Audio Postcard: Final exam, with a twist

12/22/08 5:50PM By Nina Keck
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(Host) Many college students spent the last few weeks studying for and taking final exams.

For a small group of students at Green Mountain College, their oral exam came with a twist - vocabulary was limited to words like gee, haw, whoa and back.

VPR's Nina Keck filed this audio postcard.

(Mulder) "So I'm going to propose guys, those of you who are taking the exam, let's go down to the field and I'll go over the exam. . . (fades out and segues with next cut)"
(Mulder) "My name is Kenneth Mulder and I'm a scientist trained as an economical economist and I like to teach economics. But my favorite thing to teach is farming and in particular with draft animals

"Come haw Bill - haw haw. . . . So this is Lou - over there is Bill - Green Mountain College's iconic team of oxen. . . . Haw - ho haw. . . .

(Mulder) Gee and Haw are pretty standard. I've never found someone who knows definitively where they came from. The best I've heard of is that haw sounds a bit like here (haw, good boy - ho haw) and since you're standing on the left side of a team, when you're doing a left turn ,they're coming toward you so haw, come haw, come here. And gee sounds a little bit like get, and often you'll say - gee you'll say gee over as in get away from me. (gee, gee, woah. . .)

(Mulder) Yeah, Rachel first, Gretchen,. . . . Kyle . . . . Go ahead and give me a tight left turn all the way in a circle and then a wide right hand turn again all the way in a circle. . . okay.

(Rachel Carmichael)"Hey boys, hey boys - Ready? Boys get up get up - good boys. . . . .(sound of oxen yoke clanging) You can take the crop and do all the commands and everything, but still your body position has to be right and your energy has to be right. I mean if you're nervous at all, even if you don't know it, they're going to pick up on that and they're going to not listen, so (laughs) it's a lot harder than it looks."

(Carmichael and others in class) Woah! Back! Back! Back! Oh no, he's eating the line (laughs)

(Mulder) "We say that Lou doesn't rhyme with poo for no reason. Lou is often the problem animal and being the off animal he's the harder one to exert influence on. . .

  (Carmichael) "You know, yeah, they're actually very intimidating. I've been around horses that are taller, and I have no problem with them. But they have these big horns that stick out and you're kind of like, I don't want to be that close to their heads - you know if they shake their horns a little. But they know where you are. And they're actually extremely gentle - they're actually more laid back than horses. They're just big teddy bears really. (laughs)

(Ryan) Get up Lou - ha ha ha - woah."

(Mulder) "It's a hard thing to grade because it's so context specific. And what I'm really looking for is how to they respond to what the animals give ‘em.

(Mulder) "And Erika . . . pretty much all 4s, with the exception of incremental force. But that's not going to hurt your grade because you replace that with an excess of patience. You know, you gave em time and eventually they listened. So what I would say is it was a beautiful example of an alternative driving style."

(Mulder) "This is some of the most fun I've had teaching in a long time. You guys just demonstrated so much that you've learned - about working with these particular animals and understanding their behavior and learning to manage them - No one got below a B - so it was quite good - cheering. Nice, let's go look at some cool equipment. . . . fades out.

(Host) That's Green Mountain College instructor Kenneth Mulder. You also heard the voices of students Rachel Carmichael, Kyle Rock and Ryan Dixon. VPR's Nina Keck produced that story.


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