“Sanders! You threw away my grandma’s ashes!”
Looking back over my teenage years, Mr. Ordeneaux had more influence on my life than any other man. My parents divorced when I was in 8th grade. My relationship with my dad was nonexistent for years. Mr. O filled in without even knowing it. He taught all things “ag” to a bunch of rowdy Pearland kids. Truth be told, he taught us about life.
I am so thankful that he was a teacher when he was. Most kids and parents today could not have handled his candor. He was a “little unconventional.” I think some of us spent more time with Mr. O than we did our own families. What am I saying? Pearland FFA was family.
He either called you by your last name or a nickname. If he called you by your first name, chances are, you weren’t worthy. There was a “Critter” a “Girl.” Starns, Cotton and Steph to name a few more. Most of the time, he bellowed “Sanders” or “Juls” when beckoning me.
He prodded me to participate in the Brazoria County Fair Calf Scramble.
He would accompany me to Grapeland, Texas, when it came time to purchase my calf. He met us anytime we needed regarding our projects. We all got this “one on one attention.” Looking back, I think he was with us more than his own family. His son was active in FFA, however.
If you were one of his “kids” and wanted to have a project but didn’t have anywhere to raise it, he offered up his barn on county road something another down the street from a sand pit. A sand pit where many a summer day was spent. Where many summer memories were made.
That ‘ole “Ag Barn” holds many memories as well. Some I’ll hold close to my heart, never revealing, other memories are fair game. I know we all have our own “Ag Barn” memories and stories.
Up until I retired from teaching, I told Mr. O stories all of the time. I too gave kids nicknames or referred to my students by their last name. A subscious nod to Mr. O, perhaps.
One day, I was cleaning his office and in the process, emptied the coffee can that housed his cigar ashes. This was back in they day when there was designated smoking on campus. I affectionately remember Mr. O always chewin’ on a cigar. Anywho, I was sitting in the classroom after what I thought was a job well done. I think I was his class aide at the time. He came in and yelled, “Sanders, you threw away my grandma’s ashes!” I immediately broke down in tears. I’m don’t remember how long he let me think I had thrown away his beloved ashes. Knowing Mr. O, he let me sweat it for awhile. The can was not in fact his grandma’s ashes!
He picked on us a lot. He made us tough. He taught us about hard work. He pushed us to do things we didn’t think we could do. When it came time to castrate my pig, he made me do it. I won’t go into detail but it was terrifying and amazing all at the same time. I also remember sticking my arm in a cows butt elbow deep. I think it had something to do with artificial insemination.
The man gave of himself relentlessly. He acted like we were all a pain in his butt. We knew better.
He would come visit me in the emergency room when I was getting stitches. I has been balling the tail of a Charolais heifer and apparently pulled a little too much. She kicked me in the face and broke my nose and cheek it three places. I walked around with a hoof print on my face for several weeks. This was right around the time I was the Pearland nominee for FFA Sweetheart. I still had hoof remnants on my face come time to compete. I wanted to back out. Mr. O told me, “nah, it won’t make that much of a difference anyway Sanders, you aren’t gonna win.” That was his way of encouraging me. Sidenote: hoof print and all, I was runner up. I guess he knew better than I did.
He dried my tears the night of the FFA banquet that scarred me for life. Wilbur, my pig didn’t make the sale at the Brazoria County Fair. We had a local freezer sale for projects that didn’t make the cut at the fair. One of the local banks in Pearland bought “Wilbur” for $300 and then “graciously” donated him back to our FFA Chapter. Guess who was smoked for the FFA banquet? Yep, Wilbur. I did not eat. I cried and cried. Mr. O picked on me relentlessly that entire night. At the end of the festivities he pulled me aside and told me he was sorry I was sad. I really think he meant it. I cried and he handed me his handkerchief. He always had a white one with him. In true Mr. O style he finished the consoling with, “But he sure was good! You missed out.”
The man is a legend. Every single one of his students has stories. Stories I guarantee you they have passed on to their kids. He was unconventional. But we survived and are tougher for it. He was a shoulder when we needed one but would be quick to tell you to stop whinin’ and get over whatever the impending crisis was at the time. He loved us fiercely although he would never have wanted us to think so. We all knew it though. We loved him back just as much.
Mr. O has since passed but his legacy will live on through us rowdy Pearland kids. Thank you Mr. O for filling in when I needed you. Thank you for loving us like we were your own. Miss you, ‘ole man!