Biographical Non-Fiction posted February 24, 2022

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Charlie was a School Classmate

I Learned from Charlie

by Annmuma

The last time I saw Charlie, we were sitting at a cafeteria table at a High School Reunion in Tioga, Louisiana.   To the best of my memory, the year was 2008.  Next to him, his young wife sat and beamed as Charlie shared with us his love of American Paint and Pinto horses.

Charlie and I graduated from high school together in 1961; academically, he was a step in front of me, but we both peopled the top ten students.  He was particularly good at math and I admired his ability to always be among the first to understand the mechanics of Algebra and to memorize Geometry's theorems.  He understood and utilized the theorems introduced and explained by our instructor, Mr. Smith.  Many times, while Mr. Smith stood facing the blackboard and carefully explaining the latest, what seemed to me to be, totally useless pathway to the ultimate answer to some geometric puzzle, I leaned toward Charlie.


“What-ee?”   Charlie typically answered his name in this way.  I don’t know why, but it always brought a smile.

“Will you show me how to do this problem?”

“Sure.  It’s simple, Olevia.  All you need to know is the right theorem to apply.”

At that point, Mr. Smith’s voice became just a hum in the background, and I would wait until after class to really learn what he was teaching. 

Charlie appeared to be a carefree guy, smart, wore glasses back in high school which seemed to emphasize his intelligence and, to my recollection,  never did he mention horses as a special love of his.  Yet, here he sat, across the table from me explaining his involvement in the American Paint Horse Association, as well as the Pinto Horse Association of America in Houston, Texas.   He lived in Seguin -not far from Houston and apparently owned a ranch, had show horses and was working toward becoming a show horse judge.   It all sounded foreign to me and not the Charlie I knew.

The Charlie I knew had gone on to college after high school, earned a degree from Northwestern State, moved to Texas and taught high school Algebra for 35 plus years.   I had not seen him since graduation, thus, the picture I had and the Charlie sitting there in the cafeteria had little in common.

In December 2020, Charlie died with complications from Covid and, when notified by other classmates of his death, I found and read his obituary. I did a little research and was surprised to find that Charlie had a lifetime love of horses.  He owned horses when growing up.  The story went on to say that he had earned a good part of his college expenses by virtue of breaking horses for neighboring ranchers.  At the time of his death, he was a Texas state Director of the American Paint Horse Association, owned Sasser’s Paint Horses Ranch in Seguin and bred world champion paint horses. 

It was enlightening to be reminded that so often we know only one facet of a person and have little insight into the complete individual, even though we may see them almost every weekday for twelve years.  We can put people into small frames of our choice and believe they live there- and only there- forever.  Ideas work the same way.   We hear something, we believe it and we add it to our decision-making basis without ever knowing the complete story or realizing the situation has grown and changed.  
The last time I saw Charlie, he was still teaching me, this time, the theory of an open mind.


Charlie writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story that begins with the line: The last time I saw Charlie ... (continue the sentence and story)



Charlie and I were not really close friends in school, but we did share classrooms from 1st through 12 grade. He and I were both members of the BETA club; we had many interactions both as friends and as classmates. Yet I had no idea he liked horses, much less owned them or had a particular talent in working with them.
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