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500-Word Challenge Day 5

Today’s challenge: To write about a memorable day in our life.

Here goes. Again, not with much editing. [Can’t guarantee I won’t saunter back and clean things up a bit, or more than a bit.]

Here are some numbers to contemplate. I’ll return to them later.

16, 29, 32, 36.

Okay, back to this riveting tale of redemption.

It was a sunny morning on the San Diego State University campus. December of 1975.

It was the last day of  our Law of Mass Communication class, taught by Dr. Jim Buckalew, a fixture of credibility and local media experience.

This was a guy you respected by the way he commanded the floor, not in an egotistical manner, mind you.

You just knew he knew what he was talking about and you just knew what he imparted would have either direct or indirect value to your blossoming journalism career. Well,  since we were just undergrads, not exactly blossoming, let’s go with developing’. And his thorough knowledge and frequent references to pro and college sports certainly didn’t hurt my estimation of him.

And his tests, regularly scheduled, a total of 40 points, and fair but demanding, took a measure of preparation if you wanted to nail even a ‘B’.


So, back to the list of numbers. 16. 16 out of 40. That was my first pathetic effort. A clear wake-up call to a guy who’d seen lots of  A’s in his years. No written comment from Dr. Buckalew. This wasn’t high school, after all.

Seems I didn’t quite take test number one quite as seriously as I should have.

Three weeks later, time for test #2. 29/40. Marked improvement, but it didn’t match my expectations as I turned it in.

Three weeks later, test #3: 32/40. Okay, okay, 80 percent. I’m in the ball park now, but I was running out of chances to nail a ‘B’. In fact, that was out of the question, if you look at the numbers.

The class wound down and Dr. Buckalew was as solid and informative and commanding as ever, but, with a class of at least 60 students, not necessarily one who actually got to know many of the students.

Time for the final exam. Plenty of prep on my part and I was at a point where, not one to miss noting my ascending scores, I buckled down for one last time.


And then, as we all settled in on the last day, awaiting the return of our exam, Dr. Buckalew quieted the group.

He called me up in front of the class.

Unheard of.  I had no clue what was happening. Ditto my classmates.

Time for a paraphrase, but with as little embellishment as possible…

“So,” he said. “This is Tim Haag and this guy raised his scores with each succeeding test. He went from a 16 in his first one to today’s 36 out of 40. And–he entered his ‘sports fan’ zone– because of that rise, I have decided to award him Most Improved Player for the fall semester.

Tingles. Disbelief, really, to hear this from such a respected guy. To realize that, in his busy schedule, he was even cognizant of my scores. And then to make, in 2017 terms, ‘a thing’ out of it.

What could match this?

I’ll tell you what–the whole class followed with a standing ovation.

As one who generally kept a low profile, I had to have wondered, “What the hell is happening here?”

Unforgettable, this surge of sincere validation from a respected teacher and from classmates who had been through the same ‘Law of Mass Communication’ grinder.

The irony: My ‘C’ in that course was the lowest grade I’d ever earned. And 42 years later, it was clearly the most memorable.

Published in500 Word Challenge