This is the type of winter we had when I was growing up: snow after snow after snow. Oh, how I enjoyed making a snowman, eating snow cream, and taking turns riding Randy’s and Larry’s sled. I have fond memories of my childhood but I don’t have many of them and the ones I have aren’t detailed. I blame that on Butch Harless.
I was in the second grade at Flatwoods School. Flatwoods was actually two schools in separate buildings. The older building was the elementary school (grades 1 – 7) and the newer building was the high school (grades 8 – 12). There was no kindergarten back in the olden days and I had only heard of “junior high” in books. The driveway for buses and cars made a loop between the two buildings. I once got hit by a car as I was coming back from buying ice cream in the high school building at recess. That doesn’t have anything to do with my poor memory – just my poor judgment.
Elementary and high school shared the same principal, Mr. Samuel Chester “S.C.” Hobbs, and his office was in the high school building. There were different rules for the elementary students than for the high school kids. For example, the boys in high school were allowed to carry pocket knives and they could smoke at the gate out back. This helps explain my confusion when the song “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” became popular. “Everybody knows that smokin’ ain’t allowed in school” so why didn’t they just go to the gate?
Butch Harless and his buddy, Mack, had failed a few grades. They had been “held back,” as it is called nowadays. They were the only students I knew who drove to school . . . in the seventh grade. Mack was taller than the teachers so they had long since stopped trying to discipline him. Paddling was out of the question for either of them. When they got in trouble for smoking at the gate with the high school boys or for playing mumbly peg, they were sent to the principal’s office. It was common for one or both of them to be expelled for three days.
It’s not surprising then that the rule against running in the halls was largely ignored by Butch and Mack. During recess on that fateful day, I had gone to Mrs. Bertha Taylor’s room. The bell rang and I headed out the door to get back to my own room. Just as I stepped into the hallway, Butch came running in from the outside where the usual gang had been playing ball. He knocked me down and the back of my head hit the tile-covered concrete floor.
Have you ever seen or heard something that reminded you of a dream you had the night before but you can only remember bits and pieces of the dream? That’s the way it is with my memory of this event. My BFF, Lucy, walked me to our classroom as the tears streamed down my face. (Of course, we weren’t called BFFs back then but we had made a pinky promise to be friends for life.) I started going blind so someone got my cousin, Bunny, since I have no brothers or sisters, to come help me. While I was sitting in the classroom, the other kids were testing me with “How many fingers am I holding up?” or “What kind of book is this?” to find out if I really couldn’t see them.
Someone called my aunt Emma and told her what had happened. We didn’t have a phone at our house so I assume either Emma or J.C. went down to tell Mom and Dad. Meanwhile, I got sick at my stomach so Bunny had to lead me to the girls’ restroom. I didn’t make it in time. I wonder how many sick school kids our janitor, Mr. J.B. Horton, had to clean up after. I still recall the smell of that red compound he would push up and down the halls with his dust broom.
When Mom and Dad got to the school, they took me to the hospital at Pennington Gap. My sight slowly began to return. They did a skull X-ray at the hospital but, back then, the results weren’t instant like they are now. Since I seemed to be doing better, they sent me home. Three days later, we got the report that there was a hairline fracture in my skull. There you have it – dain bramage.
The story you have just read is true. Some of the names were changed to protect the innocent. More accurately, they were changed to protect ME in case “Butch” or “Mack” ever gets wind of this.