I’m going to get away from the brave new world of the 21st Century and the animal kingdom for this segment and go back a few million years to my childhood. I explained a little about that farm on the other side of the railroad tracks here: Could you choose to live on the street?, but to pursue the bullying issue I’ll elaborate a bit.
The kids who lived on the other side of those tracks were overwhelmingly tough, poor, and ‘bad’. The families were farm laborers or otherwise unskilled, lots of kids, and Hispanic or considered ‘white trash’. The kids living there went to Lindsey Grammar School, and the RR tracks defined the boundary between Lindsey and the other two grammar schools.
In 1949, when I was starting school my mother went to war with the superintendent of schools and the school board to make certain I went to East Ward, not Lindsey. She succeeded.
Meanwhile, on this side of the tracks and the highway there were a few neighborhoods of kids who belonged in Lindsey, but were doomed by geography to go to school with the regular population at East Ward. One of those was a boy named Floren Villianueva and his siblings. A tough, bad, mean as hell youngster with older brothers meaner than him. He and I entered the first grade in the same class.
Floren and I somehow got crosswise with one another almost the first day of classes during recess. He gave me a blow to the stomach that knocked the wind out of me, doubled me over and might well have been responsible for the hernia of the goozle that’s caused me trouble to this day.
After school each afternoon Floren and his brothers walked home the same route I did, and for a few days they went the extra distance to chase me home, throwing rocks at me when they couldn’t catch me, beating hell out of me when they could. Me finding safety only when I went through the door to the house.
That naturally came to the attention of my mom after a few days. One afternoon she was standing on the porch shaking a rug and saw me running across the tracks chased by Floren and his brothers. They came right into the yard, and she grabbed a broom and chased them off, yelling insults.
When they were gone she turned on me in a fit of rage, grabbed me by the ear and dragged me into the house where she kept her switch. While she was beating hell out of me she was yelling, “If I ever see or hear of you running from a fight again this is nothing compared to what you’ll get.”
When my step-dad got home she told him about it and he just shook his head. “Running from a bunch of God-damned Mexicans!”
I went about in disgrace a few days, the story circulating among the adults with me in hearing distance, all of them dumbfounded by my cowardice.
But I never ran from a fight again. I started carrying a heavy stick with me walking home and only had to whack one of those other kids upside the head with it one time. Afterward Floren and I fought a lot of times during recess and I never whipped him, but I took the beatings rather than the alternatives.
This is too lengthy for me to continue where I’m going with it, but it’s necessary background to get in place before going forward in this segment.