By Bob Huber
Each fall I’m reminded of my heroic attempts to pass the spelling test at the University of Colorado. I’m legend in the faculty lounge at Boulder where they say, “Do you remember that rocket scientist who couldn’t spell CAT?”
Back then, CU believed in an 11th Commandment that said students couldn’t become juniors until they scored at least 70 percent on a spelling test. If they failed, they had to drop out or transfer to journalism school. The test was given each fall.
That rule was chiseled in stone by the university’s regents, who claimed they were meditating on the Flatiron Mountains one day when a thundering voice came out of a bush and said, “Thou shalt not allow bad spellers to graduate.”
Anyway, late in my sophomore year it became evident that I needed help with the spelling test. I had taken it each fall, and my highest score had been a 55. That’s why I was summoned before university official Leslie L. Lewis who made sure all veterans stayed in school to keep federal funds flowing smoothly from the Office of Freeloading in Washington. Here’s how the meeting went:
Lewis: Well, Mr. Huber, why is it you can’t pass this simple spelling test?
Me: I dont know. I jist kepe missin a buncha wurds.
Lewis: Which words give you the most trouble?
Me: The wons I can’t spel, mosly.
Lewis: (Holds out copy of a word list) You’ve seen this?
Me: Dr. Lewis, I sleep with that lyst.
Lewis: Spell “neighbor” for me.
Lewis: (Leaning forward, removing his glasses) Spell “friend.”
Lewis: Interesting. You’re the only person I’ve ever met who can verbalize misspellings. How did you get a 55?
Me: Jist luky, I gess. But I’d sur hate to drop out of colidge or end up a news reporter cuz I couldn’t spel a few wurds.
Lewis: Now, now, nobody has to drop out. Tell you what … I’ll dictate five words. If you can spell them, here today, I’ll see that you get into upper division.
Me: Sownds grate, but dont get ur hopes up.
Lewis: I’m confident. Here are the words — go, on, it, over, come.
Me: Are they on the spelling word lyst?
Lewis: I’m thinking about adding them.
Me: OK, I’ll tri mi best. Go. G-0.
Lewis: Splendid. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now spell on.
Me: On. O-N.
Lewis: Excellent. Now, it.
Me: It. I-T.
Lewis: (Shouting) I knew you could do it, Huber. Now, over.
Me: Over. O-V-uh, uh-E-R.
Lewis: Hooray. Just one more to go. Spell come.
Me: Come. K-U …
Lewis: (Holding up both hands, grimacing) Wait, wait. Allow me to interrupt. Come is a four-letter word starting with a C and ending with an E. The second letter follows N in the alphabet, and the third letter precedes it. You with me?
Me: Got it. Come. C-uh,uh-O-M … ends with a what?
Lewis: (Screaming) An E, you idiot! It ends with an E!
Me: What does?
Lewis: (Pleading) COME!
Me: Oh yeah, well, E, I guess.
Lewis: (Collapsing across his desk) There you go, Mr. Huber. You are now a junior, and may God have mercy on my soul.
Needless to say I went on to even greater triumfs in colidge. I probly would have outstript everyone if mi profesers hadn’t ben so picky about little things like spelling.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.