I had reason recently to reflect on the bullies in my life. Growing up in the First Ward of Binghamton, NY, it was what I suppose one would call a lower-middle-class life, with some doing well enough to get by, but others living a more hardscrabble existence.
My school, Daniel S. Dickinson, which I loved – and which I wrote about in 2012 – was a K-9 school that, I learned much later, didn’t always get the most current resources. For instance, we had an ancient music book that still had Old Black Joe in it, which prompted an incident I described WAY back in 2006.
Some of the older kids bullied the younger kids. One time, some guys from fifth or sixth grade, none of whom I knew specifically, thought it would be fun to get a couple of little kids to box. They picked me to fight with this kid named Danny Dervey (or Durvey) who was in my sister’s class three semesters behind me. We were to mix it up so it looked real, or they were going to beat the crap out of us.
Somehow or other, I managed to hit poor Danny in the nose, and it drew blood. The bullies were ecstatic, but I was mortified. I held no malice towards the kid. Far as I know, he never held a grudge against me. And I didn’t get in trouble for this, either from the school or my parents.
I have some vague recollection of being in fifth or sixth grade and getting roughed up, but I wasn’t hurt much, and have all but forgotten it.
The only time I ever willingly got into a fight – I thought I wrote about this, but cannot find it – was in fifth grade. This annoying kid named Robert, who was the only other black kid in my class, decided to attack my friend David Doyle, who was the shortest kid of us all; he was not to be confused with David Tita, who was the tallest. Anyway, David Doyle and I were Cub Scouts together, before I quit after a year. An attack on him was like an attack on me, rather like those alliances before World War I.
Robert and I, and there may have been others involved, started mixing it up right in front of the school. But it did not last long; the assistant principal, and junior high school English teacher, Mr. Frenchko, yelled out an upper-floor window, and we scattered.
Robert was academically challenged. He flunked so often, he was eventually in sister Leslie’s class. Later, he somehow managed to pull off a perfect robbery, and only was caught when he told some out-of-town cops so that he might get a ride back home; he went to prison instead.
Then there was the time I was attacked when I was 16, which is a LONG story.
Point is, I’ve somehow managed to avoid the fisticuffs rather well, so far.
(And yes, this is one of those posts that I wrote so I can write about something else.)