reading but I will paraphrase one passage because I thought I was being clever. Natty Bumppo is walking around the wilderness, he is irritated that his shoes are plain and have no emblems on the sides. Perhaps later in his free time, he will make marks on them to make them seem neat. The forest around him is quiet today. Internally, Natty feels like there is music in him. Natty passes a maple tree with a spout coming out of it. The spout has dribbled some sap onto the ground. No one is around. He thinks, pour some sap on me, sticky sweet, from hand to my feet. Maybe the words are not quite right but if he worked on it, it could be a great campfire song…
In the rest of my story, I think Natty encounters a raccoon and chases him while singing the pour some sap on me song. A few classmates found it a bit amusing but overall my teacher was less than impressed and I earned a “C” as a grade for my efforts.

OK let me apologize for the butchered peek into my past. Unfortunately I cannot hear that particular song without that memory association taking place. Hopefully my writing skills and attempts at humor have improved at least a bit over the years to make reading me an enjoyable exercise.
I guess that memory is lodged in my consciousness for two reasons. First, I really do have an aversion to public speaking especially a semi-hostile crowd of peers (#HighSchoolLife). Secondly because I point to that moment in my life as when I took my first real step out of my myself to try to express myself. Perhaps it was a failure but you have to start somewhere right?
Back then (in the 1700’s, 1800’s and 1988) there was no Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, Facebook, MySpace, instant messenger, texting, Instagram or Vines. Who you were in person and who you associated with was who you were to everyone. Based on whatever clothes my mom bought for me and my book bag and assorted school supplies – that’s pretty much what you were judged on. I wasn’t old enough to drive and didn’t play any sports so the angle of their view of who I was as a person was pretty narrow. My best friend Matt was the outgoing music guy who all the girls liked. In contrast, I was the quiet and introverted boy who’s older brother had died less than six months before.

So pull back from the memory pool gasping. The question is – who is your most memorable English teacher? By the way, honorable mention to Mrs Teets and Mrs. Knuckles who also did their part in flavoring my English subject flavoring.
Happy Humping Day — Peace!

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