Out of the Classroom, Part 3 The show-and-tell shell

Friends of the Lincoln Library column
By: By Jane Tahti For The Lincoln News Messenger
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I mentioned the forbidden book incident in this column two weeks ago but there was another incident that I've never forgotten, one that seemed actively dangerous.  

It happened after lunch, during show and tell.  One of my third-grade boys walked up to the front of the class.  He was lugging a backpack that bumped along the floor. 

It was obviously heavy. 

Rocks, I thought. He's sharing his rock collection.

 Instead, he pulled out a gigantic brass shell. 

I'd spent the first part of my life in yearly deer hunting trips with my family and this definitely wasn't a toy. Judging by its apparent weight and its intact base, I was pretty sure I was looking at a live shell. 

A great big one. 

And it had taken half the day to appear in front of my classroom.

I could imagine the hectic horsing around on the school bus that morning, with the heavy backpack kicked back and forth under the bus seats. 

Not to mention playing tag on the playground. 

Or even worse: the heavy backpack crashing down to the ground from the top of the jungle gym. Kaboom!  

 In spite of my lurid imagination, the young armament expert had managed to keep the shell quiet for half the day. It hadn't detonated yet, and now here it was, shiny and bright and possibly lethal, right in the front of my classroom.

 I gave the little bombardier time for a few sentences as he proudly explained all about the shell and that it was part of his father's shell and gun collection.  He was a good-sized handsome kid and his face was filled with pride.

The class was completely focused on that smooth shiny shell and so was I.  None of them noticed that I was heading to the front of the classroom with teacher stealth. Once there, I reached out like a SWAT team wannabe and calmly disarmed the little third-grader.

Holy smokes, it was heavy!  I wasn't an ammunition expert but I clearly wasn't holding a chubby familiar shotgun shell. 

Nor was I holding a little .22 shell or one of my dad's sleek deer rifle bullets for his .300 Savage, his .30-06 or his .30-30.  

No, none of  those.  

This was a huge shell.  There wasn't a trigger in sight but shells and bullets don't have to be in guns to do damage and who knew what kind of damage this one could do?  I'd only seen shells like this in artillery scenes in World War II movies.

After I took the shell, I quietly told the boy that his parents would have to pick it up after school from the principal's office. Obviously, this show-and-tell shell hadn't been slipped into his backpack with his parents’ approval. 

Meanwhile, shell in hand, my worries had magnified. Was this a live shell? And if it was, who knew if this big granddaddy of all shells was losing patience and getting cranky! 

Yeah, we'd made it this far, but now, it was up to me to get it out the door without dropping it. 

The last thing I wanted to do was blow the roof off my classroom. 

Or blow the whole school to "shell and gone."


At the Twelve Bridges Library

Free story time: 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday for kids.

Free Mother Goose on the Loose: 10:30 or 11:30 a.m. Thursdays for kids.

Events are sponsored by Friends of the Lincoln Library. The Twelve Bridges Library is at 485 Twelve Bridges Drive in Lincoln.

This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. To reach the nonprofit Friends, write to Box 1177, Lincoln CA 95648, contact 434-2404 or Jane Tahti is the Friends of the Lincoln Library secretary.