Wednesday, February 18, 2009

School Fightin' Man

My friend Aaron's post over on Anecdotal Evidence gave me an idea for breaking my current blog drought (not that I haven't been busy--in the past week I've added 70+ pages to my website, Dreaming Empires).

So, without further preamble, here are the three "fights" I can remember winning (in the sense that when the fracas ended, I was more or less fine and the other person was less so) in my K-12 career:

Choking Troy Ragsdale

At least that's what I think his name was. He was basically a redneck in training who was much cleverer than you'd think at first glance. Probably did okay for himself. Anyway, as I recall this incident, he was taunting me rather effectively on the sidewalk just outside of elementary school one afternoon and I told him to shut up.

He punched me in the shoulder or something and said "Make me," or words to that effect. I said to quit it and he replied with a classic along the lines of "What are you going to do about it?"

So I lunged forward and grabbed him by the throat. Looking back, I think I actually clipped him pretty good in the larynx with my spastic assault. I'm not entirely sure that I got both hands around his neck, but I remember him turning kind of deep red and gagging. Then I let him go and he coughed a bit and called me crazy.

(Interestingly, when I googled Troy Ragsdale, one of the hits that popped up was for the membership of something called "Saturday Evening Fisticuffs" a site following local boxing. So it's entirely possible that Troy could kick my ass now.)

Breaking Jason's Finger

I don't remember much about this kid except that he was short, blonde, fairly athletic, and rather annoying. And a Cowboys fan, which sort of goes with the annoying bit. Oh, and I saw my first Playboys ever while at a slumber party at his house. So he was not all bad.

This was one of those rather gay elementary school "fights" that involves a lot of kicking and slapping. Except in this case Jason was performing a sort of poor man's Flash imitation, running past me and kicking me in the ass before darting away, or zipping in to slap my head. Based on our relative builds this was like a terrier taunting a giraffe. I have no recollection what started the whole thing. Jason may not even have thought of it as a fight. Just horsing around with a clumsy nerd.

But I was getting pretty pissed off. I lunged at him a few times and missed, but finally he mistimed his pass and I grabbed his hand. I used to have a fairly ferocious grip for someone as puny as I was--my dad had these hand grips that I squeezed all the time as a nervous habit. Anyway, I couldn't keep a hold of his hand, but I had a couple of his fingers in a death grip. I pulled as hard as I could and his momentum and my effort swung him in around in a circle before he slipped free and went sailing into the sandpit they used for long jumping.

He rolled around screaming that I had broken his finger. I told him he deserved it.

Now, I doubt that I really broke his finger. On the other hand, he kept complaining that I had for the next couple days, and I swear he came to school the next day with a split on his index finger. But I have no recollection of his parents calling my parents or ever getting in trouble for this incident. How is that possible? If someone broke my kid's finger in a fight, especially in elementary school, you can be damn sure they'd hear from me about it.

So, has society changed that much since the 1970s? Or is my memory of this event just that bad?

The Anonymous Kneecapping

At some point when my dad was an enlisted grunt in the Army at White Sands Missile Range, I recall some rather butch looking woman in fatigues showing me a few ways to defend myself against bigger, tougher opponents. Which, if you discount height, was going to be more or less anybody within a grade of me either way who picked a fight.

I was not to use this arcane knowledge for many years. Then, one fateful lunch recess, we were playing Three Flies Up with a Nerf football. I was damn good at 3 Flies Up. I was taller than most of the other kids, I could jump reasonably well, and I had the aforementioned grip of iron, which is especially helpful when catching spongy Nerf balls.

I sucked as the thrower, however. This annoyed some other players, as games consisted largely of me as the "flier" alternating with whoever caught my three wobbly, off-target throws. So one day this kid keeps shoving me in the back, hard, every time the ball was tossed. That was bad enough, but then he started hitting me with elbows and kicking at my legs. I told him to stop and he told me to stop being a wuss. Finally, I caught a ball and he chopped at my hand to knock it free.

At that point I stepped back and launched a slow, unbalanced kick with the heel of my shit-kicker boot (not a cowboy boot or a more modern hiking shoe, but a big clunky hightop shoe with a waffle sole--we used to call them shitkickers or stomps) that hit him right in the knee.

Had he been expecting this, he would no doubt have caught my foot and dumped me on my butt. Instead, he screamed in pain/shock and crumpled like a marionette whose strings have been cut. Needless to say, I was gratified that my results had matched my intent.

This time, however, I was sent to the principal's office, where Mr. Sheldon stared at me in horror as I explained what had taken place and that yes, I totally meant to kick that kid in the knee. Because the other kid was, frankly, a known dickhead, I was a good student, an often-picked on nerd, and clearly clueless as to the possible ramifications of wrecking a kid's knee, I got off with a stern lecture and a warning.

Mr. Sheldon basically told me that people don't fight that way. Punching and wrestling were the appropriate methods, not that he was approving them for use on school grounds. I filed this under "stupid rules written by people who benefit from them."

Summing Up

I kind of sort of bloodied a kid's nose in high school with an elbow, but I can't count that as a fight because, though it was a retaliation for an "accidental" stick to my groin in floor hockey, it came a couple minutes later and I shamelessly claimed it was unintentional, to the point where I accompanied the kid to the trainer and sucked up to him a bit. Fortunately, he was dim-witted, because he could have beaten the crap out of me.

I'm not listing the fights I lost here unless someone asks me. Most of them are sort of vague except for the one where I actually threw a blur of punches at a kid named Kevin, only to have him bob and weave away from all them until I hit my fist on a brick wall behind him (shredding my knuckles) and he slugged me in the gut. That was embarassing. Also getting clocked by Jimmy Valles, a kid so short he literally had to jump into the air to punch me flush on the chin. Seriously.

But the lesson here is probably that if you start a fight with me, I use elbows and I go for the weak spots with all the inept fury I can muster. And I'll probably lose, but if I happen to win, I might blog about your ignominious defeat 25-30 years later.

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