PITTSFIELD -- I "kid" you not. Even as you read this I am in the middle of passing a kidney stone. It's been a three-day process, and I foresee the battle being waged for another 48 to 72 hours. I call him Sgt. Stone, and do so with great admiration and respect. He has been a worthy foe and when surrender terms are ultimately reconciled, I don't doubt a mutual understanding will have emerged. For now, I curse and scream his name.
So, I'm not myself this week. I don't know who I am. I think that's an old vaudeville joke, but I don't hear anyone laughing. Not me, anyway.
I'm neither lucid in my thoughts nor crisp in a literary sense. But I was fortunate this week. I had fine response to last week's column on Margaret Hart, the city's first minority teacher. They are worth sharing. I also received a poem from a reader about potholes. Who isn't talking potholes these days?
Thanks for understanding, and thank you readers for bailing me out. In the meantime, me and the sergeant are going to get a bottle and try and drink each other under the table. There can only be one winner in this fight.
To recap, Hart was hired by the city in 1949. She passed a decade ago at age 92. A lovely and educated woman, she was also the first black student at North Adams Normal School, now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
n From Christine Pike of Hinsdale:
"I couldn't help but bring back fond memories after reading your column on Margaret Hart.
"My father worked at Wyandotte Worsted Co., at the time, and when she told me that strips of wool cloth were needed to make a rug on the loom my interest peaked even more. She was very encouraging and just as excited about letting me make the rug on the loom.
"My father supplied the cloth and I cut out as many 2-inch strips as I could. With her instruction I was able to produce a rug about 3 feet wide and 4 feet long. Not bad for a seventh-grader. Miss Hart was as proud, maybe even more, than I.
"The rug wore out over time and is long gone. But the memories remain, and they are good ones."
n From Jim Schulman, of Ohio, who taught with Hart for a short time during the 1960s.
"Your piece was a fitting tribute to a great person. Elegant was the perfect word to describe her. I taught at North in 1967-68, and she was one of the first people to greet me and show an interest in my background.
"She was particularly interested in learning about people and any common experiences they may have shared. I was unaware at the time that she was Pittsfield's first African-American teacher, but it wasn't something for which she sought attention.
"Upon reflection, that makes my relationship with her as a colleague and friend even more special. I can recall having open and positive discussions about issues such as civil rights, voter registration projects and minority tutorial programs.
"She was unique, and thankful for the opportunities and successes she had in life."
Finally, a change of pace from former PHS moundsman, Joe Galli, whose southpaw serves baffled locals from time to time during the 1940s. He had potholes on his mind, and offered this work:
Potholes, potholes everywhere,
they creep upon you so beware,
your ashtray rattles, your visor falls,
potholes have no love at all.
"But don't you worry, don't you fret,
the city men will get them yet,
they'll fill those potholes one by one,
until, alas, they reappear again.
Probably no award, Joe. But we get the idea.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.