Traveling through life with the 9-year-old Hurricane boy and 10-year-old Princess often leads me back to reflect on days of yore during my school days.
Of course, back then school was different. Yes, back then Coach Beard could whip you with a 3-pound hickory paddle, leaving black and blue marks from just above the knee until somewhere around the collar bone, depending on how hard one struggled during the whipping, and win teacher of the year. Now, he’d be in federal prison for such a thing and, instead, we no longer whip kids and they end up in federal prison.
Back then, I could bring a 30-30 rifle and three sticks of dynamite to school, but couldn’t wear my hair below my collar or touching my ears. In a defining showdown over the haircut rule, I defiantly refused to cut my hair after having failed two straight haircut inspections performed by William “Buck” Owens, our headmaster, in a manner that would have made a Marine drill sergeant proud.
Arriving on the third day, Mr. Owens took me directly to barber Fred Puckett and we did not pass go.
Fred was a talented barber, having gone to barber school only long enough to master two haircuts, the flat top or the crew cut. He also could vary the length of these two styles — short or very, very short. Mr. Owens opted for the very, very short style and I looked like a concentration camp survivor for most of my 10th-grade year. Now, I have no hair, but a guy can wear a ponytail if he wants and a full-length skirt to boot.
I go now to many basketball games, which bring back memories from the hard-court. I was not particularly blessed with great athletic skill, but I made up for it by rarely practicing and ignoring most all coaching instructions.
We did not have a three-point line back when I played, or I guess we would have never gone much past half court before shooting. I specialized in laying back under our goal while the rest of the team played defense on the other end. This led to many free layup attempts by me once we got the ball back. I could usually make a layup in three or four tries — if nobody made it back in time to guard me.
We also were not allowed to dunk when I played. Oh, no, none of that showoff stuff allowed. Lay the ball in the goal gently, don’t hot dog.
I could not have dunked a ball in a game if they had allowed me to bring my own mini-trampoline, but I’m still mad they banned me from trying.
Behind-the-back dribbles were also greatly frowned upon, which was just as well considering in-front-of-me dribbles were never mastered by me. Coach Daniel had what he called the Three Dribble Rule. If I had the ball, it better be passed before I took the third dribble.
But some things have not changed, namely the school play. In third grade, I was in a play that starred Humpty Dumpty. I’m not sure what it says about my primary school education that my most remembered play starred Humpty Dumpty, but I do know I was bitterly disappointed that Ralph Richardson received the starring role as Humpty, falling off a wall and falling to pieces.
I, on the other hand, was a mere spectator peasant. Little did I know this would be a forebear of my life to come.
That same year Chris Irwin starred by singing “I Ain’t Getting Nuthin’ For Christmas.” Me? I had to play a song in a piano recital about a boy that got bit by a spider and had to dance the poison away. Before it was over, I wished I could have taken the poison … and I think the audience felt the same way.
Yep, good memories from a good time. But mostly, just good riddance.
Email T. Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org.