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The Slice: You think you kids have it rough?

Spokane school teacher Tiffiny Santos is reading a story of the Old West to the third-graders in her class.

The book is called “Stout-Hearted Seven: The True Adventure of the Sager Children Orphaned on the Oregon Trail in 1844.”

She’s finding her kids to be a somewhat reluctant audience.

“My students keep asking why I picked a sad book. Or they say things like ‘Oh, great, the depressing book again today,’ or ‘It can’t get any worse.’ ”

Ah, but it can. And it will.

The Sager children’s parents succumbed to fever on the trip west. The youngsters were then cared for by others in the wagon train until being brought to the Whitman Mission at the site of what is now Walla Walla.

(If you are familiar with the story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, you know where this is headed.)

The Sager children settled into frontier life. But not long after that, some of them were killed by Cayuse Indians. The others were captured and held for ransom.

When I heard from Tiffiny late last week, she had not gotten to that point in the story yet.

“I keep trying to point out the small things that make the trip or the day good.”

The kids aren’t buying it. “All they hear is hard times.”

Tiffiny admits she is now having second thoughts about this particular book selection.

“I am really dreading reading how it all ends.”

Yes, instead of regarding it as an inspiring saga of determination and perseverance, her third-graders are apt to consider the fate of the Sager children a bit of a downer.

But, you know, maybe the grade school pupils will take away some important lessons from “Stout-Hearted Seven.”

If I had to guess, I think they might include …

Life in the West is not for wimps.

When things are looking especially grim, remember that they can always get worse.

When the going gets tough, sometimes that’s just the beginning.

Not every story has a happy ending.

If you are considering complaining, maybe you should just sit down and shut up instead.

If you are about to whine, remember the Sager children.

You want something to cry about? The Sager children will give you something to cry about.

Sometimes Mrs. Santos has a good reason for what’s she’s doing, even if it’s not readily apparent.

Today’s Slice question: What’s the most Inland Northwest-centric reason you’ve ever heard for calling in sick?

Write The Slice at P. O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email Unable to pronounce the “r” in his name, several of Chris Kious’ grandchildren have called him “Papa Kiss.”

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