Putting in the Summer Professionally
D. S. Richardson

by D. S. Richardson

A "beardless youth" teaches for a summer in the wilds of Northern California where the boys carry shotguns and rifles to school. A few weeks into the term, the older students barricade the door, wait inside and dare the new schoolmaster to break in and stand his ground. His success or failure in the District will be determined by what he decides to do.  Go to the tale

   B a c k g r o u n d

  • Story Setting:Morgan Valley, CA
  • Story Date: 1860's or 1870's
  • Publication Date: 1883

  •    T h e    S t o r y
    (The links bookmark the tale.)

  • The beginning of the tale
  • The schoolmaster begins
  • Boarding around
  • Students bar the schoolroom door
  • He breaks in, gets tossed out
  • The girls give him a hand
  • Success, and peace

  •    T h e    T h e m e s
    (The links bookmark theme-related passages in the color-coded version of the tale.)

  • The Schoolmaster: 1
  • The Students: 1, 2
  • School & Community: 1

  •    R e l a t e d    S i t e s

  • Putting in the Summer Professionally, Part I (facsimile of original journal)

  • Putting in the Summer Professionally, Part II (facsimile of original journal) The excerpt is taken from this part.

  •    I n t r o d u c t i o n

       A young, reasonably capable and well educated schoolmaster spends a summer teaching in an untamed area of Northern California in this factual narrative. He survives a mock/serious battle with his students and weathers his three month tenure successfully. The lighly comic narrative reveals the primitive living conditions and minimal schooling that was the rule in the sparsely settled areas of the west.

       The specific location of the tale is Lake County, most famous for Crater Lake. The only way to date the story is by the author's aside that the residents of a nearby community were still upset about the outcome of the Civil War, which would place the story in the late 1860's or early 1870's.

       Most school-related stories set in California are about schoolmistresses, making this story valuable for its depiction of the western schoolmaster. He is a reasonably intelligent and enlightened young man. Unlike his counterparts in stories from the first half of the 19th century whose education and teaching skills tend to be minimal, he attended college and even has a California State teaching certificate. While his predecessors used corporal punishment regularly, often gleefully, the author is never shown with a ruler or switch in his hand. The battle that forms the centerpiece of the story is initiated by the students, and once it is resolved, schoolmaster and students are the best of friends.

       I have no background information on the author, D.S. Richardson. He wrote some eight pieces for "The Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine," a journal whose fame rests on the stories it published by Bret Harte. Most of Richardson's pieces are narratives about his travels and adventures in California and in Mexico. In "Putting in the Summer Professionally," he wanders through Northern California with an itinerant dentist, has a three month tenure as schoolmaster, then rejoins his dentist friend who is driving hogs to Sacramento. The excerpt included here contains all his school-related experience.