A collection of stories expanding on the ideas presented in ‘The Best Day’ and ‘A New Barkley Tradition’ by phoenix, which can be found in The Barkley Library.
Assumptions for the entire series are:
1) Health arrived on the Barkley Ranch the last week of April, just before the Spring cattle drives were to begin,
2) Jarrod (28 yrs), Nick (26 yrs), Heath (22 yrs) and Audra (20 yrs) live with Victoria,
3) As is the case in all of my stories, poor Eugene does not exist, and
4) This series is dedicated to Norma Jean Taylor (HS English).
information for this story:
1) Four years ago this month, the WD lost a devoted member, and gracious mentor, when Norma Jean passed away. At home, her community lost a beloved English Teacher who had spent her adult life working in Secondary Education,
2) For those interested in California History, I will be posting a selection of the information, footnotes and references from my research for this story after the story concludes, and
This story was joyfully inspired by a print 'motherof4' posted on the WD depicting Heath
writing. I was unable to contact her, or attach the picture to this story.
Story Fifteen: First Proof
XXXXX End of August - 1876 XXXXX
"I'm certain that is all it would take."
Miss Taylor's smile didn't fool Heath. She was pushing him, and pushing hard, but he didn't mind. They had quickly become friends and he didn't have many of those after less than five months of living with the Barkleys.
In addition, they shared an interest in making certain every child had an equal opportunity to obtain a quality education. Miss Taylor's interest had moved her to dedicate her entire adult life to being an Educator. Heath's interest was related to the fact he had never had the opportunity to go to school; the good citizens of Strawberry had made his unwelcome very clear to both Heath and his mother.
Heath believed he had been denied a right all children deserved and hated the thought of what had happened to him being repeated in another child's life. Luckily, he was now a member of the Barkley family, and they felt the same as Heath on the issue of Education; that meant they had long ago formed a strong alliance with Miss Taylor and had supported her school for many years.
"As long as you understand that the risk you will be taking would be for you and no one else."
"Why certainly, Heath. There would be an element of risk; not a large one, but tests can be tricky sometimes."
She smiled and moved her chair to the next bookshelf. Heath readjusted where he was standing, so the books were easier for him to lift out of their boxes as he continued to hand them to her.
"There was one extremely positive thing about not attending a 'real' school when I lived in Strawberry."
"What was that?"
"My Aunt Rachel wasn't big on giving tests ... In fact, I can't remember ever taking an actual exam."
"You've told me how much reading she assigned to you over the years, but how did she teach you things such as Arithmetic or Spelling without testing your knowledge as you moved along in your studies?"
"We did numbers together on a slate or reused packing paper from her dress shop ... I suppose she was testing me without my realizing it. And for spelling, after I'd finish reading a book, Aunt Rachel would leaf through it and we'd talk about the new words in them, their meaning, how to spell them and so forth."
"What a natural teacher your Aunt truly was ... You never felt under pressure, but she was testing your knowledge."
"I suppose that's true, especially since I never realized what she was doing until just now."
"Of course, Hannah ... Now, she has always been an avid tester?"
Miss Taylor couldn't help but chuckle along with Heath.
"Hannah worked in the Kitchen at the Hotel with my Ma. They'd come dragging in pretty late most evenings, but I'd always had to practice saying my Bible verses to Hannah before Ma and I walked home.
"For as long as I can remember, she assigned me verses every week, plus hymns ... Hannah loves to sing dozens of hymns. Boy howdy, Hannah does have her Bible memorized and seemed to feel it was her duty to make certain I did, too.
"Sadly, Hannah can't read; in fact, she barely knows how to sign her name. She always worked two and three jobs when I was growing up; that meant, she was never around when I was taking my lessons. But, thanks to Aunt Rachel and Ma, she did learn to sign her name and was rightfully proud when she got that down."
"Have a mentioned I simply have to meet Hannah someday!"
"Like minds on the Bible verse thing?"
They laughed while nearing the end of the boxes they had planned to empty that afternoon.
"Oh look, Heath, we're all the way to unpacking the Author's names which begin with a 'V.' Tomorrow, after the Sunday School volunteers stop in to finish unpacking these boxes, this Library will start to look ready for the students to arrive in September."
Heath had been looking into the next box of books with Miss Taylor. He reached in and pulled out a book from near the top.
"Look at this ... I loved reading this book."
"I never thought about living under the sea until I read this book. Now, whenever I'm anywhere near the ocean ... I can't help but wonder if Captain Nemo is somewhere out there." (1)
"The illustrations in this book," Miss Taylor flipped through the beautiful edition the Barkleys were supplying the school, "must have seemed terribly out of place when you grabbed it from your saddle bags to read."
"Did the other men working with you ask about them?"
"They may have, if I'd been interested, but I've always used my reading habit as a way to keep from talking to people."
Miss Taylor stopped working and turned to see Heath's face. She assumed he was joking ... How could anyone who loved books the way this young man did not want to talk about them?
"For as long as I can remember, I've kept a book, sometimes two, in my saddle bags. But, books have always been my way of escaping from wherever I found myself in the world. Plus, reading a book is a great way to look busy, so you don't have to talk or answer any questions."
Miss Taylor nodded. It made sense, but also made her sad.
"Now," Heath smiled, "Jarrod and I talk about books all the time. It drives Nick nuts, but rarely crazy enough to pick up a book we are discussing. Mother and Audra have read some of them and have made good suggestions for my reading list, too.
"And, with a little money in my pocket these days, I never have to hesitate to buy books. Plus, the Library is great back at the house and Jarrod has already introduced me to his favorite bookstores in Sacramento and San Francisco.
"Jarrod has never been condescending about the books we find together that I haven't read. Of course, he was so busy with 'Law School' after The War, then starting his Law Practice ... I've had fun introducing books he never had the time to read before now."
Heath looked down and lifted another book from the box in front of them into his hands.
"This here one. Jarrod hadn't read it but, now that he has, we've spent a ton of time talking about where we would go, what we would want to see, if we traveled around the world." (2)
"That is fun to imagine; I, also, enjoyed that book."
"After hearing Jarrod rave about it, Audra and Mother read it, too. We've talked about it, on and off, enough to get Nick curious. He's been grumbling about reading being boring, but I think he is enjoying the darn book."
"What are you and Jarrod reading these days?"
"Middlemarch for me; Jarrod tends to like serious, detailed, books." (3)
Miss Taylor laughed, then asked, "What did you recommend for him?"
"Dostoyevsky's, 'The Idiot.'" (4)
"Talk about serious!"
"I know!" Heath broke into hearty laughter with her, admitting, "But, it is one of my favorite books."
"Many reasons ... "
"Feel like sharing any of them?"
Heath returned her smile. He met Miss Taylor while helping Silas deliver supplies at his church after one of last Spring's more destructive floods. Since that time, he'd joined his family in their efforts to help her maintain the quality of education offered to the children attending Stockton's 'Common School for Colored.'
It was a school Miss Taylor had already spent nearly twenty years of her life sustaining. In fact, after vandals set fire to the hallway where the Library was housed more than a year before, Miss Taylor and the other Teachers were just now moving tables, chairs and books into the newly renovated rooms on this hall, including the Library.
Originally, it was hoped that the Library would be ready when school reopened in the Fall. But, once the reconstruction bills had been paid, there was no money left in the yearly budget San Joaquin County allotted the school for replacing many books.
With Heath's urging, the Barkley family had gladly paid to restock and upgrade the Library's inventory; after years of dealing with hand-me-downs from schools across the County, Miss Taylor was finally filling the shelves with new copies of books to feed the minds of her Primary and Secondary Education students.
"I like all of Dostoyevsky's books; Tolstoy's, too."
"And, that is because ..."
Heath laughed at the face she was making while shaking his head.
"They are about loners ... Men on the outside with serious doubts about society's rules, along with the confines of established religion.
"Heck, the first time I read, 'The Idiot,' was after The War, events of which had forced me to spend time in a US Army Hospital. My experiences there left me feeling more than a bit worn, and rather insane, which allowed me to understand the main character."
Miss Taylor jumped up and gave Heath an unexpectedly sharp slap on the shoulder.
He barely got the word out since Heath was in the process of swallowing a laugh.
"You told me your writing skills weren't good enough to pass any tests."
"Well, I'm fine with a short note ... I write a decent letter and Telegrams suit me just fine. But, essays ... I've never written one of those in my life."
"But, you just gave me the perfect introductory college level essay, Heath."
"You did! Anyone, who loves to read as much as you do, can write; maybe not publishable materials, but essays and other school assignments. I know the thought of writing an essay frightens everyone, but I also know that all you would need to do to feel more confident in your skills would be to keep writing!"
This time, Heath couldn't swallow his laughter. Miss Taylor's joy in the moment was contagious ... Even if it made no sense to him.
"But, Miss Taylor, I've never even been writing."
"Oh," she slapped at his shoulder, again, "you are impossible!"
They were finished unpacking boxes for the day and Miss Taylor excused herself to do something in her Office while Heath finished cleaning up. As he worked, Heath could hear her opening drawers and cabinets a few doors down the hall.
Finally, he was ready to go and knocked on her Office door to say good-bye. She asked him inside, then handed him a Composition Book which was opened to the first page.
"What's all this?"
"The list of subjects you'll be reviewing over the next few months."
"I know from our conversations that most of this will be a repeat of materials you've been exposed to over the years. But, a good review never hurt anybody and it could reveal information you haven't run into before."
Heath couldn't help but start to chuckle again at the woman's demeanor. Never, not once, had he met a woman who made so many statements that appeared to be unfinished thoughts.
"The Secondary Education Finals, for students across the Country about to finish high school, typically cover twenty or more subjects. Most of those subject wouldn't be helpful to a Cowboy, but they are excellent preparation for taking College Entrance Examinations. The subjects beyond the basics on those Finals include things such as: Latin, Greek, Algebra and a ton of Mythology. (5)
"For goodness sake, most people in San Joaquin County don't even manage to finish Fifth Grade, let alone stay in school long enough to consider going to college. So, I'm thinking the Eight Grade Final Exam would be perfect."
"Yes, you. Now, here's the list of subjects I'm going to expect you to review before the end of this Academic year."
Heath looked at the list on the first page of the Composition Book. It seemed quite long to him:
History: California and United States
"Now, you will be given approximately one hour for each section on the test. In addition, each of the sections includes a written assignment.
"Quite frankly, if I gave you the test today, you would score well enough to pass. But, I would never be able to convince you of that without providing you proof."
"Proof that you are most certainly not a 'dumb bastard'... As I overheard Mr. Halsey at the Feed Store refer to you the other day."
"Miss Taylor, I'm grateful, but I already know ..."
"Yes, Ma'am; I do."
"And, when horrid people like Mrs. Potnick stand right in front of you in the middle of the street ..."
"I didn't know you witnessed that unfortunate incident, Miss Taylor, but her words certainly don't deserve repeating."
She smiled since Heath had caught her getting fired up, as she did whenever it came to defending an underdog. And, it had become readily apparent to Miss Taylor that Tom Barkley's bastard son had one heck of a fight on his hands before he would be accepted by very many of Stockton's higher-than-mighty citizens.
"Ma'am, I appreciate your interest. I'm all for reading and such, but I don't see the need ..."
"Well, I do."
One of Heath's eyebrows nearly flew up to his hairline.
"You see Heath, it wasn't the nasty words those horrid people were spewing that concerned me; sadly, I'm certain you've heard all of that ugliness and much more before.
"It was the look I saw in your eyes while you were loading supplies onto a wagon at the Train Depot that made up my mind."
"A look in my eyes?"
"Yes, after the Station Master made a particularly snide remark regarding your handwriting on the Supply Invoice. Of course, he chose to make his remarks in front of a large group of people waiting to board an incoming Train. I was stunned to hear him loudly proclaiming that you couldn't have gone to school because 'no decent school would have let your kind through their doors.'"
"Well, Miss Taylor, my handwriting does tend to perplex folks; that's why I prefer to print, except when I'm signing my name. And, for some reason, when a person don't write well, or talk fancy like my brother Jarrod, people assume you're illiterate."
She walked around to where Heath was standing by the door and stood next to him.
"None of that, Young Man."
"None of what?"
"Trying to change the subject."
Heath nodded his understanding of what she had caught him attempting to do.
"As I mentioned, the majority of people in Stockton didn't spend much of their youth in school, unlike your brothers and sister. They were lucky enough to have the opportunity to receive expensive private educations.
"You know, Heath, thirty years ago when California became a US Territory, I was in the process of obtaining my Teacher's Certification in Missouri. At that time, the newspapers were full of exciting information about the new Territory, including an article I remember reading which helped me decide to move here. I knew there would be teaching jobs, since the article stated the fact only two percent of Californian's were literate." (7)
"I didn't know that."
"But, California has come a long way in the past thirty years. Of course, we have a lot further to go.
"In the meantime, when someone makes a snide remark about your formal education, or lack thereof, I want you to know in here," she tapped over Heath's heart, "that they are blowing smoke out of their ears."
"Miss Taylor, I appreciate your interest, but ..."
She reached to briefly touch his cheek while gathering her thoughts.
"No one can stop stupid people from lowering themselves to such ugliness, but I won't stand for the look I saw in your eyes remaining inside your soul, Heath."
"You are going to study for California's exam, take it and earn yourself a Graduation Certificate. Only you and I need to know about it, but we WILL know about it ... That will be the point."
Heath stood stunned by Miss Taylor's plan.
"You can utilize my textbooks to review the required material. Feel free to take home a few at a time; use them at whatever pace works with your busy schedule on the ranch."
She walked back to her desk and picked up the Composition Book.
"I want you to write in this journal at least once every day, more if you have time. Write about what you are learning, what's happening on the ranch or what you are thinking about ... Anything that interests you. The journal is yours to do with as you please, and it is only for you to read, but you must keep writing.
"I'll send you letters with practice questions and we can talk when you exchange textbooks; that's how I'll keep track of your progress. If you have time, send back your answers to the questions I mail you. I will correct them, edit the grammar, and mail them back."
She paused and tried to read the look on Heath's face. Miss Taylor wasn't a card playing woman but, at that very moment, she would have sworn the young man before her was one heck of a Poker player ... She had absolutely no idea what he was thinking.
"Don't you see, Heath ... By doing it this way, you'll be practicing your writing without any pressure. I'm blatantly stealing a teaching method from your Aunt Rachel!"
The tension in the room instantly dissolved as Heath broke out into a fit of laughter. He took a few steps forward and pulled his friend into an embrace.
"Thank you, Miss Taylor."
"You are more than welcome, Heath."
She quickly walked around and picked up a stack of Eighth Grade textbooks on the side of her desk.
"Where would you prefer to start?"
"Wait! Isn't there going to be any discussion regarding my opinion of your plan?"
"Hurry now, pick a
subject or two ... Mrs. Barkley will be thinking I kept you too long this
afternoon. You need to get home to your supper and I want to finish a few
things here before heading home to mine."
"What are the two books on top of the pile?"
"Arithmetic and US History."
"Guess I'll start there and work my way through your pile."
Miss Taylor handed Heath his first two books. He added the Composition Book she had given him to the top of the stack.
"You ever consider a military career, Miss Taylor? You'da made one heck of a General during The War."
She shook her head while watching Heath disappear through the Office door. A moment later, he popped his head back inside.
"I'm not sure what just happened here will ever make sense in my mind, but I do believe I forgot to thank you, Miss Taylor. So, thank you!"
"You are most sincerely welcome, Heath. Now, get on home and enjoy the evening with your family."
This time, as she eased down into her chair to finish some paperwork, Miss Taylor heard Heath leave the building. She closed her eyes and sent a Prayer of gratitude toward her Maker. Since their first meeting, she had hoped for a path to positively intervene in this young man's life would open up ... And, she believed it most certainly had made itself known to her that afternoon.
"Now," she smiled while getting out a piece of paper to compose a letter, "I'll need to recruit another Secondary Education Teacher, from a school outside of Stockton, to assist me in proctoring Heath's testing next Spring. That will assure fairness while guaranteeing Heath's privacy is preserved throughout the entire process."
XXXXX Late October - 1876 XXXXX
Heath relaxed after a long day of fixing Hannah's roof and installing the new stove he'd hauled out from Stockton to keep the Living Room warmer this Winter. Unexpectedly, he'd ended up using a mix of the old stove's chimney pipes, and the current Kitchen stove's chimney pipes, to update that smoke exhaust system, too.
Even after a long bath out on the Back Porch, he still felt slightly smoky from dealing with the entire mess he had gotten himself into. As he relaxed with his journal on the backstairs, Heath couldn't help but smile as Hannah sang hymn after hymn while scrubbing the dirt and soot from the clothes he had worn that day.
The latest supplies he provided had filled her Kitchen shelves to overflowing and whatever Hannah had picked out to cook for their supper smelt wonderful. He sat taking in all the changes and updates each of his visits had added to her tiny house. Over the past six months, he'd stopped back every few weeks and the place appeared ready to survive another year or so ... He hoped and prayed.
Despite Heath's constant urging, he hadn't been able to convince Hannah to move closer to his new home in Stockton. Luckily, except for Nick, his family understood his need to ride out to Strawberry to check on Hannah as often as was possible. In truth, he couldn't blame his friend for not wanting to give up the house his mother, Leah, had left her less than a year before. It was the first property Hannah had owned in her entire life and it meant the world to her.
Suddenly, Heath felt another round of the sadness that had been threatening him throughout the entire day. Last October, when he stopped in to check on his mother, Aunt Rachel and Hannah, Heath's world had been entirely different. Although Strawberry's downward spiral was continuing, the three women he loved were doing fine and seemed happy enough for the time being.
Last October, the four of them had discussed Heath's desire for them to move away from Strawberry; to reestablish themselves in another city, one where more work was available and they wouldn't be as isolated. But, the three women seemed set on staying put. Outnumbered, he had dropped the subject. Only later, when he returned home for a brief stay at the Holidays, did Heath realize they had decided to stay in Strawberry because Leah wasn't well.
Unable to put the nearly overwhelming emotions he was feeling into words, Heath began to draw a picture using the images of the three women that were racing around his mind's eye. The depiction that started coming together on the page before him, showed them as they had been only the year before.
As it turned out, Heath's ability to draw had saved the secret of his 'journaling' assignment quite a few times since the previous August. His drawings included detailed maps of the ranch, information regarding his trips and assignments, along with the many new people in his life ... And, of course, an array of horses.
That meant, when Nick, or anyone else in the family, questioned Heath about his journal, it was easy to explain that he was using it as a learning tool. And, since he actually was using it as a learning tool, Heath hadn't lied to them.
"That looks like me and my good friends ... Just like us, Boy."
Hannah had come out of the house to hang his unbelievably clean clothes on the line. He hadn't heard her until she was directly behind him and could bend down to examine his unfinished work.
She walked down into the yard.
"You always could put pictures on a page." She laughed, adding, "I can't hardly imagine how you do it."
"I'm not sure either, Hannah. As you said, it seems I always could draw."
"It pleased your mother ... Of course, she was proud of all of you."
Heath smiled and found himself content to watch Hannah work.
"Did Mr. Barkley draw?"
"Your father ... Did he draw pictures?"
"Why yes; yes, he did. At least, that's what my new family has mentioned to me."
"Well, then ... That's how it be."
Heath mind wandered to the drawings Victoria had shared with him. His father did have a good eye, along with a steady hand, but he had preferred to draw more exacting things. Perhaps his father was better than Heath was at not letting his mind wander; Tom Barkley's drawings generally centered on business related items.
"You know, Heath ... You asked if there was anything I needed."
"I'd like a drawing of my house. Now that you've fixed it up, it looks so pretty ... The paint you picked perks up the place something fierce. And my new roof ... I never imagine owning a house like this.
"Yes, one of your drawings; I'd like that, Heath."
"I'll do my best, Ma'am ... Maybe, I'll have something for you when I come back in a few weeks, but it might be closer to Christmas."
"That be fine, Boy." Hannah laughed, again, before adding, "If the good Lord sees fit to have me here ... That be fine."
Hannah went back to her singing, but Heath's mind went to a box sitting on the desk in his bedroom. A few weeks before, Jarrod had brought him a gift. It was a box of fancy oil pencils, in various colors, that he'd seen in a store while shopping in San Francisco.
His oldest brother thought they were a great gift after seeing a few of Heath's drawings. In fact, they were a perfect gift, but he hadn't had the time to practice using the grease-based pencils. Heath had never drawn with anything more than an inexpensive general store pencil but, after he was finished with Miss Taylor's assignments, it was something he hoped to have time to do.
"You got'ta name for that drawing, Boy?"
Hannah was crossing the porch to reenter the house, but stopped behind Heath to admire his drawing, again.
"I think I'll call it, 'Three Beautiful Women.'"
She laughed, reached down and teasingly batted at the top of his head, then disappeared inside the house. Heath chuckled with her, but then let his eyes rest back on the faces he was trying to capture on the page before him.
Without hesitation, he scribbled a name for his drawing in the bottom corner of the page. Heath was exhausted, so the drawing, and its title, would have to suffice as that day's journal entry. He closed the book and went inside to help Hannah finish preparing their meal.
But, even with his journal closed, the title he had written on the page lingered in his mind. It read, 'Before The Storm.'
XXXXX Late December - 1876 XXXXX
Because of another Holiday Party his family held that evening, Heath made it to his room later than he had hoped, again. Since last August, he'd been faithful about studying each night before he went to bed. Even if he was on the trail, he tried to at least write in his journal each day. But, at home, he had no excuse for not sitting down at his desk to study.
Working his way through the materials hadn't been difficult; in fact, he'd enjoyed learning about the history of both California and the United States. But, the rhyme or reason for a person needing to know more about Arithmetic than how to add, subtract, multiply and divide continued to elude him.
Heath did have to admit that paying attention to the details while reading the textbooks he borrowed had been teaching him a ton about Grammar in a rather painless way. In fact, in the most recent work returned to him by Miss Taylor, she hadn't made more than one or two corrections ... That made him feel awfully good. In the future, whenever he had time to pick up books to read, simply for the pleasure of reading them, Heath felt certain he would have more appreciation for the author's Grammar.
Tonight, Heath took a break from his 'school studies' to work on his personal list of details he wanted to learn. For months, he been drawing, and redrawing, in-depth maps of the ranch, especially its Topography. He'd been paying extremely close attention to the ebbs and flows of the ranch's water resources as his first year in Stockton was passing by. After all, there was very little of more priority on a cattle ranch than knowing how, when and where there was water.
Nick had those details, and so many more, ingrained in his head, but Heath was still learning. In truth, it was going to take him years to catch up to his Cowboy brother, and he knew there was a very good chance he never would have their ranch down the way Nick did. But, he was determined to try.
In short order, Heath was growing too tired to concentrate, but he still needed to write something in his journal. Since coming home with the doggone Composition Book at the end of August, he had faithfully written or drawn something in it each and every day. In fact, he had come to enjoy the process of taking a brief moment to reflect, to shut out everyone and everything around him, before deciding what to enter for that day.
While cleaning off his desk,
Heath chuckled at the memory of his first entry: 'Why did I agree to this?'
That particular question not only summed up his feelings regarding Miss Taylor's plans for him, but it spoke volumes about everything that had occurred in his life since the previous March when he rushed home the day before his mother, Leah's, death.
Quickly shaking off those memories, he forced happier memories of Leah across his mind. Every year, Christmas week was her favorite time and Heath missed her more than he could have imagined was possible ... It was a mental, physical and spiritual ache that he found himself confronting on a daily basis throughout the Holiday Season.
Suddenly, Heath jumped when there was a quiet rap on his door. He quickly crossed the room to see who might be visiting so late at night.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Mr. Heath, but I noticed your lamp was still on."
"You aren't disturbing me, Mr. Whiting."
Silas nodded. They had an understanding from when they were alone in the very early hours of the morning in the Kitchen. If he referred to Heath as, 'Mr. Heath,' instead of dropping the 'Mister,' then Heath used Silas' surname in response. After years of being careful how he addressed folks, especially white folks, it was a difficult trust for Silas to extend. But, he had been working hard to try as their friendship quickly strengthened.
"You have to be exhausted after your long day, Silas. I hope you can get some rest soon or you won't be able to enjoy your day off tomorrow."
"Oh, I'll enjoy it ... Heath."
While they shared a quiet chuckle, Silas held out a box.
"Something I found when Mrs. Barkley and I ... It doesn't matter. I wanted you to have it, but figured you would prefer not opening it downstairs tomorrow."
One of Heath's eyebrows instinctively slid up his forehead. He'd suspected Silas might know something about what he was doing. A few times, when he had been too tired to put his books away before he fell asleep ... They somehow managed to be tucked into the desk when he arrived home the following evening. He suspected Silas had put them away for him while checking the bedrooms on his rounds of the second floor. But, they had never discussed Heath's suspicions.
"Please, step inside for a minute, Silas."
Heath backed away from the door.
"I'll get out your present. It's been crazy around here and we've missed our breakfasts together this week."
Silas stepped in, but shook his head at the idea of a present.
"Now, Heath, your family has already spoiled me, as they do every year."
Heath walked back with the small package he'd kept hidden in an old set of saddlebags in his Dresser.
"Merry Christmas, Silas."
The older man took hold of the package as if he had been given something terribly fragile. Each man opened their gift; when they looked up, their smiles more than indicated their pleasure with their presents.
"It's called a 'Propelling' pencil. I have noticed you've been witling a ton of wooden pencils down to nothing over the past few months. The man at the store said it would be much easier to keep this type of pencil with you, in your shirt pocket or saddle bags."
"This is wonderful, Silas."
Heath was moving the mechanism that advanced and retracted the graphite core. He looked up with a sincere smile and nodded.
"Thank you ... I'll be putting this to good use. Now, finish opening your present, too."
Silas folded back the remainder of the paper and stood silently admiring his gift.
"On my last visit to Strawberry, Hannah asked me to drive her to Tuolumne to visit her former Minister as one of her Christmas gifts this year. He lives over there with his son and his family, now.
"While she visited, I walked around the neighborhood. One of their neighbors, Mr. James, was doing this amazing work out in front of his house. I was fascinated by the details he could etch into such a small space."
Silas ran his fingers over the fine details of the small square piece of metal. It accurately depicted one of the many traditional symbols used by the Underground Railroad ... 'Drinking the Gourd.'
Outside the Freeman community, this arrangement of stars was known as the Big Dipper. But, slaves had been more apt to recognize the gourd symbol since they traditionally used hallowed out gourds as drinking cups.
Amazingly, the etching even
included the two stars on the cup's edge. These stars directed one's eyes toward
the proper place in the sky to locate the North Star ... The path toward
"Hannah has always kept this symbol and others on display wherever she lives; I recognized it right away and thought you might enjoy having this in your room."
"I will, Son; indeed, I will."
Silas started to leave, then quickly turned around and handed Heath an envelope from his coat pocket.
"I nearly forgot to give you this letter. I know you asked me to leave these up here, instead of in the Foyer with the other mail, but I didn't have time until now."
"Merry Christmas, Heath."
"Merry Christmas, Silas."
The two friends shook hands and parted ways. Heath sat back down at his Desk and practiced using his new pencil. Truth be told, he had been rather down about the Holidays, the first in Heath's life without Leah and Aunt Rachel in his world, but Silas' surprise gift had cheered him.
It was late, he should have been in bed at least an hour ago, but Heath decided to open Miss Taylor's latest letter before crawling in bed. After all, it was nearly Christmas Day and she was probably writing with a Holiday message for him.
Heath folded the letter back up and slid it inside the drawer with all of the others.
"More word problems! That woman surely does love to torture me with those doggone things. But, they'll have to wait until after tomorrow."
Heath crossed over to his bed and was nearly asleep before his head settled fully into his pillow.
XXXXX February - 1877 XXXXX
"I'm grateful, Miss Taylor, but there is no need to go to all of that trouble on my account."
"Yes, Heath, there is. You've been working hard and having you take the Final Exam has always been our goal."
"But, Mr. Harvey is a busy man. Taking one of his days off on my account doesn't seem right to me."
"As I mentioned, Mr. Harvey is putting together research in hopes of getting the California Legislature to approve more funds for Adult Education. In exchange for being able to anonymously include your test results, he agreed to proctor your exam.
"Besides, if you stayed here in Stockton to be tested, there would be multiple issues. First, I doubt we could manage to spend an entire Saturday in this school, or anywhere else in town, without someone we know noticing what we were doing.
"Up until now, we've been successful in hiding your studies and I'd hate to give away our secret at the very end. Plus, I don't want there to be any doubt your exam was given in a fair, and unbiased, manner."
"Who would doubt you, Miss Taylor?"
"Oh, I've made more than a few enemies fighting for my students over the years. And, with the California Legislature once again reexamining the possibility of desegregating schools across our fair state during their upcoming session ... I'm certain I'll be ruffling even more feathers with my testimony."
"That means I only have a few more weeks to prepare."
"Yes, Mr. Harvey was specific about the two dates he has available. You'll be testing early, but I wouldn't count on having any results until mid-May, along with the rest of the students.
"The day of your exam, Mr. Harvey will record a score for each section of the test, but that will be for your oral responses only. I'm certain he will slide correcting the written part of your exam in with those of his others students, which means it will take him longer to correct. Plus, he agreed to test you, but he didn't agree to rush the results. So, we'll simply have to wait."
Miss Taylor laughed at the look on Heath's face. Then, they circling back to the reason he had stopped in to see her that day as she exchanged his textbooks.
XXXXX Mid-April - 1877 XXXXX
The sky was incredibly clear as he threw another log on the fire and pulled his jacket's collar tighter around his neck. He had expected to be dog tired but, for some unknown reason, he was jittery and unnerved by the day's events, which was in direct contrast to the calm he had felt early that morning.
Of course, if he had pushed harder, Heath would be warm and comfortable in Hannah's cabin by now. But, he had taken his time and had been looking forward to a night alone under the stars to digest the day's events.
The worst part of the day was the guilt he had been dealing with since deciding not to tell Victoria the entire truth about his plans. Yesterday, when he said good-bye, his family believed he was heading right to Strawberry, just as he did every few weeks to check on Hannah. But, he had actually stayed in one of Sacramento's Hotels last night, in order to be in front of the High School where Mr. Harvey taught a half hour early that morning.
When they did meet and proceed inside the building, Mr. Harvey had a spot set up for Heath to take his exam in the small office connected to his classroom. While he was completing the written sections of the test, Mr. Harvey worked at his nearby desk. If they were working on questions Heath needed to answer orally, Mr. Harvey could turn and address him from his desk.
After Heath finished the exam, he thanked Mr. Harvey for his time then headed right out of Sacramento towards Hannah's. Thus, he hadn't actually lied to Victoria when he left Stockton, since he was traveling to Strawberry for the weekend; he hadn't necessarily told her the truth, either.
He poured himself another cup of coffee while questions, answers, doubts and much more rumbled through his head. Not having taken any other school tests or standardized exams in his life, Heath wasn't certain if being this keyed up after finishing the darn exam was normal. Too bad Jarrod wasn't in on his secret, he'd taken test after test for a couple of decades of his life ... Surely, he could have eased Heath's mind regarding how he was feeling.
Finally, feeling the effects of a busy week on the ranch, followed by today's nerve-wracking events, Heath threw the remainder of the coffee in his cup on the ground. After taking a long look around to double-check that his horse was secure and the campsite set for the night, he eased further down under his blanket.
Staring at the stars, he found it difficult to believe the project he and Miss Taylor set out to accomplish last August was finally over. In truth, Heath had to admit feeling better about his writing skills, which had been the original point of the project. Additionally, he had found the majority of the subject matter he'd been assigned to learn rather interesting. Most of it, but not all since he never would understand why ... Oh well, it didn't matter now.
He turned on his side and pulled his journal out from under the saddle he was using as a pillow. Out of habit, Heath had unpacked it from his saddlebags when he made camp. Earlier, after chuckling at himself, he put it away and decided to give himself a night off from his journal.
But, as he sat back up and made himself comfortable, Heath rooted around in his jacket pocket for a pencil. He had them stuck in every shirt, jacket and pair of pants he owned these days. Luckily, Silas was good at finding the ones he forgot to remove before throwing his clothing into the laundry basket.
Of course, Heath kept the 'Propelling' pencil Silas gave him last Christmas on the desk in his room, right beside the box of colored grease pencils he had been learning to use for his drawings. Both gifts were too special to risk losing them on the trail ... He felt better keeping them in one permanent place.
Heath stared down at the blank page of his journal. It was hard to decide what thoughts and memories to record for this particular day. He was too tired to draw; in fact, he was too tired to think, which ruled out any writing. So, Heath flipped back to the first pages of his journal.
The first page had a list of subjects he needed to review for today's exam in Miss Taylor's precise script. Thinking back to the first time he'd read the list, it had seemed more than overwhelming. Now, visions of each of her textbooks, along with her unending letters filled with question after question, floated through his mind. It really was amazing how much Miss Taylor had forced Heath to cram into his brain in a very short period of time.
Turning the page, Heath reread his very first entry: 'Why did I agree to this?'
Suddenly, the woods around his camp were filled with Heath's laughter. It felt good to laugh long and hard in reaction to his own question ... After all, why did he agree to Miss Taylor's plan?
His original assessment had been correct, Miss Taylor would have made one heck of a general during The War. He supposed going along with the plan was easier than trying to argue with her. Then, once he started with those first two textbooks, she had kept him too busy to think about anything but his studies.
Boy howdy, between the textbooks, the word problems, the mind-bending riddles and her unending letters ... Each with the concluding comment, 'Keep Writing' ... Heath kept going without giving it much thought most days.
He laughed at himself for a while longer, while adding a quick sketch of Miss Taylor to his journal. As he drew, Heath had to admit his Teacher had been correct. The process had meant a lot to him and did make Heath feel more confident somewhere down deep within his being.
That revelation probably meant he should be happy to let the project end that day. That, perhaps, Heath shouldn't care about the outcome of the exam from earlier that day ... But, he did care; Heath cared very much.
XXXXX Mid-May - 1877 XXXXX
"Where the heck have you been, Boy?"
Heath shook his head and kept on brushing his horse. They had been dealing with a ton of problems on the ranch that day, most of which were directly associated with an oddly destructive series of storms passing through over the past two weeks.
While Nick and the majority of the Crew had handled the regular work load that day, Heath and a few men set out to ride fence. They knew quite a bit of fencing had gone down in the storms but, once they started working, the project had grown much larger than anyone could have imagined. When Heath and his group rode in, he gave them all a bonus in their week's pay ... It had been a hell of a day and he thought they deserved it.
"Am I late for something, Nick?"
Nick picked up a brush and started to work on the other side of his brother's horse. It was obvious from the shape the horse was in, and Heath, that they had put in one heck of a day's work.
"Its Friday night and whatever Mother has in the oven for supper smells incredible."
"You're just hungry, Nick, plus Mother's cooking always smells good."
"Well, it is true that Mother's cooking always smells good, but you're wrong about me being 'hungry."
Heath stopped and looked over, but Nick had his head down and was making certain their eyes didn't meet.
"You're not hungry? You?"
"No, I'm not ... I'm STARVING!"
The two men laughed together, then Nick sent Heath in to get his bath while he finished bedding down his horse for the night. When Heath stopped in the mudroom to take off his boots, along with a layer of messy clothing, he couldn't help chuckling since Victoria's meal certainly did smell good. Heath wrapped himself in one of the blankets Silas kept in the mudroom and stepped inside the house.
Silas walked over and lowered his voice.
"Mrs. Barkley will be right back in, but I wanted to let you know an envelope came in today's mail. I left it on your desk."
"From Miss Taylor?"
"No." Silas continued to check the door into the Kitchen, whispering, "It was some 'official' looking thing."
"Good evening, Mother."
"Nick said you and your Crew had a tiring day. Hurry and get your bath so we can relax a bit before supper."
Silas had gone back to work alongside Victoria, so Heath couldn't get any more information from him. Instead, he headed up the backstairs and quickly entered his bedroom.
In the top drawer of the desk, Heath found the letter Silas had been referring to. It was from the Sacramento County School District, which made sense since Mr. Hawkins had told him that he would be registering his test there.
He grabbed a fresh set of clothing, then headed into the Bathroom. While the water filled the tub, Heath opened the letter in a room where he was relatively certain Nick wouldn't bust in unannounced.
Feeling numb, he refolded the letter and placed it back inside its envelope, then proceeded to wash and prep for supper. A while later, before leaving his room, Heath tucked the letter into the top drawer of his desk. He had no doubt he would enjoy reading it again later than evening.
Victoria had been watching for him to come down the stairs. She flew across the Foyer and gave him an embrace.
"My goodness, that was some greeting, Mother."
"Well, today is a special day."
They walked into the Living Room arm and arm where Audra, Nick and Jarrod were waiting for them. They were standing next to a sawhorse with one of the most beautiful saddles Heath had ever seen sitting on top of it.
"We wanted to surprise you."
"But, you weren't supposed to know."
Heath turned from face to face, their smiles were genuine, but he felt betrayed that they knew ... And, how could they? Miss Taylor wouldn't have shared their secret; he had no doubt about that fact.
"You know, Boy, we've been meaning to talk to you about secrets like this. We're family, you know."
"After all, Heath," Audra walked over and took the arm opposite of her mother, "we have every right to know."
"Last year," Jarrod walked forward with one of the biggest smiles Heath had ever witnessed on his face, "it was only a few weeks after you arrived, so we missed it."
"But," Victoria leaned up and gave his cheek a kiss, "we weren't going to let that happened, again, this year."
Jarrod put down his glass and made room in their circle for Silas to join them, exclaiming, "Here's Silas with another surprise!"
Silas put the pie he was carrying down on the table in the midst of their family.
"Should we light the candle now or later, Mother?"
"Why not now and before we cut the pie later. After all, we didn't get to torture Heath with our singing last year."
"Light'er up, Silas!"
Silas took a match from his shirt pocket to light the candle Heath hadn't noticed sitting in the middle of the pie.
"It's your favorite, Mr. Heath. I hope it is close to the apple pies Miss Leah made for your birthdays."
Victoria took a step back and made eye contact with Heath.
"Heath Thomson Barkley, do you mean to tell me you don't know what today's date is!"
"No, Ma'am, but I have a feeling it is May 18th."
The family roared with laughter at Heath's expense while watching Silas light the candle. Then, after a round of 'Happy Birthday' singing Heath wouldn't soon forget, they settled in for a drink before supper was served.
Later that evening, despite his exhaustion, Heath made a brief journal entry. In it, he documented his surprise to find out it had indeed been his birthday. While writing, he decided it would be a benefit for him to pay more attention to the dates he automatically added to the top of each journal page.
Actually, there was no excuse for his not realizing it was his birthday, except that it wasn't a day Heath had grown up associating with much of a celebration. But, from now on, it was a date Heath wasn't likely to forget.
XXXXX August 1880 - Four Years After Our Story Began XXXXX
"Thank you, Heath."
Miss Taylor smiled at the bouquet of flowers her young friend placed on the desk in her new Office.
"This is some upgrade, Miss Taylor."
"It surely is and I couldn't be happier. To think, the students entering Stockton's schools this year will be from all across our fair City. No more segregating them, or forcing those without to do with less, when it comes to their Public Education experience.
"You, Mr. Hawkins and many others worked hard for this day, Miss Taylor."
"For more than twenty years, Heath. Twenty years!"
He walked over and gave her an embrace. They had only enough time to briefly discuss the fact this new Academic Year would also see the introduction of the first Adult Education classes across California. Both of these changes were of particular interest to Heath, since he strongly believed a quality education was a right each Californian deserved, no matter their age.
"What a great time we'll both have documenting this day in our journals this evening, Heath!"
"Yes, Ma'am. I might add a picture of you sitting at your fancy new desk, too."
Miss Taylor laughed, then walked partway down the Hall with him. She turned and gave him one more brief embrace before disappearing into a room where she was expected at a meeting. Heath started to leave, then returned to her empty office and began to draw a sketch on the new slate that covered half of one of the walls.
Thirty minutes later, he was finishing the portrait of Miss Taylor. In the sketch, she was sitting at her desk writing in a journal. Heath stood back and was rather pleased with the work, especially since it had been quite rushed. Before putting down the chalk, he added a title at the bottom corner of the slate. It read: "Keep Writing!"
XXXXX Epilogue - 2017 XXXXX
The Barkley Family, along with its many extensions, where the first to enter the Exhibit. Once they entered, the large 'Opening Day' crowd quickly follow behind. Everyone was eager to see how the much publicized Exhibit had turned out.
Moffitt Library had an extremely large California Exhibits Room. But today, it seemed small between the size of the Exhibit and the size of the crowd gathered to see the treasure trove of California History the Barkley family was donating to The University of California at Berkeley. Luckily, their family had been loyal supporters of UC Berkeley dating back to the late 19th Century. Otherwise, another lucky museum or university campus may have been given this priceless collection of information, captivating stories and incredible drawings.
As the attendees eased through the Exhibit, a very different California unfolded before their eyes. Still unimaginably beautiful, independent and proud ... It was also young, wild and growing by leaps and bounds.
The Exhibit was a rich snapshot of history, as one man had lived it through the late 19th Century and well into the 20th Century. His name was Heath Barkley and he had written in daily journals for decades. Journals which he embellished with detailed drawings that truly captured the moments in history he had witnessed. It was a stunning collection that had recently been discovered after being safely stored in a set of trunks for many years.
The Exhibit's Curator was standing toward the end of the Exhibit. She, along with several Library employees and her many Graduate Assistants, were happily answering questions for the mesmerized crowd.
"Since the Barkley's had a ton of money, even back in the 1870s when these journals began, I suppose it would be safe to assume the author had an extraordinary education compared to the average individual at that time?"
She chuckled, since the same exact question was repeatedly being asked. In fact, when the Barkley family first allowed Dr Riggs to examine the journals, she had made the same assumption ... Until she had the opportunity to read the story that unfolded in the pages of the journals.
"No, in fact, Heath Barkley had no 'formal' education. But, he did have a natural talent for drawing and a desire to learn. Plus, no matter what his daily life consisted of, he loyally wrote in the journals you see on exhibit here today.
"How lucky for us that he made it a habit to keep writing ... For decades!"
XXXXX The End XXXXX
Thank you for reading my story. Please forgive typos and/or Barkley errors.
Please keep reading if you have an interest in any of the following:
1) A Brief State of California History Timeline,
2) A Timeline of California's Population Growth (1849 - 2015),
3) An Example of an Eighth Grade Final Exam (Dated 1895), and
4) The Footnotes and References related to this story.
XXXXX A Brief State of California History Timeline XXXXX
1847 – Mexico’s rights to California are relinquished at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War (1846 - 1847). At the time of its inclusion in the territories of the United States, California’s literacy rate is estimated to be approximately 2%.
1847 -- Stockton is incorporated
1848 – 1855 -- California Gold Rush
1849 – California Constitution is ratified
1850 -- California becomes the 31st US State
California’s State Legislature prioritizes passage of Education Acts
58 Counties, County Seats and County Administrations are established
1851 -- Stockton Academy, San Joaquin’s first public school, opens and provides free Primary Education (Grades 1 - 8, approx. ages 6-14)
1852 – Free public education to be organized at the County level
1852 -- San Joaquin County establishes a Board of Education
In the County Seat of Stockton, more ‘Common Schools’ are added to provide free Primary Education
1857 – First public higher learning school opens, San Jose State University
1860 -- San Joaquin County’s Board of Education standardizes testing for those wishing to earn Teaching Certificates
1861 – 1865 -- American Civil War
1867 -- The Federal Government establishes US Department of Education
1868 – University of California at Berkeley established
1870 -- The US Department of Education deems it 'mandatory' for all Americans to complete Primary Education Grades 1 - 5 (Appox. ages 6 - 10). Attendance laws to enforce this provision are not passed until 1918
1872 – First class graduates from Stockton’s public high school which provides free Secondary Education (Grades 9 - 12, approx. ages 15 - 18)
1880 -- After twenty years of segregation, 1859 - 1879, minority students in Stockton’s public school system no longer attend separate schools
1880 - 1890 -- In the Northeastern US, free high school educations, Secondary Educations, evolved and were no longer anomalies in major cities
1885 -- Stanford University Founded (Private University)
1900 -- California Department of Education Established
XXXXX Snapshot of California Population Growth XXXXX
1849 = 100,000 (Start of Gold Rush)
1852 = 260,000 (Middle of Gold Rush)
1860 = 379,994 (After the Gold Rush)
1870 = 560,247 (Time of Tom Barkley’s death in POG)
1900 = 1,485,053
2015 = 39,144,818 (Over 12% of total US population)
XXXXX Example of Eight Grade Final Exam - 1895 XXXXX
Reading and Penmanship. - The Examination will be oral, and the Penmanship of Applicants will be graded from the manuscripts
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?
Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet,
phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e'. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.
Health (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and
bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.
GRADUATION QUESTIONS OF SALINE COUNTY, KANSAS
April 13, 1895 (www.barefootsworld.net/1895finalexam.html)
XXXXX Footnotes and References XXXXX
1 = 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,' Jules Verne, 1870.
2 = 'Around The World in Eighty Days,' Jules Verne, 1872.
3 = 'Middlemarch,' George Eliot, 1872.
4 = 'The Idiot,' Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1868.
5 = 'Could You Get In, In 1891,' Stanford/125 Stories.
6 = 'Eighth Grade Final Exam, 1895,' Smoky Valley Genealogy Society.
7 = California Department of Education
8 = 'Follow the Drinking Gourd,' Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Drinking Gourd.
California Population Statistics:
Education History in San Joaquin County, California:
The City of San Francisco Museum
California Department of Education
‘The Stockton Schools from Pioneer Days: A History of Public Schools in Stockton, California,’ by Jesse Ryan Hollembeak (1909)
Online Archives of California
National Center for Education Statistics
Education Policy Institute