I think for most of us the list of formative characters during those highly impressionable schoolyard days is fairly populated by teachers. These are a few, among many, from my years in Demopolis that quickly ascend that list: Emmie Mays, Bernquetta Johnson, Mrs. Nixon, Kayte Melton, Mary Rinehart, Lynn Johnson, Roger Franklin and Terry Sprinkle. When I ask myself why Mr. Sprinkle and these other fine educators are so readily remembered, the answer is clear. They required that I do more than just get by in their classroom, suggested excellence as a life philosophy, and at times reinforced these notions in ways that were plainly understood, long-lasting and, as needed, with situational gravity. Terry Sprinkle was no exception.
I can still hear his words and see that experience laden smile on the first day of freshmen biology, “Terry Sprinkle’s rule #1…life is not fair. I don’t ever want to hear the words, ‘but that’s not fair Mr. Sprinkle!’ Let it be known that I never told you life is fair.” He was true to his word. The first time the class as a group scored poorly on an exam, he announced he was not going to curve the results. Amongst all the whining, the words “that’s not fair, Coach Sprinkle” just didn’t fly. With a grin and raised brow, he held up a single index finger as reminder of rule #1. Good, old-fashioned hard work was the order of the day, better preparing us for life than we could comprehend.
I recall having heard an idea that the influence of seminal people in our lives is evident for up to four generations. If it ain’t true it ought to be. I believe that period may actually be longer. The bearing conveyed upon our young malleable personas is so weaved into the fabric of our character that it becomes prospective ink for the manuscripts of those whose lives we edit or partly edit post-publication. This idea of continued generational influence both comforts and sobers me. I am burdened by the potential of my sanctioned influence and comforted by the generations, present and future, blessed by the classroom presence of excellent educators like Terry Sprinkle, gone but never forgotten.
I have attended too many funerals of late. Too many good people have gone before their time, like Coach Sprinkle. It’s just not right to have them taken from us with so much life to live. It is not fair. But we all know what Coach had to say about that.