My third-grade teacher told us, "Class, Snowflake Bentley became well known because he said no two snowflakes are exactly alike." She singled me out: "Does that impress you, Rusty?"
"Uh, no," I said.
"No?" Mrs. Towle continued.
"Snowflake Bentley has his own museum because of his knowledge of snow," she said.
I said, "Teacher, no two snowflakes are exactly alike? You're saying ol' Snowflake Bentley was saying, over all the ages, going way, way past when them dinosaurs run around, back to the when the Flintstones were living, with all the snowstorms, and squalls, and all the bagadillions of individual flakes that have fallen, you're saying he was saying there hasn't been no two snowflakes that were exactly alike? Are you saying that?"
"That's dumb teacher. You're high and Snowflake was, too."
At this point the entire class was under my spell.
"No, no, he wasn't. What snowflake was was cleverer than anything; he knew if he said no two snowflakes are exactly alike, we wouldn't be able to check it."
I held both hands out and caught imaginary snowflakes. I studied them for a couple seconds, "Ah, these two snowflakes are exactly - oh, nuts, they melted."
I put a button on my skit. "Ole Snowflake, he was clever."
Teacher said, "Well, Rusty, from his studies, he deduced there'd be very little or no chance two snowflakes were exactly alike. And it's true."
"Teacher, you first said no two snowflakes are exactly alike. Now you're saying Snowflake Bentley's study proved 'very little or no' chance two snowflakes are exactly alike. What the hell, teacher? We're programmed to believe what you tell us. We're 8. You should remember you have great influence on us."
Too late to stop, so I didn't.
"And, Mrs. Towle, when I see you flirting with Mr. Corey at recess, I don't wonder why - I've seen your husband wears a pocket protector."
That's when she dragged me down the hall to the principal.
"Now, Rusty," the principal said, Mrs. Towle standing as witness, "Mrs. Towle says you challenged her lesson on Snowflake Bentley's finding that no two snowflakes are alike."
"How many did he check, Mr. Corey?"
Mr. Corey reached for the encyclopedia.
"It say's here Mr. Bentley studied some 5,000 snowflakes in his day."
"In a day? Oh yeah right."
"In his day," Mrs. Towle corrected.
"That's hardly an overwhelming subset. Do you agree, Mr. Corey?"
"Well ... it's quite a few I'd say."
We sat silent, Mr. Corey hunched in his high back seat, his chin pressed against his bow tie. Mrs. Towle, in a chair to the side. After half a minute, the amount of time it took me to find them both totally boorish, I confirmed,
"I'm not impressed. What would impress me is if Mr. Bentley found two snowflakes that were exactly alike. And if he'da taken pictures of them side by side - now that would have been something."
After a long pause, Mr. Corey in a measured tone went on, "Rusty, you're a good kid, and smart. You used the word subset, you used it wrong I believe, but you used it none-the less. Not every 8-year-old would think to use that word. But we need to have you taking your class work and studies more seriously. I'm going to call your folks in for a meeting with myself and Mrs. Towle."
Mr. Corey handed me the encyclopedia and dialed my parents - no answer.
"Says here, Mr. Corey, Snowflake Bentley died of pneumonia at his farm after walking 6 miles in a blizzard to study more snowflakes."
I shut the encyclopedia volume with a - swack! - and looked though Mr. Corey's office window to the fluffy snow swirling casually as it fell.
"He died looking for the two snowflakes that were exactly alike - seems to me, Mr. Corey."