May 2005 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts











Don't have a 4X and want to visit historic sites in Eastern California?

Capture the spirit of the past as it comes alive with true tales of pioneer families, prospectors, muleskinners, hero's and gunslingers. Listen to legends of lost gold, found wealth and superstitions. Journey back in time with Terri Geissinger - Historian, Interpreter and Guide

Click on Terri's yellow van for Terri's Ghost Town Tours or contact Terri by clicking here:



Bodie Boys Prank of Painted Piglets

by Terri Geissinger

              November mornings in Bodie are always bone chilling cold and hostile. It’s the kind of cold that takes your breath away as it freezes your cheeks when you step outside. If Miss Nagle had her choice, she’d be back home in Arizona where November mornings bring chirping birds and new flowers blooming. She missed the pleasant days of her childhood. For now, she would have to stay in Bodie until her contract expired. It would be two years before she could think of leaving. Bodie needed a teacher and she needed the job. The first time she laid eyes on the old mining town was in July. She had been accepted to interview for the teaching job and took the long trip out to meet with the Mono County School Board. It had been a pleasant experience, the people were nice and she found Bodie a unique atmosphere. There were so many young teachers available that jobs were few and far between. She was elated when the school board had accepted her on the spot. She looked forward in going back home and telling her family about her successful trip and returning with her belongings before the school year was to begin. As she left Bodie that July day, she admired  the hills surrounding the town. They were carpeted with beautiful green grass and flowering sage. The deep blue sky accented the small clusters of  quake and aspen trees that shimmered in the sun. The air was dry, warm and welcoming. That was all a distant memory this morning.                                           

            Her thin fingers were numb as she fumbled for the key to the schoolhouse door. It was expected of her to arrive early and start a fire in the stove that heated the one room school. As she scrunched  paper into balls and carefully stacked the kindling on top, her thoughts drifted to the day before. She was hoping that her students would be settled down after yesterdays shenanigans. Another prank that disrupted the class. She couldn’t remember how many there had been this month, too many for certain. Yesterday it took nearly an hour to settle back into the lesson. The students giggled and fidgeted until she finally got angry enough to threaten extra study. She’d had just about enough of these Bodie boys and their tomfoolery. She picked up the matches that she guarded in her desk and struck one and confidently lit the paper under the wood. Snapping and crackling, the fire grew within the belly of the stove, she closed and latched the steel door. With that chore done, her thoughts turned to the days lessons.

            She walked to the front of the room and started to write on the chalkboard. She didn’t notice that behind her, a steady stream of thick black smoke was escaping from the stove. Lost in her thoughts that seemed to wander from reading and math lessons to warm comfortable evenings in Arizona to misbehaving little boys. Her sense of smell warned her that all was not right. As she turned around quickly, the chalk slipped from her hand and rolled away. The sight took her by surprise and her instinct was to run. The ugly thick smoke hurled itself into the room clinging to the fresh air, filling it with the harsh stench of burning oil and rags. Realizing that this was quite possibly the result of  another prank from these Bodie hooligans, her jaw set tight with anger as she quickly stomped to the broom closet where the fire extinguisher was stored. Dark, smelly smoke continued to roll into the room. In a rush, she opened the closet door, her eyes didn’t see what she heard, but knew immediately that her day was about to get worse.

            The squeals came from a pair of piglets that had been locked in the closet overnight, and now with all the excitement, they were ready to make an escape. As the pair leaped for freedom toward the open door where a shocked and surprised Miss Nagle stood, the piglets couldn’t jump clear the bucket of red paint strategically placed  inside the closet doorway. The first little piggy plunged into the bucket and sent a wave of red paint onto Miss Nagle’s cream colored dress. With a blood curdling scream from the horrified teacher, the second piggy took flight only to land beside the first with his hind feet in the bucket causing it to tip and spill over her new boots. Freedom at last, wet, red and slippery, they ran like wild children, squealing all the way.

            Miss Nagle reached for the extinguisher and was thankful that it was where it should be. Turning,  cautious not to slip in the trail of red paint, she made her way back through the smoke filled classroom. She opened the stove door and quickly doused the fire. The smoke billowing an awful gray, she began opening windows letting the foul fumes out and the cold fresh air in.

            Now for the red piglets. Following the painted trials around the room, she found them frightened and huddled together in the far corner. She scooped them up gently, tucking one under each arm and headed toward the door.

            The clock on the wall chimed eight times; school was to begin. She opened the door and set the red darlings outside on the stoop where they quickly scurried away.  As she slowly stood up it was evident to her students that this could be a very bad day. Miss Nagle calmly straightened herself and said nothing. The silence was deafening. The guilty boys started to squirm. There she stood, her beautiful hair resembled a birds nest after a strong eastern wind, black soot streaked her face and marked her petite hands, red paint smeared her cotton dress, her new boots most certainly ruined. And yet, she stood there with a quite smile as the students stared in disbelief.

            Miss Nagle declared a holiday right then and there. This holiday would be for girls only. She called it “Girls Day Out.” The boys on the other hand would have a special assignment. While the girls would enjoy hot cocoa and cake at Miss Nagle’s home, the boys would stay and wash the ceiling, the walls and the floor of the schoolhouse. There was some grumbling among the boys, but not much. Miss Nagle did not lower the switch over anyone, nor did she raise her voice or send any nasty letters home to the parents. Because of this, she earned the respect from the Bodie boys who tried so hard to “scare off another one.” The remainder of Miss Nagle’s teaching term was uneventful. She won the hearts of all of her students and would later recall that her time in Bodie was the most challenging, rewarding and memorable.

            While the boys worked hard cleaning up the mess, they all agreed it was the best prank ever pulled at school.                         

            Heck, we’re still talking about it.

Based on a true story told to the author by Bobby Bell. This story took place sometime in the early 1920's.  Names have been changed for privacy.

Bobby Bell was born in 1914 in the gold and silver town of Bodie . He followed his Grandfather and Father’s footsteps becoming a successful miner and mill operator. Bobby lived in his beloved Bodie for nearly fifty years where he mined the rich tunnels in Bodie Bluff. In 1962, the State of California purchased the town and is now Bodie State Historic Park . Bobby’s knowledge of the town was of great importance to preserve the facts for future generations to enjoy and learn about its awesome past. In his golden years he enjoyed frequent visits to Bodie and to the delight of the Park’s visitors and staff, he would tell of the good old days. Bobby Bell was loved by many and will be remembered fondly by all of his stories left behind,

Bobby died January 9, 2003 . He rests in peace in Bodie.

We miss him.

Terri Geissinger, aka "Bodie Terri", leads a tour at Bodie State Historic Park. (Photo by Martin Cole)

              Terri Geissinger is an Eastern Sierra resident and often works as an interpreter at Bodie State Historic Park. She also leads historic tours in the Bodie area. Visit her Website at: or click on the link to the left for more information.

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