I spent most of my early life perfecting techniques in such essential crafts as hunting, fishing, bicycling, fielding ground balls and, of course, swimming naked in the creek.
At that point in time those were the most important things in my world and I figured I’d go into one of those fields professionally somewhere along the line. Thus, practice in those areas was preparation for life — or so I thought.
Along about 1960, an unexpected and decidedly inconvenient turn of events cropped up when I was told by my parents that the time had arrived for me to enter the first grade. I was to attend the Rutledge Grammar School for the Rurally Insane and the dad-blasted thing took in at 8 a.m. and let out at 3 p.m. for nine months out of the year. This severely curtailed my practice time in sporting endeavors that were so critical to my future.
Even though school was a stinker, I was making steady progress up until about the sixth grade when the subjects had reached an almost intolerable level of difficulty. Additionally, my teacher, Mrs. Malcom, was a hard taskmaster with a level of expectations for us that would have made Albert Einstein proud. As a result, my promotion to the seventh grade was in some doubt. Mrs. Malcom reported on the last day of school that it had been a photo-finish but I would be moving up a notch.
The best part about going to the seventh grade was that we would be allowed to play full-contact football on the playground. The bad news was that we would be taking a strange subject known as pre-algebra — a kind of math where you had to guess which numbers to substitute for x,y and z. Pre-algebra and its close kin, algebra, would prove to be a notable stumbling block for me in the years ahead. The other bad news was that Charlie moved to Rutledge over the summer. He was destined to rule the seventh grade.
Charlie must have come from a section of the country where the gene pool spawned monsters. He was a full head taller than the next biggest boy in the school and sported muscles similar to those I’d seen in pictures of Olympic weight-lifters. He also had hair on his face, a rarity in grammar school. Unfortunately, Charlie’s favorite hobbies turned out to be football and using his famous half-nelson wrestling hold around my scrawny neck.
He anointed himself “Big Time Charlie” and the only time people smiled around him was if he picked them to be on his side in football games. No one wanted to be on the opposing team. “Big Time” hit with the force of a 9-pound hammer and was all over the field. He never chose me and took particular joy in smashing my face into the ground at every opportunity.
Football at recess was only the beginning. Charlie pushed, shoved, choked and basically ran roughshod over me that entire year. Of course, I had to endure it all in silence because running to the teacher was not an option. That would have put me in the “sissy” category, which carried a life-long stigma that could not be easily removed.
Bullying is a buzzword nowadays but the strategy seems to have changed a little. Bullies back in my day had a more straight-forward approach, whereas, today it seems that bullies often strike from afar through social media and word of mouth. Both methods are cowardly and, of course, hurtful in different kinds of ways.
As an educator for the past 35 years, I’ve seen these bully creatures at work and have been in a position to help the victims on many occasions. I’ve also noticed that bullies have a half-life of only a few years before getting their comeuppance.
In the case of “Big Time Charlie,” I noticed that when he went to high school and the other guys began to catch up with him in size, he toned down his act. He quit his game altogether after taking a sound butt-whipping at the hands of a noted pugilist. I also noticed that Charlie was absent at football tryouts. Bullies, you see, are generally pretty gutless when the odds become even.
I heard many years later that Charlie married a young lady half his size and more than a match for him in force of character. Consequently, he has spent his life taking orders and walking the straight and narrow. I’d say that the scales of justice were coming full circle.
It is safe to say that bullies like Charlie are always around and it’s comforting to know that their day of reckoning is just around the corner. That day comes in different shapes and forms but is most assuredly on the way. Charlie got his just like all bullies do in the long run.
My year in the seventh grade was pretty miserable because of Charlie but I’m pretty sure that today “Big Time Charlie’s” got the blues. Good.
Alvin Richardson may be reached at dar8589@email@example.com.