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That’s how we roll ... Rural roots run deep for La Vernia seniors

That’s how we roll ... Rural roots run deep for La Vernia seniors
ELSA BARNHARDT Among the students participating June 2 in “take your tractor to school” day are seniors Blake Eddings, Patrick Goynes, Colby Skelton, Zack Zaiontz, Kyle Dupnick, Braden Recker, Kendall Bass, Breanne Moore, Tristan Summy, and (non-senior) Lanham Robbins.

Elsa Barnhardt was amazed.

As the La Vernia News reader dropped off her grandkids at La Vernia High School June 2, she saw, taking up spaces usually filled by cars in the parking lot, a row of tractors all shapes, sizes and makes, even one in pink, and a riding mower!

“What’s happening?” she asked her grandchildren.

Her grandson, Zachary Ruiz, told her it was senior prank day, “and that’s what they do!”

“I thought it was pretty cool, that kids would do that!” Elsa said. “That’s a lot of trouble, driving those down the highway. I was amazed.”

Elsa took photos and shared them with the La Vernia News. Her photo, shared on the La Vernia News Facebook page, went viral. More than 182,000 folks have responded to the post that says, “Where else will you see this? It’s senior take-your-tractor-to-school day at La Vernia High School!” It’s been shared more than 1,700 times and made it across the world, with folks from Australia commenting on the event. A TV news station even asked the newspaper to share the photo after seeing the phenomenal response; Elsa agreed we could share it, and even more people saw it.

Elsa learned from a friend that students have done this for several years, but usually, the tractors are parked at the back of the school, near the ag barn.

Her husband, Robert Barnhardt, is a 1967 graduate of La Vernia High School. Elsa, a resident of La Vernia for about 43 years, can’t recall seeing anything like it before.

And Elsa was unaware of the Facebook buzz, amazed again when we told her about the overwhelming response.

“I just thought it was awesome!” she exclaimed.

And so do a host of other folks!

Karena Phoenix Snell responded to the Facebook post, “Life in the country, no place better to raise a kid.”

“Now that is really great, only in Texas,” said Joyce Rainbolt of San Antonio.

“It makes me miss home!” Laurie Lyro added.

Laura Clayton paraphrased a Tracy Byrd country song: “We’re from the country and we like it like that!”

The post inspired pride in many, such as Brittany Hyatt, who tagged a friend and said, “This is my hometown!”

Dawn Roquette echoed Brittany’s sentiments in her post, saying, “This is where we live. Love this!”

A number of folks recalled other towns or schools where students do similar things, from Columbus, Texas, to Brighton, Tenn.; Lyons, N.Y.; and Ozaukee High School in Fredonia, Wis.

“I never remember a ’tractor’ day at Devine HS,” said Charlie Schweitzer, “but when I’d miss the bus, I’d drive our tractor 6 miles to school.”

Sally J. Pina said it’s not uncommon in Lowell, Mich., adding, “é it’s open to any student with a tractor and this is family farm country, so it’s more common than you’d imagine. The tractor-induced traffic jams make me homesick for Liberty Hill, TX.”

“These grads need encouragement to go back to the farm and land,” said Laura Dylla of Adkins, whose five children graduated from La Vernia High School and who still operates the family farm in Adkins with her husband, Paul. “I thought it was pretty cool!”

Reader Virginia McGregor Kupper put the La Vernia News in touch with Jonathan Arrambide; he was part of the La Vernia class of 2006 that started the tractor tradition as an alternative to “senior prank.”

That first year, the senior class held an organized event, and had about 40 participants on parade.

“Classes before us had done a senior skip day or other pranks, but we wanted to do something new,” said Arrambide told the La Vernia News. “We wanted to have a parade for our-selves, and have everyone driving their tractors, mowers, and four wheelers.”

Arrambide explained that they were actually quite organized in ’06, and had even obtained a parade permit from the city.

“We started over by the post office,” he said. “We had a police escort and everything. Teachers came out front. It was a pretty big surprise for everyone.”

Although participation is down from those initial numbers, and it is no longer an organized parade, the tradition carries on.

The fact that it was all in good fun wasn’t lost on the administration, either.

“They got there early, and didn’t cause any problems,” said Steven Verm, academic dean at the high school. “We stood around and laughed a little, and then everyone went in to take their tests.”

As long as the students aren’t being disruptive, and don’t create a traffic issue, the school really doesn’t have a problem with it, he said.

As for Arrambide, who now works for the school district, he was happy to see the tractors lined up at school.

“It’s better than a prank, and no one gets hurt,” he said, “and it’s cool to see these kids keep a tradition going that my class started.”

This year’s crop

Kyle Dupnick, a 2015 graduate, was among the organizers of this year’s “take your tractor to school” event; he said it was just one of those traditions they wanted to keep going.

“My brother did it when he was a senior,” Dupnick said. “It was pretty cool.”

Dupnick said that the group of ag students got together several weeks before the end of school to figure things out. They determined when and where they would meet; 12 students participated.

“We had nine tractors, a four wheeler, and two lawn mowers,” he said. “We met up at an open lot on 775, and drove in from there.”

He thought it was fun and a success, but said they received a mix of reviews.

“Everyone had their own opinions,” he said. “A lot of the teachers came out. Several people thought it was funny, but some people thought it was stupid. We wanted to do something, though.

“And apparently our superintendent loved it,” he added. “He thought it was hilarious.”

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