I have a mindset or a “Set Mind” that is permanently wired in the “Fix-it” position. When I see something that is broken my immediate thought is, “I need to fix it.”
1961 had been such a good year. I was about to complete my time at K. J. Clark Junior High School in Chickasaw, Alabama. I made good grades, I never got in trouble, and I had a lot of friends. School was fun and I was looking forward to the ninth grade dance in just three days, I had a date. What could go wrong?
Coach Swartz obviously believed that nothing could go wrong either. He sent our class to the playground for an unsupervised game of softball.
I was minding my own business when the initial argument started. Russell wanted the bat and told Charles that he was going to take it. Charles said, “You want it, you can have it,” and swung it as hard as he could right up side of Russell’s head.
Russell wrapped his huge left hand around the bat about where the logo is and snatched it out of Charles’ hands. A look of terror crossed Charles face and the race was on, Charles running for his life and Russell chasing him swinging the bat. Charles being smaller and more agile was able to keep away from Russell all the way to the end of our class period but on the way back into the school building Russell was able to get near enough to tell Charles, “I will see you after school.”
The inevitable fight that was to be right after school occupied our circle of friends’ thoughts and conversations.
Charles Hatchet was a close friend of mine and I knew Russell Smith as a congenial classmate. I had never had any problems with Russell and I didn’t anticipate any today.
15 years old and already the incredible “Mr. Fix-it,” I devised a foolproof plan to keep a friend from being beat up. As it turned out, it was not foolproof. In fact “fool” was the part of the plan that had me thinking I could resolve a dispute with an angry teenager bent on fighting with mere words.
Several of us agreed that we would all be out there after school to confront Russell and that when he saw the “Show of Force” he would agree that he didn’t want to fight all of us. Because, I am Mr. Fix-It, I was elected to deliver the inevitable consequences if he insisted on fighting.
I stepped up and delivered the ultimatum to Russell, “If you want to whip Charles, you are going to have to whip me and the rest of us first.”
About this time, unbeknownst to me, Charles made a mad dash to his motor scooter and quickly raced out of the parking lot and was gone. Then the rest of our allies eased away from me as Russell responded to my challenge with, “That suits me just fine.”
Russell’s first blow closed my left eye, his second closed my right, and I believe his third broke my nose. By this time, I was numb and beginning to get angry myself, just way too late. I am grateful that a few friends grabbed me and pulled me away from Russell because I was not smart enough to give up at that point.
Witnesses told me later how they could see fear on Ole Russell’s face, his eyes darting back and forth, obviously looking for a way to escape. “Yea,” one friend said to me, “Somebody told him that he had killed you. He thought he would soon be hauled away to prison.”
It was a miserable walk home alone and I could not hide the fact from my parents that I had been fighting, or more correctly taking a beating, obviously the loser in any fight.
The only good thing to come out of this incident for me was that I never had another fight all the way through high school, either because I learned how to get along or maybe a few who saw me stand up, at least for a few seconds, to Russell, did I mention he was the biggest kid in school, may have thought, “If he will fight him, he is ready to fight anybody.”
Let me say a few words about Russell. He always seemed pleasant, likable enough, and although we never happened to be buddies there was nothing about him that prevented it.
I don’t blame him for being angry with Charles and he only saw me as an obstacle to him satisfying his anger.
I don’t remember much about Russell or Charles after that day except that, after my parents got involved, the principal made him say to me, “I’m sorry.”
Wow, they showed him.
Did I mention that I had a date for the dance just three days later? Yeah, it was with Johnette Shelley, a very pretty girl from Chickasaw. Her daddy, who I later worked with at the paper mill, was thrilled when I showed up with only one eye partially open.
Recently I reminded Johnette about our one date and she quickly responded, “I didn’t go to the dance that year.”
I don’t blame her for wiping that incident right out of her mind. She certainly didn’t want to have a photo or any other lasting reminder of that disaster. Her story is that she was sick and didn’t go to the dance that year and she is sticking to it.
Lessons learned from that fight:
3-I am a better lover than fighter and I am terrible at that also
4-Become friends with as many people as I possible, especially the toughest guys
5-Never, never again say, “If you whip him, you’re going to have to whip me first”
6-If you are going to fight, just like I used to tell our kids before starting a trip, “I don’t care if you don’t have to go, try.”
Wayne Brady 5/24/2013