I once had an American History teacher named Mr. Beidler. Honest. His first name is Mr. because I never learned his real name…and I regret it to this day.
Keep in mind that I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is important to my story for a couple of reasons. The first one is that Albuquerque is situated at the edge of the American Southwest desert. Also recall—or not—that I grew up in a day that could best be described as B.C.P. (before cell phones…and their handy little cameras). I know this is a shocking revelation. Yes, there are still those of us who never used the things. (Yup. And if you got sick at school, or they kicked you out—I have no personal knowledge of this, by the way—they had to call your mother and she would come to pick you up…if she had the family car that day. Otherwise, you walked. Those WEREN'T the days, my friend. (Sorry, that's part of the lyrics of a song from way back--well, you get the drift.)
As I recall, Mr. Beidler had what I presumed to be a Texas accent, so I also presumed that’s where he grew up. I could be wrong. There are places in S.E. New Mexico where the residents also sound Texan. There are also places in--oh, let's say, Northeast Tennessee where he could have been from. He sure knew a lot about the place.
Mr. Beidler was middle-aged. That is to say--he could have been anywhere between twenty-five years old to fifty-five. He didn’t look young to me, but I was only thirteen at the time, and everybody older than thirty looked--old. Anyway, he had sort of nondescript light brown hair, and blue-eyes. This describes somewhere around one-half of all the men in Texas who weren’t Black Americans or of Spanish descent. Mr. Beidler’s claim to fame, at least in my book, is that he achieved what I regard as the impossible. He fired my imagination.
I best recall a couple of stories he told us. The first regards Daniel Boone. Daniel hacked his way through otherwise impassable forests using a long knife. Whoa! Can you imagine such a place? A place with trees growing so close together you can’t get through except by hacking a path through with a knife? Think how sharp that knife must have been! For the most part, everything east of the Mississippi River once had such thick forests. Think of it as an ocean of trees. That thought alone fires my imagination. Come to think of it, it already has.
Anyway, I spent my early childhood in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. That’s a city situated on the American Great Plains. Remember I said that Albuquerque borders the Southwest desert? We had a lot of tumbleweeds there, but that’s about it. Trees? Not so much.
And I thank you, Mr. Beidler. Taking American History from you was a rare privilege. You were an excellent teacher. By the way, my oldest friend and fellow classmate in your class, Terry Mora Sanchez, thinks so, too!