Graduation carries its own special memories in Pratt and Medicine Lodge.
One of the things I love about living in rural Kansas is the unique traditions each small town has and passes down to the next generation. I don’t know the ins and outs of how they start, but they become a part of who we are. For instance, I don’t know how long Pratt has ran their storm sirens before each home football game, but I love it! Watching my grandsons play Greenback football, as soon as the sirens start blaring I feel myself getting even more hyped for the game than I already was. I imagine it also has something to do with the fact the Pratt “Boys of Fall” usually deliver the predicted storm on their opponent!
In Medicine Lodge, one of our traditions is the graduating class wheat truck ride on the last day of school. I don’t know when it got started as I was not a graduate of ML, but I do know my oldest daughter Kristi experienced it as a senior and that was twenty-five years ago. As the school year starts winding down, if no one’s parents have an old wheat truck, calls go out to grandparents or acquaintances until one is located. Usually the owner of the truck also agrees to be the driver. We provided the truck and drove it around two years ago when our oldest granddaughter graduated.
The seniors last day of school is spent practicing for the upcoming commencement ceremony and it ends at noon. The class changes into old clothes, they grab and fill water guns and load up in the bed of the wheat truck. I had a very important job as I rode in the passenger seat, I was handed twenty-two smart phones to keep safe and dry! I tried not to think about how much money was nestled in my lap!
Once everyone was accounted for, we headed out. Teacher’s pop out from behind buildings with water guns or hoses, aiming them at the class they are saying goodbye to and the seniors retaliate with their water-filled weapons. In the meantime, a call is put out to alert the city Fire Dept the truck has left the school. As the truck slowly drives around town, people who meet it or who are out in their yard honk and wave at the kids. Eventually we make it to Main Street where parents and store owners line the street and one of the city fire trucks is parked at the intersection. The wheat truck stops and the back of the truck erupts with squeals as one of the volunteer firefighters soak the kids with the fire hose. The kids make a good show of trying to hit back with their water guns but I don’t suppose even one drop hits its mark. Once everyone is soaked to the bone, the truck heads to the local Subway where the owners have generously set tables up in the driveway and provide a free lunch for the years graduating class.
I know I’m a sentimental old woman but I fought tears as I heard everyone we met honk or saw people come out of their house just to watch the truck go by and wave and holler at the kids in the back. Everyone knows it is a rite of passage and are remembering when it was them. Before we know it, and way too soon, the kids in the back of the truck will be the ones honking, waving and remembering.