The Union Recorder

Columns

March 15, 2014

RICHARDSON: Surviving childhood injuries and bullies was a challenge

MILLEDGEVILLE — I’m amazed that my friends, relatives and yours truly got through the maze of accidents, injuries, disasters and near misses of our youth without prematurely finding a spot in the Rutledge cemetery. Equally astounding was the fact that none of us fell victim to the gauntlet of bullies that dotted the schoolyard and the landscape in general. It was a minefield through which I have no desire to travel again any time soon.

I actually looked up the pre-puberty injury rates for rural children during the 1960s in Rutledge (it’s on the Internet). I discovered that the statistics estimated the accident rate to be 999 accidents per 1,000 children. I don’t know how they came up with that because there weren’t that many kids living in our town. Anyway numbers don’t lie so basically all of us were getting hurt in some fashion every day.

Some of our accidents were the result of simple childhood ignorance and others were self-inflicted wounds that could have easily been avoided had we been more careful. For example a rusty nail through the foot would not have occurred had I used a shred of common sense. Walking barefoot through an old pile of lumber looking for usable planks with which to build a hut was just stupid. The resulting puncture wound in my foot and the subsequent visit to the doctor’s office to get a tetanus shot was a poignant lesson learned albeit somewhat too late.

A fish hook in the ear compliments of a dim witted fishing buddy might have been avoided had I not been so trusting of his casting technique. Unfortunately I was unaware that he would get so excited at seeing a fish break water that he would forget all the rules of proper boat etiquette. His overenthusiastic cast not only sunk a plug in my ear lobe put nearly snatched that tender body part off my head. I could have been maimed for life, but luckily escaped with another painful trip to Doc’s office for a simple hook removal procedure.

Ticks were another matter. Nothing could be done to keep those nasty little creatures off my body during the summer time. It didn’t worry me too much until one of them decided to crawl down on the nether regions of my body and attach itself with the tenacity of a snapping turtle. No amount of yanking and tugging would convince him to turn loose, necessitating a highly embarrassing trip to see Dr. Lewis.

As I said some of these accidents could not be averted while others were the result of poor judgment. As a youth one of my passions was baseball and as I knew from watching TV, all the good players chewed tobacco. Thus I followed suit and my first encounter with a chaw of Bull of the Woods resulted in swallowing a gut full of tobacco juice while attempting to run out a ground ball. The ensuing gastric crisis was quite instructive, as was my mother’s wrath when she found out what had caused my stomach ailment.

We also had to deal with school bullies, and there were some living in Rutledge whose names would go down in history alongside Atilla the Hun and Genghis Khan. One of them was Olga Wombutt (a fitting pseudonym), who was from either Sweden or Australia, I can’t remember which. Olga was, to put it delicately, as big as a sugar barrel, smelly as an old shoe and had the temperament of a rattlesnake. On the positive side she was always the first one picked when we played football at recess. Unfortunately Olga didn’t like me even though I wouldn’t dream of crossing her and had never made any unkind remarks about her husky build or body odor. Even so she constantly bumped me out of the way in the hall, called me ugly names and blocked me to the ground daily in our football games. I survived these humiliations only because I had great patience and compassion for people who could beat me to a pulp. Luckily Olga moved back to Sweden and I heard she became a successful career diplomat.

Later on in life I also suffered under the hands of some high school baseball players. There were times as a freshman when I would ride the bus with them to games and they educated me in new ways. I was made to ride at the back of the bus with guys like Chopper and Mad Dog. Even though they were not as smart as fifth-graders they were well versed in other facets of life. They graciously showed me how to breathe oxygen through the holes in a cup worn by catchers and put lumps on my head by turning their senior rings into battering rams on the top of my skull. There was, however an upside to riding the bus with them. I was able to enhance my vocabulary and knowledge greatly by following their conversations on the finer points of girls and dating.

After all was said and done I survived these rites of passage and now when I encounter tough times am well prepared. A little adversity is nothing new for me and all those accidents, incidents, disasters and bullies have served me well.

Alvin Richardson can be reached at dar8589@bellsouth.net.

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