I am a Lover now – No longer a fighter

Bully

Could have been me a age 10

I haven’t always been a lover.  When I was ten years old I was the undisputed fighting champion of the fourth grade of Haleyville Elementary. Of course I have a few friends that might dispute that claim.

As I remember it, I never had a loss and this was mainly due to the fact that I would hit other kids in the face. One or two licks to the face and the fight was over. I can remember at least two occasions on the sand lot next to the school being carried off on the shoulders of my fans after lopsided bouts.

I was mostly a bully though. A bully fights when he is pretty sure that he will win. Though I was the champ, I remember not wanting any of Marty Henderson. He was an easy going country strong kid that I saw get mad only once, but he essentially slung another kid around the playground like he was a rag doll.

There was a kid that I must give an honorable mention too. The only thing is that this kid was a girl. Lou Minor was a tomboy, was tough, and would hit you in the face. No one really wanted to fight Lou either, but I remember getting tangled up with her in Mrs. McNutt’s classroom. We fought all over that classroom knocking down desks and strewing papers everywhere. I remember limping out of the classroom that day with a lot of respect for Lou.

I remember one other fight in the fourth grade because of the comment Mrs. McNutt made after the fight. Unlike today, the teachers let us fight. Her classroom overlooked the playground and after we came in from recess she commented that I looked like a Banty rooster.

At the end of my fourth grade year my world was to change radically. A new kid showed up at school named Timmy Gravitt. Did I mention that I was also the sports champion of the fourth grade? This is another potentially disputed claim. But it is true that I was usually one of the kids picking sides for our daily football game. I was the quarterback and my team usually won.

Out of no where at the end of fourth grade this kid named Timmy Gravitt showed up on the playground and almost immediately was picking sides for my opposing team. And on the playground this kid was everywhere. He would watch my eyes when I was about the throw the ball and like lightning he broke in front of my receiver and raced down the field for a touchdown. He was unstoppable. Little did I know that he would eventually be All State honorable mention and continue to play that position at the University of West Alabama.

Did I mention that I didn’t want any of country strong Marty Henderson? Well, sometime during the middle of my fouth grade year, they put Marty’s older brother Kenny back down in to our grade. Kenny was country strong too, a year older and country mad about being put back in our grade. I understood not to mess with Marty, but it was universally understood not to mess Kenny.

Well, after only a week after Timmy Gravitt arrived in school he tied up with Kenny Henderson on the playground. It was a knock down drag out fight and pretty much even. I knew that day that there was a new champion in town and I was out.

The fifth grade may have been the hardest year of my life, at least up to that point. Not only did Timmy Gravitt defacto de-seat me as fighting champion, but when I got back from summer break I found out that he had stole my girl friend Mitzi Mitchell. Mitzi had been my main girlfriend since first grade. However, it was understood that it was ok to have multiple girlfriends through the third grade. I was sort of like a Biblical patriarch up till fourth grade with Debbie Vickery and Lynn Robinson as part of my girlfriend harem.

Beginning my fifth grade year I come in as a de-throned champion and the new champion has taken the spoils, namely Mitzi Mitchell. Mitzi wasn’t very sympathetic to my heart break either. She had moved on to being the girl of the new champion.

Timmy wasn’t my only issue as a fifth grader either. A couple of new kids moved into town over the summer. During the first week of school I witnessed one of the most brutal fights I have ever seen. It was in the hall at the junior high just around the corner from Principal Williams office. Robert Pelt was a new kid in school. When I arrived on the scene, Robert had this kid down on the ground pounding his face. It sort of reminded me of the scene in A Christmas story when Ralphie is hitting the bully, but this fight is much worse. I still remember how fast Robert’s fists were hitting this kid and then how his head was bouncing up off the floor.

Robert was no Ralphie either. He wasn’t even what I would call country strong either. He was slender, dark complexioned and more of what I would call back woods tough. I would say street tough, but it would be more like country road tough. He had a 50’s style greaser hair cut, a comb in his back pocket and had eyes that had seen too much. He didn’t look like a kid in the face and I can’t remember having a single conversation with him during our school days. This was obviously not Robert’s first fist fight and I can only imagine how he had learned to fight like that.

So now there is Robert and Kenny and technically Marty, except that he was generally a peaceful soul, and Timmy and that is not all. A kid named Steve Triplett is enrolled at school and he is a head taller than any of us. Not only is his size a concern, but he needed a shave. That was quite intimidating to the rest of us smooth chinned fifth graders.

Steve is in a category by himself. He is what I would call Yankee tough. We didn’t really know any Yankee kids and that combined with the hair on his face kept me from wanting any of Steve. Then there was the new kid Steve Hood. He was also a throwback pretty boy greaser too. He had long strawberry blonde hair which he combed continuously. I remember he wore a short yellow canvas jacket that zipped up the front and I thought it was a cool jacket. He wasn’t much of a fighter, but he reminded me enough of Robert Pelt that I didn’t want to try him either.

Then there was Eddie Bridgemon. Eddie reminded me of Sonny Corleone in the Godfather. He was fast, brash and flamboyant. Not sure if Eddie was tough or not but we all believed that Eddie was mean. He liked to make a scene. He was always in trouble with the coaches and principal and he didn’t seem to care. You got the sense that they were a little afraid of Eddie too. He might cut you or possibly shoot you if it came down to it. There were whispers that his dad encouraged him to be this way. It was said that his dad taught him not to take anything off of anybody, no matter if they were adults or not.

Pretty sure that Eddie got kicked out of school before we reached high school and I later heard he did time in the Penitentiary. I read in the paper in 1999 that he was murdered during an argument concerning a love triangle. His murderer drug his body out of the house and attempted to burn him with kerosene. For some reason Eddie never gave me any trouble. I guess I wasn’t a big enough fish for Eddie to concern himself with.

I was not through with fighting yet. I still fought a few of my regulars. I could still fight Hootie Callahan and win, but the fights were getting closer to a draw. Hootie was usually a fun loving kid and I suppose I started most of our fights. I remember taking a day out of school in the fifth grade to go to his father’s funeral. He had been killed in a gun fight.

I also fought Dennis “Corky” George more than once. Dennis was the preachers kid. We went to church together and hung out together. We were “sleep over” type of friends. Dennis was a bit a bully too. He was a about a head taller than me and would later grow to about 6’5”. He had a gift for “frogging.” Frogging was where you make a fist, but used the door knocking knucke of the middle finger to be a weapon. He could take that knuckle and hit you in a number of extremely sensitive spots. He wasn’t the only kid who used this to disable his friends and foes alike, but he was one of the best.

The frog that caused the last fight with Dennis was a well place knuckle on my spine just between the shoulder blades. I had warned him after about 2 or 3 knee buckling events that I had had enough. Then, without warning, it came in the church parking lot after vacation Bible School. All I remember is that I got inside those long arms and got in several good blows to the nose.

Dennis’s dad got a new preaching job in Double Springs, AL when we were in the 6th grade. We didn’t see each other much after that except for playing against each other in basketball in the 10th grade. I had my best ever game scoring with 39 points. Their team only had 38 points. It must have been karma for Dennis frogging me in the back. A few years later, Dennis and I roomed together our sophomore year in college and he became a preacher too.

Then there was David Glascock. David was the town’s rich kid. His father owned and operated a mobile home manufacturing company. David wore flashy expensive clothes and got a new Corvette for his sixteenth birthday.

David was a couple years older than me and one afternoon at a matinee at Haleyville’s Dixie Theatre, David and his girl friend were sitting behind me and a buddy. David was throwing kernels of popcorn over the seat and into my lap. He thought this was funny and as a seventh grader it seemed funny to me too.

Then I got a good idea. I went to the concessions and bought popcorn. Instead of sitting in my usual seat I decided to sit behind David and his girl friend. Of course you know that I had to lob a few kernels of corn over the seat at David. I thought this was quite funny and that I had one uped David.

What I didn’t realize is that when I eventually went to the bathroom that David would follow me. Once in the bath room, David immediately hit me in the face and my head bounced off the subway tile on the wall and he walked out. I was quite stunned. That was the only negative incident with David and nothing was ever said again. I also didn’t throw anymore popcorn.

A year or so later that year he took me for a ride in his Corvette and only after I got in did he tell me that we were going to get all four wheels off the ground and make a quick turn before hitting an embankment. I protested, but he wouldn’t stop to let me out. We jumped, made the turn and lived, but just barely.

David’s dad Bill Glascock was already quite infamous already. He would eventually spend time in the pen after orchestrating a money laundering scheme with former Heisman Trophy recipient from LSU Billy Cannon.

Bullies don’t go away just because you reach a certain age. I would experience a few more bullies in my life and would luckily avoid bodily harm. I had a knife put to my throat when I was twelve by a stranger who I think was only trying to scare me. He succeeded. Somebody put a snake in my car, and no one ever claimed responsibility for that one. There was an attempt or two to run me off the road. I had a gun pointed at me. A threat to knock my teeth down my throat. A threat of cutting my head off and doing something quite unsanitary down my neck. A few lets take this outside. A summons to the parking lot from a school dance and a few “I am going to whip your you know what.

Of course this is not to mention growing up with three older brothers. One chipped a front tooth, another blacked my eye and the other cut my fingers to the bone with a butcher knife.

The good news is that it has been at least twenty years and counting since someone has threatened to knock my block off. I hope I am home free.

Oppps, Devon just reminded me of someone who threatened to whip my fanny just a few years ago. She also reminded me that as long as I can move my lips I am never out of danger.

You may be wondering why this story is categorized under the Power of Humility section.  Well it is simply background information about where I have come from and how badly I need to choose humility.

I would love to hear your bully stories. Please leave a comment.

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