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A letter in the mail


Rick WatsonI got a letter in the mail from the Mountain Eagle today. Normally, they send my check each month in a regular envelope, but this one was larger. It looked a little suspicious to me.

My eyebrows furrowed. Scrunching up my bottom lip involuntarily, I flipped the envelope front to back. Cautiously I shook it a little, and then held it up to the light to see if I could see anything pink in there.

I’m paranoid that the bossman will one day realize I’m a hack who has problems spelling his own name correctly. I can almost hear him rail, “We’ve wasted enough ink on this hillbilly.” Sometimes my imagination spanks me like a naughty child.

To my relief a check was there when I tore open the envelop, and luckily there was no pink slip. I shook it twice to make sure. The envelope did contain a letter to the editor, from a nursing home in Florence.

I frequently get emails from readers or Facebook messages, but it’s not often that people take the time to write a note by hand and send it through the mail.

I was flattered by the kind words, but it was the signature that put a lump in my throat. It was from Mrs. Dorothy Ellison, my senior homeroom teacher in 1968. I haven’t seen her in years.

She lives in a senior living home in north Alabama and has the newspaper mailed to her there. It seems she reads my column each week, and that I often make her smile. Reading her words made me smile too.

Closing my eyes, I could picture her standing posture perfect in front of the class writing instructions on the blackboard, the chalk softly squawking. She had a lilting voice, and I never heard her raise it.

Mrs. Ellison was the kind and caring teacher that everyone who’s ever attended high school wished for. Those lucky enough to have one like her, will never forget them.

She was a brilliant teacher who had a knack for making the material understandable. One former student said she made science fun. She intuitively knew that fun was an essential ingredient in the learning equation.

Another student said, “She was a teacher that made a difference in my life.” That says a great deal in my book.

I can honestly say I’ve had some great teachers in my life.

In looking back, my path to becoming a writer has been a long a squirrelly one. Like everyone else trying to find their way, I’ve been discouraged at times. But it seems whenever I’m feeling down, a teacher will appear and steer me in the right direction.

I’ve invested a lot of time these last few months studying the craft of writing. The authors, some long dead, are teaching me a great deal.

Most say never use big words when small ones will do the job. That’s fortunate for me, because I don’t know a lot of big words. But they also say using short sentences, and short paragraphs is better than long ones. My style is evolving.

I would not be where I am today without teachers.

So thank you, Mrs. Ellison, and all the other teachers who have helped me along the way.

NOTE: Mrs. Ellison loves hearing from her students. If you'd like to drop her a line, send it to:

Dorothy Ellison,
c/o Mitchell Hollingsworth Nursing Home,
805 Flagg Circle,
Florence, Ala. 35630


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