Hattie and Farrell Furskin

Allen Stark

Allen Stark

“What is that Mr. Stark?

“Uh, what?”

“What kind of a doll is that?”

Kristin, one of my fifth grade students, was pointing to a doll. She had not been in class the previous day when my wife came walking into my classroom with the Farrell Furskin bear doll, which she gave to me in front of my students. Prior to the other students arriving for the school day, I had an opportunity to tell her what I had briefly told the students after all the laughter and “oohs” and “ahhs” had subsided.

The doll was a reproduction of a doll that had been created by a dollmaker years ago, and, being a lover of antiques, I had let my wife know I admired it when we were at an antique store several months before.

Farrell, as the students called him, became a classroom favorite, because I was able to refer to him at different times. For instance, when no one seemed to have the right answer for a question I asked leading up to a test, I would ask Farrell and pretend that he gave the correct answer — which actually I gave as a ventriloquist.

On other occasions, for example, I might use Farrell to tell a student that it is their turn to read, or to say things such as, “Keep reading Johnny. You still have 10 minutes before class is over.” And I always found that a student would have a better response if Farrell told them that they needed to stop doing something, or else he would tell their parents.

Prior to a few of the other teachers learning about Farrell, a student now and then would look at me, and then over at Farrell, which meant they wanted me to have him respond to whatever it was they wanted to talk about. I had set Farrell over on a small chair near where a very gifted student by the name of Jessie sat. He would clear his throat, as if Farrell wanted to talk to the teacher, or on occasion a custodian or other employee. The staff soon became aware of what might take place if they came into the classroom, and in a few instances the employee would immediately address Farrell instead of me. That added a lot of humor to certain days, which on some occasions was really appreciated.

Farrell became the classroom mascot. That is, until Hattie showed up one Monday morning. I had a lot of fun explaining how the two of them met and suddenly fell in love and got married over the weekend.

I had actually taken my doll home for the weekend because my wife told me she wanted to give me a second doll and wanted to make sure Farrell was going to be a good match for it. I had no idea that Hattie, the second doll, was made by the same dollmaker and was found because my wife had heard about the doll from her mom, who was also a dollmaker.

Over the next two years that I taught at the Glory to God Academy, and before moving on to my next teaching job at the Jefferson Middle School in Indio, California, there were many creative stories written by my gifted and talented students involving Hattie and Farrell Furskin. One of those students was Kristin Little.

Nearly six years after Kristin graduated middle school, my wife and I were in a restaurant when a girl walked up to our table and said, “Mr. Stark.” I wasn’t sure who she was. When she realized I didn’t recognize her she said, “I’m Kristin Little.” Over the years since she had graduated, her looks had changed a lot.

Kristin sat down and shared with my wife and I that she was working towards getting her teaching credentials, and wanted to teach middle school. Not having stayed in touch with Kristin after that meeting in the restaurant, we didn’t know where she was, until our daughter was ready for middle school and was placed in Mrs. Kristin Sherman’s (formerly Little) seventh grade classroom.

— Contact amstark@msn.com

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