The Wild and Wooly West

97 year-old José Gonzales came to MobileBooth West with his daughter RosaLee Chavez to talk about his education in a one room school house in rural New Mexico. Back in his day, going to school was no picnic… in fact, it could be downright dangerous!

19 year-old teacher Miss Pruitt was not about to be run off like the previous teacher at Cutter School (who was allegedly driven mad by a “cut up” named Lloyd and was never heard from again). Before anyone had time to misbehave on the first day of school, Miss Pruitt pulled out her six-shooter to let the kids know she meant business. The gun stayed on her desk in plain sight, and when the “cutting up” began, she cocked it and pointed it straight at the troublemaker – the notorious Lloyd.

The gun wasn’t enough to scare him, and he kept right on misbehaving, so Miss Pruitt invented another punishment. She asked José to help her rig up two tiny nooses hanging from the window frame and she strung Lloyd up by his thumbs. He was left to dangle there in the hot sun for the rest of the school day and his poor thumbs were black by the end. He never did come to school again.

Mr. Gonzales told facilitator Hilary Marshall that she’d be surprised by his story, and she certainly was. The west was “wild and wooly” back then, and we thank Mr. Gonzales’ keen memory for reminding us of how much things have changed!


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2 Responses to “The Wild and Wooly West”

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  • Jose didn’t share what Lloyd’s ultimate fate was. Perhaps he did lose his thumbs, though I imagine Lloyd’s daddy would have had a thing or two to say to Ms. Pruitt if that had been the case. She remained their teacher for quite some time and was always disciplinarian, with no complaints from parents. This would have been around 1918, a time when drought and cattle count were of greater concern to many parents than their child’s education. Many farm kids never had the opportunity to attend school, as they were needed for labor. Jose was a lucky boy in many regards; he obtained an education while also managing to avoid Ms. Pruitt’s wrath. Thanks again to him for sharing his gruesome tale.

    Comment from StoryCorps MobileBooth on October 14, 2007 at 1:39 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • This story is really shocking, but the part that disturbs me about it the most is the statement that Lloyd’s thumbs were black at the end of the day and that he never came back to school.

    I can’t help but wonder if he never came back to school because he lost his thumbs as a result of loss of circulation. Heck, back when this happened, Lloyd could have even gotten an infection and died.

    Could you clairify what ultimately happened to Lloyd?

    Comment from Anonymous on October 9, 2007 at 5:12 pm - Reply to this Comment

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