Texico students spend morning doing manual labor

Texico High School senior John Schueler, right, pulls up a fence post with the help of Glen Neie on Thursday. “To tell you the truth, I would rather be doing this than be in school,” said Schueler (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Texico senior Natalie Walton had the sleeves of her shirt rolled up, displaying a sunburn, evidence of a day spent outside.

Walton and roughly 25 other seniors from Texico High School passed their Thursday morning not in a classroom but on their school’s ag farm — cleaning up pig pens, cutting trees and moving sheet metal. The nearly four-hour long cleanup session was the seniors’ punishment for taking part in a nationwide tradition known as Senior Skip Day.

Texico High School Principal Buddy Little said finding a punishment worthy of the crime has been a challenge — skipping a day of school doesn’t warrant a full two-day suspension; however, previous years’ punishments, including a mandatory essay-writing assignment and a short school grounds cleanup, haven’t been enough to curb the trend.

“There has to be some form of punishment and this year we decided to make it a little more intense. And although the kids might say they had fun, some of them were pretty sore afterwards,” Little said.

Walton doesn’t anticipate the trend ever coming to an end.

“I don’t think any punishment would make seniors not want to do this,” said Walton, all smiles and mischievous grins as she described the previous Thursday’s day away from school. “It’s getting so close to the end (of high school) and we’re ready for it to be the end.”

Walton said traditions like Senior Skip Day are a way for graduating students to counterbalance the pressures of homework, studying and planning for the future. Texico seniors spent April 14 doing various activities: a few showed up at school, but over half spent their day away — relaxing at Ute Lake, soaking up city life in Lubbock or lounging at home.

“I went shopping in Lubbock with my sister,” senior Lunden Taylor said. “Every year seniors get in trouble for skipping, so it’s a risky thing.”

The risk, Taylor and Walton agree, was worth it. And strange as it may sound, they enjoyed their day of labor.

“We’d rather spend a day doing this than go to school and study,” Walton said.

Tod Pinnell, who teaches agriculture at Texico High School, also approached the punishment lightly.

“We recently acquired a property where we plan to build a baseball field and I had some hog pens that needed cleaning out, so the kids helped clear the field, cut down some trees, helped take down a fence. After they got over the initial shock, they had a pretty good time and worked really hard,” Pinnell said. “And it’s something they will probably remember from now on.”

Little said the punishment reflects the nature of the town.

“Our community is built with people who are workers and farmers,” Little said. “They may not think the punishment was enough, but parents are generally supportive.

“This has become an annual tradition and I’d like to see it come to an end.”