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More People Should Chew Straws

Story ID:5080
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Caldwell Idaho USA/Canada
Year:1974
Person:My Memories
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The big yellow school bus pulled to a stop in front of us. We lined up to board.
A few of my classmates we excited, but most were nervous. For eight years we’d walked
to school. Only high school kids took the bus to the city, but the old school house became
too small. A new junior high was built ten miles away in Herring Cove, Nova Scotia.
Grades seven through nine would attend there.

We sat in our seats, watched our homes disappear from view, and clutched
unfamiliar lunch bags. A short walk home for a hot lunch was a luxury we never
appreciated until that day.

Herring Cove wasn’t much bigger than our own village of Sambro, but it was
much closer to the city. The kids from there looked down on us. We were stereotyped as
country hicks. I was humiliated when I heard the snickers of the local kids when I passed
them in the halls. It was degrading to hear them make fun of my friends.

I decided to do something about it. One morning, while waiting for the bus, I
plucked a straw from the side of the road and stuck it in my mouth. I was from a fishing
village. If that meant I was a hick, then I was going to be a proud one.

The bus pulled up to our new school. I held my head high, dangled the straw from
the side of my mouth and walked confidently into the school.

Mark tapped me on the shoulder, “Mike, what’s with the straw?”

I turned in my desk. “They want to call us hicks.”

“So?”

“Well, I’m a hick then.”

“You’re nuts!”

“Maybe I am, but I’m a proud one.”

The straw lasted till lunch time. A friend grabbed it from my mouth and tossed it
to the floor. “Stop being a fool.” Jeff scolded. “You’re just giving them more to talk
about.”

“That’s the point.” I turned to him. “They want something to talk about, well I’ll
give it to them.”

The next morning, I put a new straw in my mouth and several spares in the pocket
of my jean jacket. At lunch, another person took my straw and tossed it to the floor. I
pulled out a spare and smiled.

Except for winter, I chewed a straw at school for more than eight years. It dangled
from my mouth through junior high, high school, and trade school. If I encounter a
person from my school years and they don’t remember me, I say, “I was the kid with the
straw.” and they remember me.

Although many remember me because of the straw, very few understand the
reason I chewed on one. They tried to put us down because we came from a fishing
village. Some, including myself, didn’t even have indoor bathrooms. We were a joke to
them.

They were right about only one thing: I was from a fishing village. What they
never understood was, I was proud of it and my family that lived there. I wasn’t ashamed
of my heritage.

The years haven’t changed me. I don’t use the straw anymore, but I still won’t
change for someone else’s benefit or to fit in with the crowd, and I don’t expect someone
to change for me. I wear the clothes I like and I talk the way I learned. I am who I am
and I’m proud of it. More people should chew straws.


Michael T. Smith