Ms. Jones interrupted our conversation long enough to write a few notes; then, she asked, “Are you saying that isolation had nothing to do with what you and others did to raise the scores of your students?”
“I’m saying that the isolation isn’t what you might think. People who live in Wheat Basin–the teachers, retired ranchers, and the families that run the post office, the bar, the store, the gas station, and the grain elevator–they aren’t isolated at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Living in a town that small is one of the most intimate things I’ve done. We lived in separate houses but it was like we were under on roof. One day my car wouldn’t start, so I put the hood up to go inside and grab some tools and when I came back outside in a few minutes, there were three different people from town looking under the hood of my car. There wasn’t any sense that things happened individually.”
“Are you saying that there was no isolation?”
“Not in town; but on the ranches it could be different. Most of the the ranchers came to town or went to Columbus or Billings regularly, but there were those who didn’t. There were those who would work their fields and feed their cattle and repair their outbuildings on their own, and never see anyone for days. They were isolated in the ways you are talking about and there were consequences for that, but it didn’t have anything to do with test scores on the state exam.”
At that moment the phone rang, and Ms. Jones, after glancing at the number, asked if she could have a few minutes in private. I stepped out of the office and walked to a vending machine at the end of the hallway. As I opened a can of soda, I wondered how much I should say about the ways in which isolation manifested itself in the remote corners of the basin.
…end of part 4 of the response to the prompt, “Write about an isolated place.”