This week I returned to Patrick County High School to speak to the students of the eleventh grade U. S. history classes of Glenn Burnette and Shannon Brown. After several years of not talking, I returned when I found out that no one was talking to the classes. I brought my memory stick with a PowerPoint presentation on Patrick County in the Civil War back to the place I graduated thirty-one years ago. I always hear people complaining about how the kids are not taught this or that in school anymore, but none of these complainers ever volunteer to go to school and talk to the kids. So off I went back to school.
This program is about two individual soldiers William Dennis Via and Rufus James Woolwine, who served in the 51st Virginia Infantry, were messmates, and who rest today in adjoining plots in the old Stuart Cemetery. The talk contained information about the county before war and the election of 1860. Discussion included the homefront during the war, Stoneman’s Raid at the end of the war and a year by year account of the war on the battle lines and at home. There was information on life for African-American slaves and free people in Patrick County. Two brothers discussed were R. J. and Abram D. Reynolds and their exploits during the war.
Of course, there was biographical information on J. E. B. Stuart from birth to death and his importance in the history of the company. Many of the students asked very good questions and the dialogue was impressive. While none of the ladies thought J. E. B. Stuart was attractive enough to carry to the prom, as I showed them a photo him beardless at age 17, I did feel like they got something out of the presentation.
This was an exhausting and enormously fulfilling experience that I hope to repeat again the future. For this I received lunch, where I got to break bread with Principal Bradshaw and Resource Officer Roger Wilson, who I graduated with in 1979. I found too that a t-shirt from the Lady Cougar basketball coach and a PC hat came my way from Coach Burnette. I sponsored the webcast of the playoff games for the Lady Cougars as they made the regional finals last year and beyond this year traveling to Richmond to compete in the final four of their level.
Teaching and coaching are thankless jobs in this day and time, but being the child of a teacher and principal in Patrick County I know what it is like. It is easy to criticize teachers and school administrators, but those people should ask themselves what they have done to improve education in Patrick County.