Saturday, July 19, 2014

Photos of the Day: A Little Time in Hop's Room

Me at my favorite teacher, Hop Heaton's desk.
Me at my desk: A short smack away.
The late James "Hop" Heaton was most likely my favorite teacher of all time. Hop was a big man, a football and war guy with a thundering voice, an outsized laugh, and a smile you could see over in in Yancy County who taught geometry.

He went to Lenoir Rhyne College, but I don't think he ever got a degree. He said he learned geometry on submarines. I never knew if he was pulling my leg--which he loved to do--or was serious. Fact was, Cranberry High School in 1963-1964 was in the poorest county--Avery--in the U.S. of A. and didn't have a lot of options about who it hired. It lucked into Hop. It lucked into Rock Hall, too. He was the guy who taught me to write. Another story, though. This one's about Hop.

This school jacket is in Hop's renovated room.
Hop was a line coach in football, so I never worked directly for him (I was a quarterback). He taught me everything else. I looked up to him in a way that was almost fatherly and he didn't hesitate to sit and have those prayer meeting type chats with me when I was out of line or just confused, either.

Hop may have had the biggest hands I've ever seen and he'd put them on my shoulder, sometimes with tenderness, sometimes with authority. I always knew when his hand was on my shoulder and I always knew why.

He died with Alzheimers a few years ago. I'm glad I didn't see that.

Today I was back in his classroom at my 50th class' reunion (unofficial), the same classroom where I sat at the front, left so he could reach me if he needed to. I sat on his desk for a photo, something he would have booted me upstairs for were he still alive.

Hop was the kind of guy I hope Madeline and Oz--my grands--experience before their schooling ends. He made school memorable. I loved that guy.

(Photos: Regenia Street Clark.)

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