By Norris Chambers

             It’s obvious that many animals have a “bullying” tendency. The runt in a litter of pigs is almost always picked on and bullied by the stronger siblings. The same tendency surfaces when a nest of eggs is hatched and the mother hen begins scratching a living for the tiny chicks. There are always a few of the babies who are sick, weak or deformed and the stronger chicks bully them by pecking, taking their share of the food and any other mean thing that they are capable of.

Herds of cattle have their bullies and the herd’s weaker animals are bullied.

            Since bullying is natural does not mean that it is a good thing. Even when the old timer was in school there was always someone, maybe a student who was different, weaker or poorly dressed, that certain students felt they should keep teasing, hitting and harassing.

            The year Clifton and I were in the seventh grade a new student, John Cowan, entered the class. He was well dressed, nice looking and seemed very likeable. He wore thick glasses and seemed to be rather shy. He was immediately noticed by an eighth grade student with “bullying tendencies”.  The harassment started by the bully, Preston, calling John “four eyes” and  “mama’s boy” with an occasional push and the warning, “Don’t get too close to decent folks; what you’ve got might be catching!”.  This verbal abuse soon progressed to the stage where Preston was hitting John on the upper arm several times a day, in the morning before classes, at recesses and lunch.

            Clifton and I sympathized with John. We had never cared for Preston. John showed us the bruises on his arm and told us that Preston struck him with his fist several times a day. He also said that he wouldn’t try to fight Preston but he had an idea that might make him wish he hadn’t struck him on the arm. His idea was to tape a metal plate of some sort to his upper arm to act as a shield and perhaps damage his aggressor’s fist some. Clifton thought that was a good idea and suggested that the plate have some sharp objects on the outside. I suggested taping tacks with the points pointing outward. Clifton insisted on short roofing nails with the big heads to fit nicely on the plate. The nails could be held in place nicely by having the points pushed through wide adhesive tape and stuck to the plate. The same tape could hold a pad on the reverse side to help protect John’s arm.

            For two professional do-it-alls like Clifton and me it was a simple matter to browse through the town’s junk yard and select a thin piece of steel plate that we could contour to make a perfect fit on the upper part of John’s left arm. We carefully taped six of the roofing nails to the outside of the metal and applied a cotton pad to the inside. We had to laugh when we thought about Preston starting his school day by socking John on the arm. John grinned a little when he thought about it. We cautioned John to wear a loose fitting shirt and one that he could afford to have adorned with nail holes in the sleeve.

            On Monday morning the school yard began to come to life. Some of he students walked in, carrying books and lunch sacks. Some were brought in autos or buggies. A few arrived on horseback and tied their horses beneath the trees on the north side of the school yard. John lived nearby and he walked to and from school. Clifton and I were watching as he walked into the yard. He was wearing an oversize shirt and apparently was prepared for the bully’s appearance.

            We didn’t have very long to wait. Preston came trotting around the school building and ran over to John’s space near the flag pole. He said something that we couldn’t hear from our position and then hit his victim on the shoulder with his right fist. The lick knocked John down but he jumped to his feet and ran out of the school yard and down the trail that served as a road toward his home.

            Apparently Preston didn’t realize he was injured for several seconds. When blood began to run down his hand and on his pants he realized something was wrong. Clifton and I could see the blood and it was streaming from his finger tips, some on his pants and some on the ground. He ran to the front of the school building, holding his arm up. The blood was running down his arm and soaking his shirt sleeve. A crowd was gathering around him. Clifton and I kept our distance. I never knew if he told them how it happened or not. Soon one of the teachers was inspecting the damage and apparently the decision was to take the victim to a doctor in the closest town. John soon returned wearing one of his usual nice shirts

            Preston returned to school the next day with his hand heavily bandaged and resting in a   sling. John stayed away from him and he apparently did not attempt to locate him. John was not bothered any more that year. For as long as we knew Preston his right hand was marred by many unsightly scars. When school opened the next term John was gone. His dad had apparently been laid off or transferred. Preston was a nicer person after the bloody lesson and was almost likeable.

            Was teaching this lesson fun? Success is usually fun so I guess it was. There are probably better ways of teaching!