May 18, 2006
Two Fisted Expediency
When I was in the second or third grade, the teacher accused me of doing something which I truthfully had not done. We kids, all of the class, were playing down the draw from the school house at recess time. Apparently she rang the bell for us to return and none of us heard it. When we thought our time was up, we hurried back to the school house where the abnormally large and flatulent middle aged teacher grabbed me by the arm and accused me of leading the children away. She then instructed me to get the bridle reins off my horse in the barn. I got the reins and gave them to her. She then folded the reins into double or triple strength and beat me severely over the back. When she got tired of beating me, she stopped and screamed, "Now what do you have to say for yourself?" I grabbed my bridle reins out of her hands, hit her once in her extended belly, and when she plopped on her behind on the floor, I walked out the door, got on my horse, and refused to go back to school until she was replaced. Since it was the beginning of the school year, I missed a whole year of school. But, the next year they hired an intelligent young teacher who allowed me to make up the missing year—in other words, do two years in one year's time. Hitting the teacher was not a very admirable thing to do for any student, and I was never proud of the fact. The plus side of the adventure, though, was that I realized I could defend myself. Since in those days there was no higher authority to appeal to, self defense was a pretty necessary measure at times.
We boys always fought at recess. We were bored. We had no sports equipment. So, fighting was our only exercise. Although I fought many battles in those years, there was never anything spectacular about it. When they rang the bell, you always went back to class. I guess my point in this is that fighting was a common pastime and absolutely no one ever frowned on it. In fact, if you didn’t defend yourself, you would have been branded a coward or worse.
Along about the fifth grade, my brother Neal brought home a set of boxing gloves and playfully set about teaching me to box. There was a boy in the neighborhood. He was adopted—and a real nice kid, who was in about the eighth grade. We put on the gloves one day with Neal supervising. Well, this kid, Ray something, was real hard and pretty tough. He hit me once in the chest, right over the heart and I slowly slumped to the ground unconscious. I remember it as though it was yesterday. It sounded like a fleet of airplanes going over, and then blackness. Being knocked out brought much ringing of hands and discussion about the necessity of fighting. But, I had learned a good lesson. If you beat the crap out of the other guy, you don’t get knocked out. I was always in a fight with neighbor kids. We liked each other and remained friends as long as they lived, but we were always at war in a friendly, competitive fashion.
At school, we would play Cowboys and Indians. The Indians didn’t have any arrows. They used rocks. One day, we cowboys were on top of the barn, using the peaked roof as a fortress. I rose up to see what the Indians were doing, and at that precise moment, I caught a rock between the eyes. I remember starting to roll off the roof, but passed out before I hit the ground. I was only out for about a half hour. Except for lot of blood from the head wound, I was no worse for wear.
(To Be Continued)