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Oh, that dreaded leaf project

By Rick Houser – 

Every year as the leaves change their color and begin to fall from their branches, I am reminded of a project I was given back in the seventh grade. Our Science teacher decided that we were to gather as many different varieties of leaves with no less than 16 to be collected.
Being born and raised on a farm, how could I not do this in an hour? When I arrived home from school that day, I realized my first obstacle. We only had pine trees so I couldn’t just go out into the yard and gather a few leaves. I began to look around and I spotted a Walnut tree.
OK, that was one. Here is where I must admit I didn’t know near as much as I thought I did, at least about trees and their leaves. I went to our Science book to look at some pictures of leaves and just as certain as I’m writing this, there was only one picture of one tree so there really wasn’t much help there. After more than a day passed and I was still holding on to one leaf, I decided I needed help and help that was smart so I went over to Charlie Marshall’s place, who had the same assignment.
Now Charlie has always been a good friend and after hearing me out, he cut a deal with me. Since I had access to more land and he had more access to more brains, he agreed to help me as long as he got to complete his project also. That was more than a fair deal to me and the next day after school he came over to my house and we began searching for leaves.
It so happened that Dad was headed back to the Cann farm that connected to the back of our farm. It was almost entirely grown up in woods and Dad suggested that we would probably do well back there. He was dead on correct about that. We found Maple leaves and Oak leaves and a cluster of Elm and Ash trees.
We found these as soon as we arrived and I thought Charlie and I were going to finish the entire project ahead of time, but things slowed and we began looking harder. Charlie spotted the Paw Paw grove and we got another leaf. As I kept grabbing leaves and asking, “What kind is this one?’ and Charlie telling me it was the same as the last one you showed me, my Dad only spoke once and that was at the end of the tobacco patch where there was a huge tree. He said, “Boys that is a Tulip poplar tree.” (We were the only ones to show up with that variety of leaf. This we hoped made it look like we had really looked hard.) As evening began to creep in, we had to head back home and scheduled a time to search again the next day.
After school the next day, Charlie suggested we look for fruit trees. On Tom Houser’s farm next to ours were apple, peach, and two kinds of pear trees. This allowed us to appear to be looking for variety instead of just the required number we needed. The next couple of days Charlie looked up more varieties of trees and then we went out and looked for them. Over this time we were able to collect the 16 leaves mandated plus a few extra.
At this time I was feeling like a champ and ready to deliver my finished project to the classroom. That’s when my friend reminded me that we were required to mount each leaf so it could and would be displayed. Here is where the lost his title again.
Charlie suggested we go to the house and see if my Mom might have some of the supplies we needed. We needed construction paper and wax paper or saran wrap and maybe some Elmer’s glue or scotch tape. From the list of supplies he had in mind, we could make up our presentations. I must stop right here and explain that even though Charlie and I were buddies he also was my Mom’s favorite kid around, so when he asked her about those items, she got them for him right away. You might be thinking that if he got all those supplies, didn’t you? The answer of course was yes, I did but I only got them after Mom saw to it that Charlie had all he needed. (I never liked preferential treatment, unless it was for me.)
Over the next couple of days we secured the leaves on to the construction paper and listed their variety at the bottom and then put them all into a binder. On the day the assignment was due I felt I was ready and began to feel relieved, at least until I saw the other projects. Others had them in saran wrap and fastened to a colorful sheet of construction paper and at the bottom of the page were not only the tree’s name but a sentence or two about the tree and facts from the Science book. I thought, “Oh brother that is going way overboard.” You see I had secured my leaves on a sheet of plain construction paper and secured them with scotch tape. They looked pretty plain compared to the fancy ones I was looking at. I also had overlooked the fact that when leaves become dry and pressed into a binder they tend to shatter and crumble, so I was guessing I’d have some points deducted for that oversight.
But I still I wouldn’t look too bad as I had yet to see Charlie’s finished work. However, when I did see, his leaves were all firmly secured to colored paper and he had their biological name and everything listed at the bottom of the page. My first response was, “Why did you have to do so darn good?” Then I remembered that Charlie was very intelligent. I calmed down quickly as I remembered that if he hadn’t helped me I wouldn’t have even had a binder of crumbled leaves.
The story ended this way. Charlie got an A+ and I got a C-. No matter how you sliced it, we both got what we were looking for. As I have said many times I liked school more for the social life but this whole experience is one more reason why I do not like leaves.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you like he may be reached and he might be able to speak to tour group. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.

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