I get a lot of mileage out of phrases like “karate-chopping” badguys and all this tough-guy nonsense.  In truth, I haven’t actually put my hands on anyone in anger since I was 13 years old (about a month before my 14th birthday).

There may have been a couple little scrapes in Elementary School before that, but never amounted to much of anything (although they seemed like a big deal at the time). I can think of one or two that took place while I was in the 6th Grade that had a bit more of an effect on me . . .

[ CUE FLASHBACK ]

*     *     *

The first of these two fisticuffs-memories took place one cold, gray winter day during my 6th Grade year, when I got myself into a tangle with a [heretofore] gentle, much taller/larger kid named Matt H., a toe-headed musical kid who–we thought–would never hurt a fly.  Well, this day, he was under the distinct impression that I was teasing him during lunch.  The truth is, I was sitting with a couple of classmates who were befriending me suddenly (I barely knew them), and they really were antagonizing him.  Of course I did nothing to stop it, and mostly just observed without comment and laughed nervously as they flipped rubber bands at the back of poor Matt’s neck.  When he turned, he saw me, and that was all the evidence he needed.

We all went out to recess and this gentle giant tracked me down, marched right over and bloodied my nose with quite a salvo, his giant fists raining down in an inescapable, pummeling-fury, the likes of which I had never seen–nor would I to this day.  I tried to fight back, but didn’t land a single blow.

The “fight” (the kind of fight a nail might put up against a hammer) didn’t last long.  I ended up in the office, waiting for my mom to come pick me up from school.  I left that day with what would form into a bit of a black eye, some scrunched up toilet paper in my nostril to stop the bleeding, and a valuable lesson learned . . .

1.  Don’t associate with stupid people.

2.  Don’t go to stupid places.

3.  Don’t do stupid things.

Abiding by these three simple rules will keep you out of most of the avoidable problems in the world.  Of course, not ALL problems are entirely avoidable . . .

*     *     *

Another scrape I got into during my 6th Grade year involved a bully, Troy B., who was quickly becoming my Arch Enemy.

Troy [also] towered over me in height, with shaggy, red, unkempt hair, and spoke with a mysterious southern accent (even though he had grown up here in Utah).  He started picking little fights with me in 4th Grade.  They usually didn’t amount to much more than an angry wrestling match at recess.  He saw me as his enemy for reasons I’m still not sure I understand, but I obliged. He would repeatedly start these silly little fights where I would somehow best him and he would run off, only to come back again another day.

One such day during recess, Troy ran around the corner without warning, put me in a headlock, and told me it was “pay-back time.”  Looking straight down at his feet, from within his headlock, I responded by flinging a wild punch up toward where I estimated his face to be.  It connected, he let me go, and ran off.

Later, that same day at recess, he gathered all the rest of his bully-friends and allies, along with some other kids that were probably just going along to watch the show, or even to stay in the bullies’ good graces.  I saw this menacing bunch gathering around me and I knew I was in trouble.  In no time at all, I was surrounded.  Someone pushed me down from behind, and two of his friends seized me by either arm, stood me up, and held me with my arms outstretched, vulnerable to whatever punishment Troy intended to inflict upon me.  The shouting hoards urged Troy to come give me what I had coming.

He approached, cocked his fist back for an impossibly-long wind up before sending hiscoup de grâce . . .

TOO LATE!  Just before he swung, I jumped up (held by the arms by my captors) and kicked fiercely, both my feet impacting his chest simultaneously and knocking him backward.

My captors shouted in anger, roughing me up a bit as I struggled to break free of their grasp.  They held me tighter and insisted I not do that again.  They encouraged Troy to get back up and let me have it. Someone grabbed my ankles from below.  He approached, and gave me some utterly forgettable line–likely about “pay-back time” again–and wound up for a second attempt . . .

This time he took a swing, I dodged as best I could, getting my face out of the way, then ZONK!  I kicked free of the ankle-grabber and delivered the same double-kicky-chest attack with the unwitting aid of the villains that held me up by restraining my arms.

The recess bell rang.  My captors released me with a warning I would soon forget to heed.  The crowd of angry 11-12 year-olds dissipated and walked back toward the school.  I lingered a bit, following my enemies inside from a short distance behind, a little angry, and a little hurt as I realized I was alone and I didn’t know where my friends were. Still, I held my little head high, knowing my dad and Indiana Jones would both be proud of me.

I wouldn’t face Troy in battle again for two years . . .