Locomotive Breath

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Jethro Tull


Jethro Tull

Locomotive Breath

Released in 1971

I’m jumping ahead in time with this blog to continue with the theme of skipping school.


I don’t remember much about the time I skipped school in Grade 5, so I’ll talk about the time I skipped school in Grade 6. This would have been in 1976.

When I was in Grade 6 there was a new girl in our class.

She was a First Nations girl whose first name I don’t recall but who’s last name, if I remember correctly, was Featherchild.

Although her last name was striking, what was even more striking was the t-shirt she often wore to class.

Her t-shirt was emblazoned with a flute-playing rocker named Ian Anderson who played in a band named Jethro Tull.

I was a huge KISS fan in Grade 6 and wore KISS t-shirts all the time, and I had never heard of a band called Jethro Tull.

So when this Featherchild girl came to school with a picture of some long limbed, wild eyed, haggard looking fellow playing the flute I became extremely curious about her t-shirt and asked her who the filthy, funny looking fellow on her t-shirt was.

We eventually became friends, but what was odd about this girl is that she was often truant from class.

I don’t know if it’s still the case today, but back in the 70s there always seemed to be at least one kid who attended class only half the time, and this girl was one of them.

Anyway, at this point in my life I lived in a new neighborhood called Ogden. Much like Forest Lawn, Ogden sat on the edge of the Calgary city limits, so you only had to walk out your back yard and you were in the country.


Not much stands out from the day I skipped school in Grade 6, except I skipped school with Mike and we went to the auto wreckers.

This Featherchild girl lived near the auto-wreckers and before we went there we went to her house, knocked on her door, and asked her if she wanted to join us.

She probably thought it odd we would knock on her door in the middle of the day, and it was odd, but she politely declined our invitation and Mike and me went without her.

We jumped over the back fence of the auto wreckers and started smashing windshields out of cars.

We quickly grew tired of smashing glass and decided to try to flip a compact car on its side. It was light, so it probably had no engine in it. We kept prying it higher and higher and putting blocks underneath until we were able to flip it on its side.

Hanging out at the auto wreckers and trashing cars was a lot of fun but I knew what the consequence would be. When I skipped school in Grade 5 with two other friends we all got the strap.

Skipping school in Grade 6 was no different.

Our principal, I forget his name as well, loved giving kids the strap. He was an old, grey-haired fellow with a strong, square jaw, and I remember that jaw jutting out in anger whenever he gave the strap.

Mike got the strap first while I waited in a separate room waiting my turn.

When it was my turn I remember holding out my hand and wanting to pull it away when he came down hard with the strap, but that was forbidden. You had to take your lumps, which was usually two or three straps on each hand.

After I got the strap I remember walking out of the office and seeing Mike at the end of the hallway. I called out and told him to wait up.

My hands still felt super-hot from the strap, and I remember jogging towards Mike while spinning my arms like windmills in an attempt to cool my hands down.

The funny thing is that every time we skipped school the principal called my friends parents but for some reason my mom was never called, which was good because she would have had a fit.

That was the third and last time I ever got the strap. The first strap was for skipping school in Grade 5, and the second was for hitting the wrong note in Grade 5 music class.


I thought I was a pretty good musician because in Grade 3 I was one of only two kids in our class who played the harp while everyone else played the ukulele. I remember there were two harps and I always took the old one, while the other kid took the new one. For some strange reason the other kids kept encouraging me to take the new one, but I couldn’t care less what harp I had.

Anyway we played some songs in front of our parents on the stage in the gymnasium and the harp echoed beneath the stage and sounded like crap. I wanted to impress my mom and it turned into a fiasco of sound. It was a major let down.

My point is that I was a fairly good musician.

When I got to Grade five I played the cymbals in band class.

Mrs. Schleinburger, I think that was her name, was my Grade 5 music teacher, and one day we were practicing and she said my timing was off.

I thought I was doing great, so I had no idea what she was talking about.

Next she told me that if I hit the cymbals off time again that I was going to get the strap.

I panicked and focused like I never focused before. The class struck up the song again and next thing I know she was yelling at me with her German accent and told me to get to the office.

I went to the office and the principal gave me another one of his hardcore strappings.

Looking back, it seemed unfair because, although I knew I would get the strap for skipping school, never in a million years did I think there would be consequences for getting a song wrong.

My mom never found out about my musical digression and I never told her. I went back to music class, and instead of playing the cymbals I played the recorder, which was fine with me.

It’s funny; I never felt the least bit bitter towards Mrs. Schleinburger. As a matter of fact I kind of liked her. I remember when my grandmother died; Mrs. Schleinburger was the only teacher to offer condolences for my loss.

Anyway, if Mrs. Schleinburger were to try pulling a stunt like that today she would probably be brought before a human rights tribunal or worse. She might end up before something similar to the Nuremburg Trials that followed the Second World War.

If there’s any wisdom to be gained from this silly incident it’s that adults are much more complex than kids are raised to believe.

Not to belabor the point, but kids are often raised to think that adults have all the answers. What kids often fail to learn is that adults are human and sometimes act more stupid than kids ever do. You realize this when you’re older and have to forgive adults, and parents, for much of their nonsensical nonsense.

Here is Jethro Tull, with Ian Anderson on flute, in all their filthy, sweaty, vulgarity singing Locomotive Breath:




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