A Story and a Recipe

By Dorothy Johnson


All the talk about getting wood for the farm house made me think of the elementary schools I attended in Robbinston where we used wood too.  The Ridge School had a woodshed on the west side of the building.  I can not remember if we had a door from the inside of the woodshed to the inside of the school or not.  I know the shed was attached to the building on the west side because when I was allowed to escape for the afternoon while the “big kids” did their lessons, I would sit on the wood pile in the sun.

The shorter desks were in the front of the room so the younger kids sat there.  The older kids sat in the bigger desk chair combinations toward the back of the room.  In the winter, however, the big kids came closer to the front as they fought their way closer to the heat.  

The seventh grade boys kept wood available for the fire, but it was really the teacher who was in charge.  She (Mrs. Florence Diffin and later Mrs. Harriet Burke) was more than capable of taking care of the fire, but I think they were teaching the boys responsibility by putting one or another in charge from day to day.  

One of the boys had to go off campus (a fancy way of saying “away from school”) to get the water jug filled each day. We had a brook in back of the school, but I am sure they did not get the water from there.  We had folded paper cups for drinking and it was always fun to go to the back of the room to get a drink.

After Mrs. Diffin died, the powers that were closed the Ridge School and sent us all to the Village School where everyone went for grade eight anyway.  The Village School had a separate woodshed complete with stacks of wood and an axe.  The wood had to be split and carried in, but this school had two rooms and one male teacher so the wood stoves were not a problem.  Again the older boys had wood and water duties and they managed them very well.  

By the time I got to the Village School, I was in fourth grade so my desk/chair set was nearer the middle of the room.  I can still remember that in the winter, I headed for the front of the room like everyone else.

One incident that I will never forget had to do with the wood shed.  The Ridge bus arrived at school quite early and sometimes the teachers came a bit later.  One day both the Ridge bus kids were there and the bus had gone Outback and delivered those kids too.  Still we had no teachers there.  Two brothers from Outback got in a fight and one of them went to the woodshed and brought out the axe. 

He (the one with the axe) took a swing at his brother’s foot and took a gigantic chip out of the steps.  That scared me and most of the other kids too.  I think a teacher came soon after that little incident and the axe landed back in the woodshed.

Do we all look back and say, “These were the good old days”?

Let’s move to a simple recipe for the busy family, something quick and easy and ready when the family gets home.  Let’s do Barbecued Beef Short Ribs.

Barbecued Beef Short Ribs



Four pounds bone-in beef short ribs trimmed

Two tablespoons canola oil

One large sweet onion, halved and sliced

One bottle chili sauce

Three-fourth cup plum preserves (or other preserves)

Two tablespoons brown sugar

Two tablespoons red wine vinegar

Two tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Two tablespoons Dijon mustard

One-fourth teaspoon ground cloves


1. In a large skillet, brown ribs in oil in batches.  Place onion in 5-quartslow cooker; add ribs.  Cover and cook on low for four and one-half tofive hours or until meat is tender.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients.  Cook and stir over medium heat for four-six minutes or until heated through.

3. Remove ribs from slow cooker.  Skim fat from cooking juices.  Return ribs to slow cooker; pour sauce over ribs.  Cover and cook on high for 25-30 minutes or until sauce is thickened.  Yield: 8 servings.  Enjoy your meal.