The Water Is Wide (2006) Movie Script

Back in the days
when I was young
and a little too sure
of myself,
Yamacraw Island was a remote
and isolated corner
of America--
forgotten by history,
untouched by the hand
of modern man.
Across the water
and a world away,
the school board of Beaumont
County, South Carolina,
was in command
of the island's education.
It was here, on the mainland,
that I first learned
of Yamacraw
and its children.
Fearless and capable,
Dr. Henry Piedmont,
the superintendent of schools
in Beaumont County,
was a mill town kid who had
scratched his way to the top
and never looked back.
We first met in the summer
of 1969.
Although I'd graduated
from a military academy,
I had elected
to join the Peace Corps,
but when that option
suddenly fell through...
So, you've turned
to teaching, hmm?
Well, I'm already
a teacher, sir.
You were a teacher--
high school, two years,
where you were relieved
of your duties
as a basketball
Yeah, well, I guess I favored
the better players,
who happened to be black.
Son, they tell me I run
the most democratic
school system in the country.
That little gesture
he just made...
kind of reminded you of me,
didn't it, son?
How dare you use that tone
with a superior officer?!
No wonder
you're not a marine!
You don't have it
in you!
Turned out to be a nothing--
a smart-mouthed nobody
without a job!
Your father was in the military,
that right?
Yes, sir.
United States Marine Corps, sir.
Then you are familiar
with the concept
of chain of command, hmm?
Yes, I am, sir.
Mr. Conroy,
do you know why
you came here
Well, I want to teach
at "Yamercraw," sir.
The "A" is soft.
Yamacraw. Yamacraw.
In any event,
that's not the reason.
That's not the real reason.
Would you care to know?
Oh, you mean the real
real reason.
Divine guidance.
"Divine guidance."
Mr. Conroy, you're too young
and you're too naive
to realize this now,
but I believe
that is the real reason
you came to me
You see, son,
I've been praying
for an answer
to the problems
that confront
It's worried
me sick, boy.
Where was I going
to find somebody
who was willing to live and work
among those islanders,
somebody who could dedicate
himself to the education
of those beautiful,
beautiful, children?
Live among them, sir?
I'm not sure...
I want you to go there.
I want you to move around,
have a look-see,
and I want you
to tell me what you think.
Will you do that
for me?
My appointed navigator
was Zeke Skimberry,
a local fisherman who'd spent
his life on the river.
He could judge her moods
and read her signs
better than any man
in the region.
Thanks for the ride,
Mr. Skimberry.
Pat Conroy.
Ida, this here's
Pat Conroy.
Hey, Luther,
you got any 25s?
And bring me a Spanish
if you got it.
Mr. Conroy.
Wife, Ida.
That's queen trigger.
Ever seen one of them?
Best eating fish
in the sea.
Good catch.
For many years, Ezra Bennington
had been in charge
of the school district
that included Yamacraw Island.
Yeah, thank you, Zeke.
Well, Mr. Conroy.
It is a great pleasure
to meet you.
Well, it's good to meet you,
And you, sir,
are going to love Yamacraw.
I expect I will.
When Bennington's domain
was absorbed
by Beaumont County,
Piedmont had made him
deputy superintendent--
a lofty title for a position
that amounted to little more
than local errand boy.
There was a time
when the Yamacraw oysters
were world famous.
Oh, yeah?
What happened?
Well, you know,
perils of modern days,
and, you know,
most folks moving off,
and the ones left behind,
well, they're just
living off what
the island provides.
Still kind of primitive then,
Well, I helped
put in electricity
a few years back,
for the sake of the children.
Lord knows I've worked to
get those kids educated.
I love them as my own, actually.
Am I right about that, Zeke?
Yes, sir, Mr. Bennington.
That no preacher man.
That the new teacher.
New teacher coming.
We going to be late!
I don't care about
no teacher man.
What if I commute--
if I had my own boat?
No. You'd never be able
to navigate these waters.
Oh, I'm sure
I could learn.
No, no,
Zeke's got the only
boat comes out here.
He's the only man that
can get us through
all of this stuff here.
How about the kids--
don't they ever
get off the island?
Oh, yeah, yeah.
They have
to cross over
to the mainland
I mean, there's no work
on Yamacraw.
Mr. Conroy, Yamacraw's
just one big, old alligator
I've been wrestling
with just for years
and years and years.
Mrs. Brown
was the first decent teacher
that I could get
to live here full time.
Come on; join
the chain gang.
You all will pay attention
and follow my instructions,
do you understand?
Yes, ma'am.
The only white folks
on the island
were Ted Stone and his wife.
Somehow, being a decorated
veteran of World War II
qualified Ted to be chief
of police, fire marshal
and game warden.
Ted, this
is Pat Conroy.
Come to look
at our school.
Mr. Stone.
He also delivered the mail
for his wife, Lou--
the official postmistress,
who was a mechanic at heart
and drove
the Yamacraw school bus.
Pat Conroy here.
Good morning, ma'am.
I understand y'all
are the folks to
know around here.
That a fact?
Y'all live here long, Mr. Stone?
Long enough.
Hey, there.
Hi, y'all.
Show me the flower.
Baby, that's a rabbit.
Show me the flower.
Y'all sit up straight.
Mind your manners.
Yes, ma'am.
Don't act your color.
Whoa. Some driving, Ted.
Got you here, didn't I?
Yeah, barely.
Mr. Bennington,
what an honor it is
to have you visit
with us, sir.
Could this possibly be
our new addition?
Teacher man, teacher man!
Well, if he
accepts our offer,
which I am certain
that he will
once he gets
to know you,
Mrs. Brown.
Uh, Mr. Conroy.
Welcome overseas, Mr. Conroy.
Thank you very much.
And you
can just call me Pat.
Things are rough overseas,
Mr. Conroy.
Missionary work is what this is.
Mr. Bennington's
the only one who understands.
say good morning
to Mr. Bennington.
Good morning, Mr. Bennington.
And to Mr. Conroy.
Good morning, Mr. Con...
You know,
I used to go to a school
just like this one.
That's the truth.
Yeah, one room.
Pot belly in
the corner,
right over there.
And look where
I got, huh?
Now, you itty-bits,
now, you listen hard
to Mrs. Brown
and hopefully Mr. Conroy,
and you work
even harder, huh?
Well, you're all going
to get to be big and important,
just like me, hmm?
Now, y'all going to do that?
Yes, sir.
Turn around.
Bless you, Esther.
I knew you could bring
the little ones up.
I try, Mr. Bennington.
I do try.
Barbara and I met six months
after her husband died.
that man's here again.
She believed
in the contented home,
a happy family, admired order
and used a napkin.
I used the back of my hand
and thrived on chaos,
but we fell in love anyway,
and planned to be married
later that fall.
He shoots!
So, did you get it?
Get what?
Don't be a dork, Conroy.
Yeah, quit being a dork.
You quit being a dork,
huh, huh?
Well, you're looking
at the number two educator
at Yamacraw Island.
Way to go, Conroy.
Very cool.
sweetie pie.
I got to split.
What's that-- fifth
grade lesson plan?
It's just as hard
as high school,
maybe harder-- you'll see.
Are you trying to tell me
I can't get by on my
winning Conroy charm?
I just don't understand
why you can't commute.
It's not that far
across the river.
Well, they want me to be
sort of a presence.
Anyway, they tell me
there's no boat.
Whoa, whoa, wait, wait.
Do they know you're getting
married in two months?
What about after that?
That's crazy.
Tell me about it; I know.
In case you
don't remember,
there's a little
girl up there
that still calls
you "that man."
She needs her daddy--
who's going to be you,
by the way.
I know, I know.
I'll get on their case.
I had to get the job first,
Hang on, hang on.
One teacher
to another.
I love you.
Really, you should
check it out.
Mm-hmm, check it out.
It saved me more than once.
I mean, I'm not kidding.
Here, let me help you.
Hey, good luck to you,
Mr. Conroy.
Thanks, Mrs. Skimberry.
It's Ida.
Thanks, Ida.
Do you ever see any boats
for sale around Bluffton?
Now and then.
I just need
a little one.
How little?
Enough to get me to
Yamacraw and back.
- Uh, Mr. Bennington says...
- Well, let's forget
what Mr. Bennington says.
I need my own boat.
Thanks, Mr. Stone.
Appreciate it.
You know, a
lot of gals
ain't got hair
as long as you.
Have you ever taught
colored children
before, Mr. Conroy?
Well, for two years,
I was...
At the elementary
No, I haven't.
You're going to have
the older grades:
five through eight.
Now, treat 'em stern.
Be tough.
Keep 'em hard
at the work,
or they'll run you
right out the door.
Mrs. Brown, I think...
You'll be in here.
This is great.
Y'all get out. Come on.
Ain't got all day.
Let's go.
I know colored people
better than you do.
Thank you to monitor
that door, Ethel.
I am one myself, in
case you hadn't noticed.
That is why I know
you have to step on 'em.
Step on 'em
every day and keep
stepping on 'em.
If you have any trouble,
"Professor Medicine"
is right next door.
In your seats.
Eyes ahead.
Close your mouths.
Yo, give me that ball.
Give me that ball.
- Come here. Give it here.
- All right, all right.
Break it up.
Settle down,
Good morning, my young geniuses
of Yamacraw.
Are you all ready
to learn today?
Well, you're going to be.
And you know
what we're going to start with?
We're going to start
with my name: Mr. Conroy.
Can you say it?
Let's hear it.
Con...roy? Con-o-roy. Conroy.
Hey, hold on, hold on.
Um... we'll break it up
in two parts.
Mr. Con...roy.
Mr. Con...roy. Mr. Con...roy.
Mr. Conroy.
Most of them
have slow brains.
But you all can learn
if you work...
if you stop
being such lazy,
lazy people.
Now, I know some
of you in here
were born
And you know
who you are.
And we know that
you can't help
being that way.
That just means you
got to work even harder
than your lazy,
lazy friends.
Simple-minded people
have to be pushed
and whipped harder than anybody.
start shaking.
Everybody, shake
loose, huh?
Fingertips down
to your toes.
Shake your hips.
We're going to dust
the cobwebs off those
smart little brains.
Okay. Have a seat.
Very good. Don't you
all feel awake now?
All right, you see those papers
and pencils
in front of you there?
I want to know everything
about you all.
I want to know
what you like,
and what you
don't like,
and what makes
you tick.
No, trust me now. Okay.
So for the next 20 minutes,
I want you to write down
everything about yourselves.
Okay? Ready, set,
Seriously, grab your pencils,
grab your pencils.
Everybody, grab your pencils.
And just start
writing down everything.
All about yourselves. I want...
Don't sweat the grammar, the
spelling, any of that nonsense.
Just get to writing.
Write it down.
Don't worry about a thing.
What's your name, son?
I'm cool like ice.
Oscar, sir.
Cindy Lou.
what country do we live in?
What's the name
of this grand old red,
white and blue nation
of ours, huh?
Land of the free,
home of the brave?
Place you all were born?
Come on, gang,
somebody must know
what country we live in.
Uh, no.
Am... mm... merica?
America. Does that ring a bell?
No one here has ever heard
of the United States of America?
Oh, yeah.
I heared it
in "I pledge a legent."
Yes. Pledge of Allegiance.
Very good, Ethel.
Thank you, sir.
Excu... uh, excuse me.
Excuse me.
Young man?
Yes, sir?
What's your name?
Saul, sir.
Saul, do you know who
the first president
of the United States was?
George Washington.
Right on, Saul.
That's very good.
Just imagine
how well you'd do
if you paid a little more
attention in here.
Shut up.
Now, okay, okay,
okay, okay, hey.
Hey, now that we're on a roll...
Everybody, now that
we're on a roll,
I want someone to
tell me the name
of that big old ocean
that washes up on the
far side of Yamacraw.
That big old
body of water.
Body? I ain't seen no body.
That's very good, Charles.
Thank you.
No, but what I mean is...
I mean the body of water.
No? Okay. Okay. Now...
this is the mainland right here.
And you all live on an island.
You know that, right?
You know that you live
on an island?
Okay, good.
Now, this is the mainland.
This is the island.
This... here is the river.
Now, it's pretty wide,
but you can still see the land
on the other side.
And then all of this
over here...
is what you call an ocean
because it's so big
that you can't see
any land on
the other side.
And the name
of this ocean is...?
All right. The Atlantic.
So, for $64 million,
who can tell me the name
of that big old body of water
that washes up
on the far side of Yamacraw?
All right. Atlantic.
Now, everybody, everybody.
Very good.
Hey, kids!
Get Saul.
Come on.
My pre-Yamacraw theory
of teaching was pretty basic.
I figured a good teacher
had to show a bit of insanity,
or at least look
as if he was out of control,
if he wanted to catch and hold
the attention of his students.
I'm George Washington,
and-and I'm the leader
of the Continental Army,
and I'm going
to whoop you.
Well, you people can't beat
the British Army.
The greatest army
in the whole world.
Oh, yeah?
That's cheating.
I wasn't ready.
Welcome to America,
Mr. King.
All right, so this is
a set shot, okay?
Gonna have your knees bent,
and when you get your arm up,
you want this to make an "L."
All right?
And you go up...
and you make it.
All right, Lincoln,
bring it back here.
All right. Now, you guys all get
a turn, all right,
but, Lincoln, you go first.
Get it, get it!
What is that
that they're speaking?
Oh, awful gibberish,
isn't it?
Lord knows I have tried
to beat it out of 'em.
What I mean is,
what language is it?
Gullah dialect.
Goes all the way back
to the slavery days.
Leftover from Africa.
Slow, slow. Young men,
the young ladies
needed to go first.
You stand up.
You and I are outsiders
on Yamacraw.
You better get used to it.
Come on.
Stand up straight. Come on, boy.
Hi there.
What you want?
I thought I'd
introduce myself.
I know who you is, teacher man.
My name's Conroy. Pat Conroy.
No matter what your name.
What you teach--
that what matter.
You do right with my grands,
or I'm gonna have to get
Old Betsy out the house
and drop you down.
Well, that's why
I'm here, ma'am.
I'm going to do my best...
'Fore you come,
they sent old Miss Glover
out to pasture.
For 40 years, that's
all she say: "Do my best."
She never teach nobody
'round here nothin'
except "Yes, sir" and "No, sir."
Well, I'm going to change
all that, ma'am,
but I can't do it alone.
I need some support.
I want to get the
parents involved.
Finally, I started
to get the picture.
I was a foreigner in Yamacraw
the same way the children
were foreigners in America.
The parents knew firsthand
that sitting in that
schoolhouse led nowhere,
and they'd passed
their failed dreams along
to their kids.
That's right.
Then we'll just slide 'em
into like a little semicircle.
All right, gang,
all right.
Okay, have seat, have a seat.
Okay, okay.
What I figure is
if we're gonna spend
a whole year together,
we better get
to know each other.
So we're gonna spend
the day today--
the entire day-- just talking.
About what we talkin',
teacher man?
- Yeah.
- What we talking about?
Yeah, what are
we talking about?
Well, we're gonna talk
about what you like,
what you don't like,
what turns your crank,
you know, anything
that you want really.
Sir, we don't know
about no crank.
No, no, no, no, no.
What I mean is...
You know what?
Um, how about we just start?
Yeah, we
can start.
Let's start.
Uh, I guess
I'll go first, right?
Guess so.
Okay. Well, I was born poor,
white and ugly.
He got that right. He's ugly.
But see, I've grown up.
I'm still poor, I'm still white.
And you're still ugly.
- All right.
- Okay.
So, let's see.
Uh, I've got four brothers...
I told them about my mother,
and how she loved books,
and how my father flew jets,
and my four brothers
and two sisters,
about how much
I loved basketball,
and that I was getting married
to Barbara,
who had a daughter
named Jennie,
and how her husband died,
and all about
our little yellow car
that looked like a bug
and was made in a country
called Germany
on the other side of the...
Then Cindy Lou told me
all about
'scrinching' squirrels.
You just scrinch
the squirrel.
You just stuck it right
on the stuck
and then put it over
the hot fire,
and then the fur--
all of a sudden,
it scrinch right up,
and then you just brush it off,
or else if just want to fry it,
you just slit up the belly,
and then peels the skin back
so it's all smooth,
just like a grape.
Oh, it's
so good.
...You don't even
know what you
talkin' about.
Hey, Teacher Man.
Mr. Conroy, you ever seen
a snake milk a cow?
No, that's bull.
Snake can't milk
no bull, man.
Well, can't milk no cow,
Hey, I seen it.
Me, too.
It wicked!
Has anybody else
in here witnessed
this bovine phenomenon?
I seen it.
You know, one time,
I seen one so big,
he milk a cow dry.
That's right.
- You swear?
- Yes, ma'am.
Hey, Ethel. Ethel, come on.
What's the truth?
Yeah, Ethel.
Yeah, tell him
the truth.
Come on, Ethel,
come on.
Tell him the truth, Ethel.
Tell him.
Yes sir, Mr. Conroy,
it true all right.
I seen plenty a snake milk cows.
Hmm. And do they take that milk
and put it in bottles
and then sell it at the store?
Oh, man. No!
They suck it right up!
Oh, man, here come the news.
Have you heard the story
about the snake...?
You are going to lose
the respect of those children.
I don't...
Your approach...
Can't they have
a little fun, too?
I have already told you
about colored children.
They need whippin'.
They understand whippin'.
Believe me.
ma'am, I can understand
your point of view...
That's good.
These are your textbooks.
Textbooks? No.
The state requires
the students
to read these books.
Mrs. Brown, I'm-I'm not sure
if you are aware of this,
but those kids don't know
what country that they live in.
They can't recite
the alphabet,
they can't spell their own name,
they can't add two and two,
and you expect them
to read from these books.
That's beside the point.
The state requires them
to read the books.
Mrs. Brown, what if they can't?
Mr. Conroy,
your job is to make them.
Excuse me, Mrs. Stone.
Uh, there's a sign
up the road, says
there, uh... a
library's this way?
Ain't open.
Oh, but there is one?
Well, could you tell me
the hours, and then
I'll come...?
You want a book?
No, I just wanted...
Libraries are for books.
Now, you want a book,
I'll open it up.
You want to just look,
I ain't got time.
Oh, so you mean that you're
the li...?
Ted really hates Nazis.
You get tax money back
for givin' away things
to education.
So, I got Ted
to donate his entire collection.
Not that any of them
younguns ever come in here
and read 'em.
You know, I don't think
those kids know too much
about war.
Well, I say, a book's a book.
How you gettin' along
with Miss Brown?
Not bad.
Ask me, that woman's a savior.
Least she teaches
them ragamuffins some manners,
how to show respect.
Yeah, she does
that, all right.
Oh, honey, them doors
ain't been open
in I don't know
how long.
Oh, whoa!
What is all this?!
Come last year from the state.
I was gonna send it all back,
but, heck,
it was free.
Well, thanks to you,
Yamacraw Island has just entered
the audiovisual age.
All right, everybody knows
who this is, right?
Saul, we talked about him.
Who that be?
He was the head
of the Continental Army.
Who is that?
George Washington,
George Washington.
Who that?
By looking at her crown,
you can tell she's royalty.
Who is that?
Who's she?
That's Queen Elizabeth.
Have you ever heard of Napoleon?
Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball?
This is our 16th president.
We talked about this man
just recently.
He's our president
right now, 1969.
Man, who that?
Richard Nixon.
All right, greatest
baseball player
in the Major Leagues.
Center fielder for the Giants?
No one?
That was Willie Mays.
Come. Go ahead.
I know. I
think rehab.
Yeah, maybe...
What's in front?
Right here!
Right here!
Number one, number
one, right there.
Right there.
Right there.
Oh, yeah.
It's working.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Miss Brown,
let me handle this one.
Why should I?
Well, because you know what?
Because you...
Why should
I, Conroy?
'Cause you are right.
You are so incredibly
absolutely right!
I'm-I'm gonna go in there,
I'm gonna take charge
of these kids,
I'm gonna kick a few rear ends,
I'm gonna show 'em who's boss.
I'm gonna take charge.
Charles... Charles...
What is that?
What are you doing there?
Soul, sir.
Is that what you call that?
You call that soul?
Yes, sir.
Well, I got to tell you,
you're one groovy dude.
What's that-- groovy?
Well, it means you're cool, man.
Oh, cool.
Cool, Charles.
Yeah, what do you think?
Yeah, what do you think,
our man Charles pretty cool?
Who else wants
to give it a try?
Oh, get out,
get out...
Oh, yeah, Oscar.
Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Let it shine!
Go, Frank, go.
Go, Frank.
Go, Frank!
All the rest of that day,
the children,
whose physical lives were ruled
by a river, showed me
how their imaginations
knew no bounds.
My, man.
Ooh, fresh baked pie.
Excuse me.
Look, singing and carrying on
like that is a waste of time.
If you do not
follow the curriculum,
I'm gonna have to report you.
Report me?
As Principal of the school,
the proper education
of these children
is my responsibility.
Oh, well,
that's a relief.
I thought I was
gonna have to do it.
Do what?
To report that somehow,
the educational
process here,
that most kids
in this school,
by the time they get
to the senior grades,
are completely
That's not my doing.
Does Piedmont know?
I expect so.
But then, it is not
your job to tell him.
And why is that?
Chain of command.
Chain of command?
That's the rule.
Oh, yeah, the rule.
I got to tell you,
Mrs. Brown,
me and rules--
we don't get along too well.
Mr. Conroy,
"rules and I."
Rules and I.
I knew that.
- Sir! Sir!
- Dr. Piedmont.
Hold on, sir!
You can't be
Do you know this
man, Dr. Piedmont?
Mr. Conroy. Pleasure.
Real sorry to bother you
on a Saturday.
Don't mind them.
They're kind of fussy
about the protocol
and the dress code
around here.
So, tell me
about Yamacraw.
Things going all right?
Uh, no, sir,
it's not all right at all.
The... I think
there's something
I want to tell you
about the island.
I'm all ears, boy.
While at Columbia University,
Piedmont had studied books
on administrative procedure.
Every thesis he read stressed
how the successful
superintendent demanded
strict adherence to the...
Chain of command, boy.
You told me you
understood the concept.
I do, sir.
I do, but I thought
that you'd want to know about...
You know, you were
a godsend to me.
Yeah, you mentioned that...
Day and night,
I prayed for an answer
to the conundrum
of Yamacraw,
and then you come
here to my doorway
out of the blue.
A miracle.
Yes, sir, but now
that I've been there...
Yeah, now that
you've been there,
you want to
let me down.
No, that's not it
at all...
Of course it's none
of my business,
and maybe this is a matter
between you and your conscience,
but I do not understand
how you can disappoint
those little children.
Now, listen
to me, boy.
It's a gift to listen.
Don't you know
you're their salvation?
You're their hope.
And I want to tell you
something else,
though I believe
you're too young
and you're too naive
to understand this,
but from the bottom of my heart,
I know that Yamacraw
is your divine calling.
You stay strong, boy.
Stay strong.
Take the wheel.
You can't take your
own boat out here
if you don't
know the water.
Hold her due east.
More than simply pointing out
the underwater hazards,
Zeke guided my path
toward an awareness
of the ebb and flow
of the tides.
And then he directed
my attention
to the coming of the sun
as it awakened the horizon
with the vibrant color
that inspired poets
and foretold the weather.
That tune came
from the 50
Greatest All-Time
Classical Hits. Huh?
You're excited.
I can see that.
Okay, now, this...
this next number
is coming by this
long-haired cat named Beethoven.
Okay, now, what's his name?
Thoven, you got it.
All right, good.
That's right.
Now, this guy wrote
some pretty heavy tunes.
He came from Germany.
This is Germany.
It's on the continent of Europe.
Now, what's the name
of that continent?
All right, you guys are hip.
You're getting it.
Okay, now, this song
by Beethoven
was one
of his most famous songs.
It's all about how death
was this ghost,
and it was coming to his house
and it started knocking
on his door.
Now, Beethoven--
he got to thinking:
if something this heavy
was going to come and knock
on his door,
Okay, everybody...
Okay. Is everybody ready?
Want to hear the death ghost?
I'm ready
for that ghost.
Can you hear
him knocking?
I can!
You guys are sharp.
You're sharp.
All right, how about this one?
Take a listen to this.
You know, but if you listen,
if you listen,
this song is like what
a mama might sing
when she wants her baby
to go to sleep.
Do y'all want to know a secret?
Yeah, tell
us a secret.
Tell us, tell us.
You guys learn...
as good and as fast as anyone
I've known my whole life.
We smart.
Yeah, you are smart.
You are. You know what?
From now on,
you guys are
going to become
the most advanced
on classical music
out of any school
in all of Beaumont County.
Huh? How does that sound?
Huh? How does
that sound?
Is that right?
Yeah, yeah.
And we're going
to test those brains
right now-- we're going to test.
All right, your
first test.
- Very good, you guys.
- That's good.
I can't believe this.
Just a while ago,
it was way off,
and now it's two weeks away.
13 days. Amazing.
Hey. What do you think,
too fussy?
Maybe not orchids.
Hello? Anyone home?
I'm sorry, babe,
I just, uh...
You know, I got
to get these kids
off the island,
break their cycle.
Here you go, sweetie.
I got to get 'em...
you know,
I got to connect them
to the world.
Otherwise, they're going
to get eaten alive
by people even less enlightened
than Piedmont and Bennington.
But you can't because...?
Because the number one educator
on Yamacraw-- she's a case.
Well, maybe the old Conroy style
isn't the best approach.
This woman...
she is... she is so...
Scared is what she is.
A professional black woman
trying to make it
in the white male South.
And then you come in--
Mr. Loose Cannon--
with your big plans
and your big attitude.
Attitude? Me?
Yeah, you, Conroy.
Just be the you
I fell in love with,
and you'll be fine.
All right, gang,
I'm going to tell you
about my great-great-granddaddy,
El Ferdinand de Burrito
el Castio Conroy.
Now, see, he's
a world-famous explorer
He's crazy.
'cause he's
the first man to swim
from Spain all the way
to North America.
- You lie.
- No, no.
And from that day forward, they
called this the Conroy Ocean.
You lie,
Teacher Man.
Well, how do you know?
Because it ain't
no Conroy Ocean.
You said it called
Look on the globe.
Oh, yeah. Oh, I'm busted.
You're right.
But see, now you know
that you don't have
to believe something
just 'cause I say it's true.
See, we live in
a free country,
and what that
means is
we're free to disagree
with what anyone says--
even the teacher.
Give me that!
Hey, Prophet, Oscar, hey.
Just leave it
on the floor, okay?
See, there was a great American,
and his name was
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
And he believed we
must always question
rules and laws
and not believe
a thing's true
just because the big cheese
say so.
All right, you know what?
You all look a little tired,
so let's take a nap.
Everybody, put your head down,
close your eyes,
take a little nap.
And when I count to three,
I want all you to pop up,
open your eyes,
and be wide awake, okay?
One... two...
You don't always hear
what I'm saying, do you, Saul?
He can't hear!
Oh, gang, hey.
All right, guys, break it up.
How's he do that?!
He's saying that...
Hey, gang, Saul
reads lips.
You're reading my lips right now
without even thinking about it.
So from now on,
when you guys talk
to Saul, I want you to face him,
and I want you
to articulate your words.
That way, he can see
the shape of your mouth,
and then he can understand.
All right? Are you all going
to do that for me?
Okay, turn around.
All right, everybody,
tell Saul you're going
to help him out.
- We're sorry, Saul.
- I'll help you, Saul.
Good to see you.
What you got,
I don't want none of it.
I've come about Saul.
My little grand? He in trouble?
Far from it, Mrs. Graves.
He's the brightest student
in class.
Shh, shh.
So what you sayin'?
I'm saying he's almost deaf.
He's been keeping it a secret.
Been that way since he was born.
Well, the other children, they
won't be teasing him anymore.
Just thought you'd want to know.
So long.
Hey, gang, gang, hey.
I'll bet you
didn't know it,
but this old oak--
this is the original
Tree of Knowledge.
Aw, man, you crazy.
It is. It is.
This tree knows everything,
and I can prove it.
That tree didn't go
to school.
He don't know nothin'.
You see, what
I'm going to do
is I'm going to ask you
some hard questions,
and you won't be able to get
any of the answers right.
Aw, man...
But this old tree...
How is the tree going
to know it?
It's going to help you.
It's going to whisper
that knowledge into your ears.
This tree is so smart,
that knowledge oozes
out of the branches.
I don't see no knowledge
in the branches.
Y'all ready?
Oh, come on.
What is the longest stinking
river in the whole wide world?
- Nile.
- Good.
And what continent is it in?
Ah. Do I come from Africa?
- No!
- No! You from Ireland.
Well, Ireland is a country
in Africa.
- No, it's not.
- You lie.
What is the largest desert
in the world?
Mr. Conroy!
Oh, man, here
comes the news.
This school is here
for education,
not for all-day
The State says if you are
on school property,
you have to abide by the rules.
Y'all get your little narrow
hineys out of the tree.
Hold on, hold on.
We're still in class.
We're still in class.
Class gonna get us in trouble.
Mrs. Brown, you're right.
Heck, the whole
state's right.
Come on.
Now, hold on, hold on.
But there is one thing
we can do.
Y'all ever hear of a field trip?
You want to take one?
Well, all right.
Let's go have one. Come on.
Wait a minute! Wait!
Get back... get back here!
What's the
nearest star?
The sun!
Saul, watch my lips.
What's the closest planet
to the sun?
What's the biggest
country in the world?
I live in China.
No! You lie!
Who saw the
death ghost?
Beethoven's from Yamacraw!
Who else is from Germany?
Bach played the banjo?
Mrs. Brown had been educated
in a private school
where she learned the
importance of what she called
"the fundamentals
of refinement."
Mr. Conroy.
Hello, Mrs. Brown.
I sure do appreciate
this invitation.
We'll see about that.
I believe in education.
Without it, these children
haven't a chance.
That's exactly my position.
I just don't think
that harsh discipline
is the answer.
You cannot control
those children without a strap.
Well... you see,
I think...
Yes, I do see,
Mr. Conroy. I do.
Well, then you must also
see how important it is
that these children
get off the island,
and I got a great
idea how to do that.
Well, whatever it is,
I cannot allow it.
They need fundamentals,
not field trips.
Why can't you understand that?
They also need to see
how the world works.
This is good pie, by the way.
Mr. Conroy, you were not hired
to show them
how the world works.
Excuse me for being blunt--
I am not at all sure
you know how it works.
All her refinement
couldn't hide the fact
that she was obstinate
and immovable.
Might take me a couple of days
to get her fixed up.
You know, Zeke...
She's all yours.
Thank you.
Thank you!
Ooh... come here, sweetie.
Okay, let's have it.
What's going on?
What do you mean,
what's going on?
What do you think, pip-squeak,
you think something's going on?
Mom, is he
being a dork?
Well, I got, uh,
I got some good news
and some
very interesting news.
Good first.
Zeke loaned me
a boat.
Uh-huh, okay,
good so far.
And the really,
really interesting news
is that... I invited 12
Yamacraw kids to the wedding.
I got to say, Conroy,
you're starting to grow on me.
Ain't going.
What do you mean?
Not going no place.
Our grandma just laughed.
She laughed?
She laugh real hard.
She think
you joking us.
So, nobody got permission?
No, sir.
Our grandma say no way.
Want to come, but can't.
Yeah. No means no.
Why won't you allow
these kids to go?
I'll tell you why.
I know that river.
I lost three family
in that river.
They sink down
like quarry rocks.
When they come up,
they's all swelled
up like toadyfish.
I been living on Yamacraw
all these many years,
and I ain't gon' lose no grands
to that river.
Nothing is going
to happen to them.
I'll protect them with my life.
You young.
You don't know that river.
That river can eat a man.
I got Zeke Skimberry's boat,
and there ain't a man around
who knows the river
better than Zeke.
Why you want my little ones
at your big, fancy
white wedding, anyhow?
Because these kids need
as much mainland experience
as they can get
before they cross over.
And besides, I think
they're going to have fun.
You know, I-I know
they're going to have fun.
Fun, huh?
Well, I just bet you know
something about that.
Miz Brown
never come visit
me one time--
not about Saul,
not about nothing.
Old lady Glover,
she never
come neither,
but that's on account
of she figured
I'd fetch Old Betsy
out of the house
and chase her off.
Mrs. Graves...
I'm going to take care
of your grandchildren.
I give you my word.
Hey, look at the...
It huge!
Look at that building.
I don't
believe it.
I don't...
All right, everybody sit down.
Everybody, take off your coats,
Saul, take off your coat.
Mr. Conroy!
Mr. Conroy, I
got a question...
All right, shh, shh, shh.
...I got a
Hey, sit down.
Prophet, sit down.
Lincoln, sit down.
All right,
I need everybody quiet, okay?
In a second, the prettiest girl
in the world's
gonna be walking
down here, okay?
And I want you
to be good.
You guys look great.
You look beautiful
today, baby.
What's your name?
My name's Jennie.
Oh, you dat Jennie.
How come
you here?
Oh, man!
He's my new daddy.
Teacher Man, Teacher Man...
Teacher Man her daddy?
Guys, go ahead.
I do.
Do you, Barbara,
take Pat to have and to hold
from this day forward,
in sickness and in health,
in prosperity and adversity,
for as long
as you both shall live?
I do.
By the laws vested in me,
I now pronounce you
man and wife.
You may kiss
the bride.
Good morning, Mr. Stone.
I'm a little late for school.
I thought maybe
you could give me a ride.
You a Nazi?
Heard you drive one
of them little Nazi cars.
No, uh, uh...
I killed a bunch of Nazis.
I'd kill more if I could.
Give me a word
that starts with D.
Ooh. Door, day, devil.
All right,
it's Prophet's turn again.
Go ahead, buddy.
Dog, yeah.
That's a good one.
Now go ahead and spell it.
Oh, man.
you stupid.
No, no.
Okay, go on
and sit down.
I repeat, do
not write in
these textbooks.
I'm gonna talk
to Mr. Conroy.
Mrs. Brown...
do... do you not
like these people?
Do you have something
against them?
You are
talking crazy.
You know, hitting them
the way that you do
does not make them smarter.
It doesn't encourage them
to learn.
If anything, it makes
them fear school,
and it probably even
makes them avoid
and ignore everything
you're trying to teach them.
You don't know
what you're talking about.
Maybe not.
Maybe I'm just guessing.
But one thing I do know
is that you don't listen.
Is that what you think?
You don't control
those children,
you can't teach them.
What you do
is entertain them.
See, they get rowdy,
and you say,
"All right, gang,
"break it up, break it up.
Enough's enough."
I hear you.
I hear you all day long,
Pat Conroy.
Basketball training
had given me a sense
for the opposition's strategy.
And I was started
to get a feeling,
Mrs. Brown might have put
a defensive play in motion
when it suddenly
revealed itself.
Mr. Conroy.
Mr. Bennington.
What a surprise.
Always a pleasure
to see you, Esther.
Your recent tardiness,
Mr. Conroy,
has been duly noted.
Then there's the matter
of this-this gas bill
that you submitted
for reimbursement.
I'm sure you don't
expect our schools
to pay for the gas
that you use to get to work.
Yeah, I do.
But we don't pay for the other
teachers to get to work.
Well, how many
of them take boats?
Our county has no
commuting allowance.
Now, you were aware of
that when we hired you
on staff.
Since then I got married.
We'll pay for your gas
on Monday and Friday.
Any other boat trips are
considered recreational,
which we expect
you to bear the expense.
Let me get this straight.
So you think
marriage is recreational,
and being a
now that's
a sport?
That's not the
point, Mr. Conroy.
It sure as heck is the point.
That's exactly the point.
Conroy, please,
do not fly off the handle.
Mrs. Brown, do you think
I'm flying off
the handle?
I mean, as the principal
of this school,
you must have
an opinion on
my situation.
No, Mrs. Brown
has nothing
to do with it.
Colleague to colleague,
you think this is fair?
It's Piedmont
who's behind this,
Yamacraw is my jurisdiction.
Yeah, right,
sure it is.
Yeah, I am responsible for your
position here!
Okay. Yeah, well,
guy's got to do
what a guy's got to do.
You can't just walk away!
Where do you think
you're going?
Well, see, I was told
to follow a chain of command,
not to stop on the weakest link.
How dare you.
Now you take one more step,
and I swear, I'll...
You'll what?
What, you're gonna fire me?
Do you really think
you have the authority
to do that?
It's late.
I'm going home.
Hold on, Conroy!
we can work something out here.
Got to love it.
T minus ten... nine, eight,
seven, six,
five, four, three,
two, one.
Lift off! Yeah!
Lift off.
Right. Come on,
let's hear it
for the scientists,
and for Gordon,
and for Conrad,
and for Bean, huh?
How about that, gang?
There they go.
Three brave astronauts
have just gone to the moon!
They're not going
to the moon.
What...? Well, yeah.
Frank, you just heard 'em
blast off.
Mr. Conroy, ain't goin'
to no moon.
Well, gang, how...?
Who else here doesn't
think the Apollo's
going to
the moon?
I don't think they're going
to moon, Mr. Conroy.
No, they're
not going to...
Moon too far.
And, Ethel, you, too?
You say
it good we question authority.
Well, yeah,
but I didn't mean me.
How are these kids ever gonna
make it on the mainland
if they don't think
man walked on the moon?
I know plenty of places
in this country
where they'd be
right at home.
Well, darling, that's the point
of education, right?
That they don't end up
in those places.
Man, if they could ever
see the real thing.
Well, take 'em to DC.
Oh, yeah, right.
Mrs. Brown would be
totally into that.
Here come American's number one
college basketball team,
the Harlem Globetrotters
with their legendary
pregame warm-up.
These fine athletes
display their mastery
of basketball technique
in every game,
but nowhere more enjoyably
than during these moments
before the first period.
There's Meadowlark Lemon
to the clown prince
Hubert Geese Ausbie.
Way to go, Geese!
And it's around the back,
through the legs,
and over the top to Curly Neal,
who quickly dunked it off
to Bobby Joe Mason.
a big right hook
from Frank "The Hooker."
Ow! Ow, my ankle.
Ow, my ankle.
Lincoln "The Dirty"
Who you calling dirty!
Over here.
Oh, goes out to
Oscar "The Spinner."
Stolen by "Saul
The Small!"
- Oh!
- Oh, good shot!
- Good shot.
- What name I got?
My man,
you be Charles "The Cool."
Charles The Cool!
Who you be?
Yeah, you.
I be... Pat "The Rat."
Go get him,
go get him.
Mr. Bennington,
I have a real chance
to reach these kids.
No, thank you.
This is a chance
to expand
their horizons
beyond anything...
How about some melon?
No, I'm
fine, thanks.
It's delicious.
No, thank you, really.
By taking these kids
into Washington, DC...
Mr. Conroy, I think
it's a wonderful idea.
Now, if you are
prepared to shoulder
all responsibility,
guarantee that there is
absolutely no cost
to the county,
well, you have our full
and unwavering support.
What them ol' lines for?
What lines?
Them lines, them lines
all over the road!
Oh, right.
Uh, well, um, those
lines are divider lines.
They... they tell
the driver which side
of the road
he can stay on.
Now, you see,
if they're dotted,
means he can
pass another car,
and if it's a
double line,
it means he
can't pass.
Just them lines say all that?
Yeah. Just them
lines say all that.
Them building's be
scraping the sky.
Ain't never seen
nothing like that.
Where all them cars going?
You got that?
You got that?
Oh, look at that;
it's spinning!
That's the
Earth, Prophet.
What's that?
That's a picture of
the Earth from the moon.
What do you
think, Oscar, huh?
It's wicked!
Neat, huh?
These pictures are amazing.
This is like Cinderella.
We got to find
whose shoe it is.
Mr. Conroy, you try it.
Let me get in there.
Hey, can I take
everybody's picture?
Okay, everybody
get your picture taken here.
Back up a little bit.
Got it?
Okay, close together.
Get together;
come in.
Frank, I can't see you
behind that hat.
Okay, ready? Count of three.
One, two, three, cheese!
Look like my Oscar
been to the moon hisself.
Springtime came to Yamacraw
with more bold promise
than I'd experienced
in some time.
My spirit was uplifted,
and my hopes were high
for the children
as graduation day approached.
It is my great honor today
to introduce the best friend
Yamacraw ever had--
Mr. Ezra Bennington.
Boys and girls,
good parents of Yamacraw,
I just want to say that I think
Yamacraw is as
fine a school
as any in
this country,
despite what some people
might say.
Now, sure,
we got a few
problems here.
You show me a school
in this country
that doesn't have problems,
I'll show you a cow
without udders.
Now, I mean, when
I first came here,
we had a plethora
of problems, didn't
we, didn't we?
Well, I remember I
had to put in that
electricity there,
didn't I;
remember that?
And the air
We got a couple
more things we
got to clear up.
Okay, wait, shh, everyone,
everyone, everyone.
Settle down.
You all passed
the state requirements
fair and square, huh?
I want you guys to know
how proud I am of you.
All right? Congratulations.
Okay, everybody, one
last piece of business.
With the consent
of all you parents,
Barbara and I would like
to invite you all
to our house across the river
for a graduation party.
Everybody can come 'cause
Zeke brought the big boat.
Mr. Bennington.
Congratulations, Mr. Conroy.
Thank you, Mrs. Brown.
Your pecan pie is delicious.
Mr. Conroy.
May I have a word
with you, please?
Yeah, sure.
What do you mean
"consider other options"?
Well, Mr. Conroy,
it means that next year
your services will no longer
be required at Yamacraw.
So, in other words,
I'm fired?
Well, let's
just put it this way--
you are expendable.
Lovely party; thank you.
And, uh,
my regards to your wife.
Could you please explain to me
why I'm being fired?
Because you have been
consistently late,
and it is against the rule
for teachers to be late.
No exception.
And you, young man,
you've been trying
to make an exception
of yourself all year.
So, you'd fire me for getting
lost in the fog a couple times?
If you didn't commute,
you wouldn't be lost,
and if you weren't lost,
you wouldn't be late.
So, this is about
my commuting.
it's about your
entire attitude.
It's about your ignoring
the chain of command.
I have followed
your blessed chain of command
link by link;
that's why I'm here.
You endangered the lives
of those young children
by taking them on a wild ride
to Washington.
Bennington gave his approval.
Well, if he did,
he exceeded his authority.
He set me up for this.
I will not pay for gas,
I will not tolerate
your lateness,
and I will not tolerate
your willful neglect
of my authority.
You are hereby dismissed
from Yamacraw, sir.
What is the matter
with you, boy?
You going to let yourself
be dishonored
by some bow-tie gasbag
never took hold of nothing
rougher than a golf club?
Don't you know a
Conroy never backs down.
A Conroy takes crap
from no man!
Is there anything else?
You know, Dr. P...
Dr. Piedmont,
you leave me no choice
but to take my cause
to the Board of Education.
Your "cause."
Mmm, your cause, sir.
You go right ahead.
Well, I'm not worried--
not a little bit.
Heck, I was told
that Beaumont
has the most democratic
school system
in the whole country.
Oh, no!
Your turn.
You know, they're going
to load my record
with, well, I don't know what,
but whatever it is,
they're going to make sure
I never teach again.
Well, can I ask you something?
You sure this is about
you righting a wrong,
or is it you
picking a fight?
Listen, this
is how I was raised.
You fight or you fold;
you win or you die.
There's no
middle ground.
It's the Conroy way.
But are you sure
it's your way?
I'm dead sure.
Is that you talking,
or your father?
You are too good
for them, Pat.
In this case,
there is a middle ground.
You can choose
to walk away.
You've got the parents on track.
They can take it from here.
You know that, right?
I can't go down; not like this.
Your move, Daddy.
Thank you, sweetie.
It came to pass
there was a meeting
of the Beaumont County
School Board.
The regulars showed up
right on time.
And so did the irregulars.
He the one, ain't he?
The one over there
with Bennington?
Yes, ma'am,
that's him.
I should have brought my Betsy
out of that house,
all loaded up, drop that man
down where he should be.
Can't go around
filling folks with
buckshot, Edna.
Whole world ain't
like Yamacraw.
Hmm. Pity.
You wear that
same tie...
you wear that tie
every single
time I see you.
I owe you five bucks.
I promised; that
was great fun.
On the matter
regarding Mr. Conroy's service
on Yamacraw Island,
the school board
has reviewed
Mr. Conroy's record
of insubordination,
gross neglect of
duty, and conduct
a professional educator.
Oh, hold on, now!
Hold on!
Any more of that ruckus,
and we'll
clear the room!
Sir, may I speak to my record?
Make it brief.
Gross neglect of duty,
conduct unbecoming--
these all sound
like very serious charges--
charges that could easily find
their way into a court of law.
Uh, sonny-boy,
are you threatening
this fine board with a lawsuit?
Is that what you're doing?
Dr. Piedmont,
this is my time.
Dr. Piedmont has the floor.
Folks, what you're getting
here is just
a little taste of this young
man's obstreperous nature.
This is a young man
who thinks he can take children
on a field trip
to our nation's capitol
without proper authorization.
I had proper authorization.
The Beaumont School Board
rules to uphold its decision
to terminate
Mr. Chairman.
Excuse me,
uh, Mr. Chairman, I only want...
I just want to say...
Go on, Mrs. Brown.
We don't have all night.
Yes, sir.
Just want to say that,
um, personally,
as a colleague
of Mr. Conroy...
...I find your decision...
Thank you, Mrs. Brown.
This meeting is adjourned.
Only one thing to do.
We gonna get all the folks--
kids, too--
everybody on Yamacraw
gonna mark his name,
and if they don't bring
y'all back,
we gonna strike
the school.
Edna, I don't know if...
Ain't for you to know.
Time for us to know.
Time for Piedmont
to know.
Mr. Big Ball
you ain't off
the hot stove yet.
Quick Step, you sign
this here petition.
Here, make
your best mark.
What do they think
they're doing?
Sticking to their word,
looks like.
Conroy doesn't
get reinstated,
they're going to
strike the school.
I'll find out.
All right, everybody,
calm down.
Calm down now.
Come on, now, listen to me.
Give me that.
It is mine.
Hey, give it to me.
It is mine.
It's my district.
Listen up, people!
Calm down, now!
Come on, calm down!
Now, you listen to me!
If you people strike
the school
and do not allow your children
to attend class this fall,
you are going
to be breaking
the compulsory
attendance law.
You are going to be facing
a fine of $50 per day.
Listen, now, listen!
Piedmont read them the riot act
through a bullhorn,
but the folks of Yamacraw
read it right back
with no need
to amplify their voice.
Look, now,
look, I've got
the most democratic school
system in this country!
This our school!
Ain't no mainland school!
Who teach our children
be our business.
Ain't nothin' to do
with no big ball superintendent!
Get out of here.
Come on. Get out.
Let me guess
what you're thinking.
"A Conroy
never backs down.
A Conroy takes crap
from no man."
But... you're
not him.
You're you.
A loser teacher who
can't hold a job
'cause he loves
kids too much.
I love you.
I ever tell you that?
Not nearly enough.
You ever seen a
snake milk a cow?
Put him over the hot fire,
and then the fur all of sudden
will scrunch right up.
You still ugly.
You said good
we question authority.
Mr. Conroy.
I appreciate what you said
at the meeting.
I know that wasn't easy.
You might enjoy this.
Really helped me.
So long, Mrs. Brown.
Conroy, take
care of yourself.
You have a good summer, now.
All right?
Gonna miss them shrimp.
We got this here
petition signed,
just like I said.
Every parent
on the island signed it.
Now, we gonna take it down
to the next board meeting and...
Deliver the news!
This is very well written.
They'd be impressed.
I know that I am.
But I don't want you to do it.
In the end,
it's these kids
who are going to end up losing.
They lose
if you don't teach 'em.
We don't want our
children hit no more.
It ain't right.
I think that
maybe Mrs. Brown
is starting to see
the light on that.
And besides,
there are plenty
of other teachers--
most of them way
smarter than me.
You smart.
Smart? You are, Teach.
Hold on.
Hol... Please.
Hold, please.
Maybe you all
can't see it yet,
but you've already won.
That school
is yours now.
You stood
your ground,
and they got
the message that
you're in charge
of your children's
All you have to do now
is stay involved...
And never back down.
Never back down.
No, don't leave!
Come back! Come back!
Please, come back!
But Mr. Conroy!
Well, what about you?
What are you gonna do?
I've got this little girl
who just started
calling me "Daddy."
I'm going to be sure
it stays that way.
You all look out
for yourselves.
We takes care
of our own.
Edna, you are
a magnificent creature.
You're a queen, a saint.
Oh, all right, all right.
Go on.
Go well.
Hey, Teacher Man,
what state we at?
South Carolina.
State capital name?
Closest planet to the sun?
One time, a man say
we got to question
the rule and the law
and not believe a thing just
'cause the big cheese say it so.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I wondered then, as I do now,
whose life got changed more.
Was it theirs... or mine?
Kids, parents,
the island, me...
I knew nothing
would ever be the same.
It shouldn't be.
The river was rising
with the tide.
A tide was rising
in the country.
The water was wide.
I wished my students
a safe crossing.
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