Letter to the Editor: Remembering Norman Collingwood

Dear editor:

Yesterday, I received the sad news of Norman Collingwood’s passing. The Collingwood families have been our closest neighbors on Shell Creek since early 1900, over 100 years.

Norman and I began the first grade in 1939 and formed a friendship that lasted a lifetime. He was the most intelligent person in our class and the fastest runner in all the games we played at the one-room Whaley School, three miles west of the town of Shell. Norman had a congenial way of conversing and working with others from an early age. He quickly solved problems, found humor in challenging situations, and was self-deprecating afterward. 

During World War II (1941-1945), we boys dug trenches and created elaborate camouflaged bunkers (over three feet deep) in the schoolyard to mimic combat operations overseas. Norman and I were the designated “diggers” for our class. At unexpected intervals, serious mud-slinging battles commenced between warring bunkers, the Allies, and foreign armies. We often arrived home from school looking like combat veterans from the foxholes of the Pacific IslandsI have many memories of our time at Whaley School. The girls were well behaved, but we boys were incorrigible. We spent considerable effort entertaining ourselves by terrorizing the teacher. Any prank to delay the end of recess was fair game. One of the scams was to pull the school bell rope so hard that it stuck in the upright position. This stopped classes until an older eighth grader climbed into the tower to free the bell. When I reflect on our behavior, it was shameful! 

Norman worked in machine and equipment maintenance in many capacities. He was an expert mechanic. His tools, vehicle, and equipment were always clean and prepared for uninterrupted work.

 Norman worked on the ranch temporarily during the transition from horse teams to tractors. Before beginning a job mowing hay, he spent time sharpening or replacing the cutting bar sections on the mower bar. He made sure the tractor had been carefully oiled and greased, all bolts tightened so the equipment hummed like a sewing machine.

 Because of Norman’s careful preparation, his equipment rarely broke down. My dad told me that Norman could get more hay mowed in a day than anyone he knew because he was so well prepared when he began each day. Over the years, when I had a difficult mechanical problem on the ranch, Norman would find a way to rescue me and take time to swap stories.

Thank you for the lifetime of memories, Norman, my dear friend.

You and your family remain in our thoughts and prayers.

David Flitner