Not much of eighth grade social studies class made a lasting impression on me, but the teacher who taught me did. Her name was Mrs. Boswell, but the connection between that name and James Boswell, friend and biographer of Samuel Johnson, didn’t register with me until much later.
Middle school, or junior high as it was called back then, arrived for me just as the schools in my part of East Texas were being desegregated. Mrs. Bowell and her colleague Mrs. McMillan were the first black women who were my teachers.
I wonder now how they were selected to come to what had been a lily-white school in south Tyler to teach classes of predominantly WASPish children. With all the attitude and raging hormones that these students brought to school, adding race to the equation certainly didn’t make things any easier.
Mrs. McMillan was my Spanish teacher, and she was consistently, even relentlessly, cheerful in her pursuit of teaching a Romance language to a bunch of kids who mostly couldn’t care less. Probably half the class was only taking Spanish in combination with playing in the band to avoid a whole year of P. E. I know I was one of them.
Mrs. Boswell, on the other hand, wasn’t particularly cheerful. I suspect she drew a short straw, which may be why she was there in the first place. While Mrs. McMillan might have been there for the same reason, she at least tried to make the best of the situation. Mrs. Boswell seemed to be just doing her time.
It may have been in learning about Benjamin Franklin that Mrs. Boswell introduced us to his famous quote that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In any case, it was repeatedly inserted by her in any appropriate context. That’s why it stuck with me.
Moving on to high school, the burden of “a pound of cure” took on new meaning. With sex education virtually non-existent in a public setting (and many private ones, for that matter), the “ounce of prevention” needed to avoid pregnancy was limited to the use of condoms (“rubbers” in the parlance of the day). Considering their availability was pretty much limited to coin dispensers in gas station men’s rooms, girls had no access at all.
So it should have been no surprise when girls got pregnant, or to put it more accurately, boys impregnated girls. Of course, she was the one “in trouble,” and none of her options were good. Forced into an unwanted marriage to go with the unwanted pregnancy, bringing shame on a “good” family by having the baby out-of-wedlock (and that shame was real), or disappearing to an aunt or other relation geographically distant and never being heard from again.
Or the “pound of cure” option, namely an abortion. Depending on the circumstances at that time, it could mean an unplanned trip to Mexico or locating a local doctor willing to do such procedures on underage girls–both of which came with a great deal of risk. Closer to home, a mother might become a co-conspirator with her own gynecologist, flagging an abortion as a simple D&C (dilation and curettage).
Ever since Alaska joined the union and our state song “Texas, Our Texas” had to change the word “largest” to “boldest” in its lyrics, my home state has chafed at being number two at anything. We may not be the largest anymore, but we sure as hell can be boldest.
With Florida seemingly taking the cake when it comes to mishandling the COVID crisis, and many other states competing to enact the most restrictive voting rights legislation, Texas did what Texas does. Big Tex looked across the landscape and said, “Hold my Lone Star beer, ‘cuz I’m gonna fix this abortion problem right now.”
With the Supreme Court choosing to sit on the sidelines, new legislation went into effect this week that creates civil liability for individuals who “knowingly engage in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of” an abortion and gives standing, in such cases, to any whistleblower who seeks to become a bounty hunter.
So our high school parking lot attendant could sue me for aiding and abetting back in the day when I provided a little taxi service, so to speak. And that’s just one ridiculous example of the pretty kettle of fish that Texas has gotten itself into.
Texas, my Texas, you’re beyond a pound of cure. Better you put in an order for two or three pounds of cure. Maybe a bushel. And make sure you don’t buy it at a feed store.