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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Walk Softly and Carry a Louisville Slugger

The guys over at Barely Legal have as of late been posting stories about their childhood. Picking up on their cue and unsure of what else I have to write about this morning, I thought I might do the same . . .

I wrote recently asking the question, “What is a redneck?” Perhaps with this story I may answer that question in some minds as pertains to myself. I hope, however, you aren’t so quick to judge.

In my step-family one never came home crying when a bully was causing problems. In the spirit of the wisdom you might find echoed by Al Pacino in the Godfather, my step-father had two mottos of his own: (i) “You don’t accept unacceptable behavior;” and (ii) “You take care of your business.”

As a young boy at the age of 8 whose primary parenting had come from a softer, gentler, typical mother, it was a definite shock to the system when I was first confronted with my step-father’s outlook. When the kids down the street decided it would be fun to bully the new guy, my reaction was to escape home to the care and comfort of my mother—dirt-smeared, tear-stained cheeks and all.

But my step-father stood in the way. And my mother never got near me with a tissue. Instead, I was marched out of the house and he patted me on the back while pointing down the street. “There is your problem. Not here. If you bring it home now, you’ll be bringing it home all of your life. Take care of your business.”

Still sniffling and scared as hell, I marched down to my fate under the gaze of my stepfather to confront these three tyrants—who would later become my friends.

I lost that fight. What I gained has meant so much more over the years.

At the age of 11-12, a bully moved in two doors up from me. He was 15-16 and twice my size and from the moment we met there was no love lost between us. From what I remember of him, his favorite activity must have been to stand at the imaginary line that separated “my yard” from everything else and he would constantly taunt me. Constantly.

As I recall, this went on for two or three months after it began—a length of time for which I should be faulted as I took no action to stop it sooner. I was simply afraid of his size. That, however, brings up another of my stepfather’s sayings: “Never bring a knife to a gunfight.”

So one Friday evening while my parents were out and our baby-sitter stood watching through the window, he again took up his hobby of taunting me and stood just out of “my yard” yelling. Finally becoming fed-up, I picked up my Louisville Slugger and walked up to him, getting in his face. I warned him what would happen if he did not leave. He did not listen.

With one swing I planted it upside his head and planted him face-first in the dirt. He jumped up almost immediately and, with tears welling up in his eyes, he began sprinting back to the safety of his yard. I followed behind until my brother, our best-friend and the babysitter could all together manage to stop me and pull the bat from my grip.

He never gave me a problem again.

Now I no longer encourage, condone nor engage in violence myself unless it is necessary to defend a life. As a teenager I became more of a “peacenik.” Perhaps it was easier for me given my size . . . after only a couple of fights at a young age, no one much challenged me.

I love what Truman once counseled: “Walk softly and carry a big stick.”

Yet without the element of violence, what my stepfather taught me can still be relevant. I still believe that I do not have to accept unacceptable behavior. I also believe it is my responsibility to take care of my own business. And, while no one is perfect, I do try to apply these principles to every area of my life.

Its just that now, when the Bully appears, I have to find a legal way to resolve the situation. I gave up my Louisville Slugger and have traded it for knowledge of the law.

This appears, thus far, to be quite a bit more powerful.


Blogger Elle Woods said...

Your step dad sounds like my dad. When I was 4 or so there were 2 boys that lived by us that used to pick on me a lot. One day I came home crying. My dad, sick of me being picked on decided I needed to take action. He marched me outside and told me to punch them in the face. I hit one of them (Derrick) right in the nose and the other one (Eric-no they weren't brother they just happened to have rhyming names) went running.

To get the full effect uou have to picture me doing this in some sort of pink sundress (purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue) with hair so blonde it was white.

6/22/2005 4:22 PM  
Blogger Moonlighting in Misery said...

Blonde-- That is an awesome story! Ha ha . . .

6/22/2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger R said...

Wonderful, wonderful story.

6/23/2005 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I can only imagine the lesson ones dad is trying to teach. I believe you have to live through somethings and in return learn a lesson of which may seem valuable at the time. I do however think that as we get older we learn wiser more mature ways to cope with such things, and that is what happened in this situation. Something so wrong and negative made one figure out a way to apply it to his life now and to do it in a positive way.

6/23/2005 11:06 AM  

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