The children at my new school were less raucous than those at my previous schools. It was a private school known as Alpine Christian Academy. Nestled in an unassuming corner of the eastern side of the nearby town of Alpine, the school’s playground reminded me more of the uneven terrain of my neighborhood than the unbroken plain of asphalt my previous school had offered. Through the middle of the front play area was a dry creek bed. I only once saw it with any amount of water, yet still there was a concrete walkway which crossed over it. Metal pipes did their best to make sure no one fell the three feet to the rocks below. There was an area which the boys used to play soccer, and some wooden decks, but otherwise the entire playground was covered in uneven granite. As this was the composition of most of the mountainous region, none of us children thought anything of it. Inside, the classroom was larger and darker than it had been at my previous school. There were arithmetic lessons, but most of what I recall is the effort which had been put into teaching us how to read. I found it simple, and picked up the basics immediately, the more challenging aspects of phonics almost as quickly. In class, the teacher would turn the pages on a board which listed all the sounds of the English language, which we were to read aloud along with her. I seriously thought I might die of actual boredom, but it got the lessons drilled into our heads, and afore long we had gone from sitting in a circle reading “Run Spot Run” to writing book reports on more substantial works of grade-school literature.