Maybe it was my birthday, but I've been thinking a lot about my life. It is amazing I am alive.
I grew up in a time in which cars did not have seat belts. When seat belts finally came out, they were only placed in the front seat. The kids in the back had to fend for themselves.
Every adult smoked cigarettes, everywhere, at any time, except maybe at church. I take that back. Maybe during church services, adults were able to control their nicotine habit.
|Even Barney and Fred smoked|
Speaking of cars and cigarettes, back when I was a kid, we didn't take vacations to Disney World or anything. Old Man Manis didn't see the point of riding an amusement park ride. He never explained it; it was just a feeling you got that he thought amusement parks were a waste of time and money. He might have had a point.
Nope, when we went on vacations, we went to see our kin in either North Mississippi or East Tennessee. I have an incredible gene pool.
Here's the picture: Old Man Manis and Inez in the front seat of some sort of Plymouth (he knew somebody at the dealership that he liked to "horse trade" with), smoking away. Old Man Manis with his Winstons, which tasted good like a cigarette should. Inez usually smoked something else like Tarringtons. The windows are open because running the air conditioner would cause the car to use more gas.
My brothers and I are in the back. I have to sit in the middle because I was the youngest. Old Man Manis would flick the ash of his cigarette and the ash would hit my brother on the left of me in the eye. Inez would flick hers and the ash would hit my brother to the right of me in the eye. Nothing hit me because I was in the middle.
Two adults traveling with three children in a car with no seat belts going 70 miles an hour on a Mississippi state road. But somehow, all three of us lived to adulthood.
Then there was school. When I was a kid, corporal punishment was not only practiced, it was applauded. It took a village to raise a child back then and the village wanted to tan your hide.
When I was in Fourth Grade, I saw my teacher, Mrs. Nelson, take a kid into the book storage room. I don't remember this kid's name. In fact, I don't remember that much about Mrs. Nelson except one time she put on a sombrero and said, "Viva Nixon!".
All I heard was one loud whack. Mrs. Nelson came out. I'm not sure the kid did.
Whacking boys followed to Junior High School. If you did something that the PE Coach didn't like, he would whack you with a wooden paddle. One PE Coach would whack students with a whiffle ball bat.
But the real evil of Junior High PE coaches was revealed in "Combat Ball".
How to describe "Combat Ball"? It is like Dodge Ball, if it was invented by the Nazis and administered by the Manson family. It was survival of the fittest. All entered the Combat Ball arena. (The boys' side of the gym. On the girls' side of the gym, they were doing modest calisthenics and saying "We must, we must, we must develop our bust. The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater, the boys depend on us!") Only the strong survived "Combat Ball".
|Imagine this hitting your face|
The goal of "Combat Ball" was to kill your opponent, or at the very least, break a bone or two. One of my friends got hit in the nose with a combat ball. His nose, literally, exploded. There was blood all over the place.
Even if you got out "alive" to sit in the bleachers, it was not safe. One time I was hit and I went to take my place in the bleachers. I sat down and looked down at my shoes. I looked up and saw purple. We played with kick balls that were purple. I didn't hear a sound, but the ball hit me square in the face. I went backward. My glasses went forward. Nobody said a thing. No adult came running up to see if I was all right.
The worst thing I ever saw in "Combat Ball" was during "No Boundaries". This is when the PE Coach would exclaim, "No Boundaries" and you could chase down an opponent and annihilate him with a ball.
For some sadistic reason, probably "to make men out of us", my 7th-grade class was playing a 9th- grade class in "Combat Ball". The difference between 7th graders and 9th graders is stark. 9th graders are larger, stronger, and look like adults to a 7th grader.
The Lord had mercy on me that day. I was hit rather early and had to sit down. Monkey was not so lucky.
We had this goofy looking kid in our class who we called Monkey because we were interested in his self-esteem. He wore glasses naturally.
Monkey survived all the barrage of combat balls and was our last class member left on the floor. The coach yelled, "No Boundaries"!
It was at this time a 9th grader named Mike grabbed a ball. Mike was the biggest, largest male student at East Cobb Junior High School in 1972. Rumor had it he served a couple of tours in Vietnam.
Mike began chasing Monkey. The coach said, "You better run Monkey!" Mike got closer and closer to Monkey, like a heat seeking missile. He drew a bead on Monkey and let go a fastball that hit Monkey square on the back of the head. The only thing that remained from Monkey was his glasses on the gym floor. His body was never found.
Can you imagine that game being played today? Former East Cobb Junior High student Mark Mulling said, "Libs (liberals) would never let us get away with the name 'combat ball' now. Not even if it was played with balloons."
He's right. In an over-reaction to yesterday, liberals have taken all of the fun out of being a boy. But it is too late to help Monkey.