I grew up in an incredible place that almost sounds magical today. It wasn’t a land called Oz, but a farm South of Rising City, Nebraska. Farm life was educational and fun. Every day was exciting as I ran outside and the screen door slammed behind me. My faithful dog was at my side as we looked for things to do.

In the fall, I looked forward to grade school, because our one-room country school was like one big family of 25 of us. We were like brothers and sisters. We started every day with a strong citing of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Our teacher was like a respected parent to us. There was an understanding with all the parents that whatever she said was golden and she ruled accordingly. We respected her authority without question. The result was no horseplay.

Typically, at recess, a few eighth-grade girls helped watch out for the kindergartners and other lower grades. Most of us played softball or soccer. We were fairly competitive. When recess was over our teacher walked outside and rang the handheld bell.

We quickly came in and sat at our desks and studied. There was no talking or disruptions. When our assignments were done we could sit and listen to each grade discuss their lessons at a table in the front of our school. The teacher would ask very specific questions and knew how well we studied. It was a matter of pride not to be put on the spot.

Preparing for our annual Christmas play took a group effort to pull off. We set up a stage of planks on concrete blocks in the front of the schoolroom. We had homemade curtains that slid on a wire. We memorized our parts and practiced hard. The one-room school was elbow to elbow the night of the play. It seemed one of us was always nervous and stumbled through our part, but the audience was like a close-knit family that gave loud supportive applause.

After the Christmas play, we were given a brown sack that had a delicious red apple, an orange, nuts, and some candy.

In the spring we had various excuses to get together as families. We had potluck dinner picnics. Sometimes we had bonfires and roasted hot dogs. One picnic celebration was to raise money for our very humble playground. We bid on individual picnic containers that were creatively decorated. My dad bid on a Tom Tom drum container for me and won the bid for 75 cents, which was a lot of money since my allowance was 25 cents a week.

Of course, all of the kids had work assignments that we quickly volunteered for or were assigned if we did not volunteer. My favorite job was putting the United States flag up each morning and taking it down at night. I learned how to fold it properly.

The teacher made sure the school was always spic and span. I will always remember things like the Pine smell of cleaning solvent in that one-room school that provided much more than a good education.

Other memories during those times were the result of going to church at the Immaculate Conception Church in Ulysses, Nebraska. We had church bazaars and other events that pulled families closer together. It gave us purpose and direction. It seemed that’s what responsible people do.

After living through times people were accountable for their actions, it’s difficult to watch the news today that is disgusting, embarrassing, and full of hate. It’s shocking to see how the world has changed.

I believe we can and must do better. That’s why Deb and I have worked so hard at John Henrys to make sure it’s more like the extended family I had in grade school and church. John Henry’s team works hard together like one big happy family. Our common goal is to provide the best customer service available as we keep our community safe 365 days a year.

I believe in making sure John Henrys is the best choice for you. Something else I believe in is you, the customer. Customers typically become our friends. Maybe it’s because you also are a believer and expect more. Together we can make a difference.

Even with all of the challenges, we have in this world, hopefully, Thanksgiving was special for you this year and Christmas will be even better. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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