Every year teachers try to come up with new ways to keep their students interested and engaged in the learning process. The teachers at West Hardin Elementary School in Adamsville, Tennessee are no different. As part of the Read America Program, students were assigned to read Oh! The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss. The teachers and students gathered outside in early March of 2018 and released several balloons in the hopes that someone would find the notes attached and return them to the school.
The school’s librarian, Melanie Murray explained, “We had the kids all do a balloon with a card on it and we released them. We had a map on the wall and we showed where they all went to, the ones that came back, and how far they went. So far we had 5 or 6 that came back before school was out.” Those weren’t the only balloons that would be located, however.
A Bit of Color in the Tree
Sandra Oglesby lives on a 100-acre family farm outside of Hahira, Georgia. Sandra and her husband, Ronnie, tend to almost 100 pecan trees each year. The farm is small by most standards, but is rich with country traditions. A few goats, chickens, a cat or two, and a beautiful cardinal in the tree overlooking the driveway make this small farm a relaxing oasis in a world full of hustle and bustle activity.
Over the summer, Sandra was in her front yard when she noticed a bit of color near the top of one of the large trees in her yard. According to Sandra, “My son and I noticed a little bit of color way up there in the tree but it was too high up. We couldn’t reach it.” They figured that a good wind or the changing of the seasons would eventually dislodge it.
The Letter in the Leaves
Fall on the Oglesby farm means a lot of leaves and natural debris due to the many trees scattered throughout the property. This year the leaves held a surprise.
“This fall when all the leaves came down, we were raking them up and we noticed this piece of paper. It turned out to be a letter attached to a balloon! I called the school to let them know we found it but haven’t heard much back from them yet,” said Sandra.
The writing on the letter was still visible even though the paper itself was badly weather-worn, but she was still able to make out the name of the school, where it was located, and the name of the boy who had sent the balloon. Sandra was more than happy to let Peyton know his balloon had landed safely in her tree!
The Travels of a Single Balloon
According to Murray, “Two more eventually came back in December. The other one that was found was over the weekend of Thanksgiving during a controlled burn. It was literally feet from the fire when they found out it. That one was in Florida. You could actually tell which way the wind was blowing when we released the balloons because everything went southeast to Alabama, Florida and Georgia.”
Murray was excited to learn that the other December balloon was the one found by Sandra. Sandra posted a note on the West Hardin Elementary School Facebook page to let the staff and students know she had found one of their notes. Both were happy to share their information so that Murray could tell Peyton just how far his balloon had traveled.
Connecting the Two
It’s amazing how a small balloon released from the hands of a child over 500 miles away in Tennessee can end up in the hands of a Georgia farm wife with a little help from a strong, southeasterly wind. While the two may never meet, the fact that they were part of the same unique experience is something that both will be able to look back and remember with a smile. Just think, it all started with a bit of color in a tree and a letter found in the leaves.