When I was in the? second grade I was an ornery little shit. Okay, I’m still an ornery shit. I’ve just gotten bigger. Anyway, a certain event taught me a valuable lesson when I was in the? second grade and it started with a sand pit and three? third graders.

On the far side of the playground of my elementary school was a large sand pit. I’m not really sure why it was there as the teachers always told us to stay out of it. Of course no one listened but I digress. One day, there were three? third graders playing in the pit. They had drawn a line in the sand and were seeing who could jump the farthest past it. Very simple game but it looked like a great deal of fun. I asked if I could play and they adamantly refused. Being the little shit that I was, I said “Fine!” and sauntered through the sand pit, making sure to scrub out their line as I did so. No big deal but obviously meant to antagonize. Well, it worked. I made it about 100? feet away when I was jumped from behind and forced to the ground. The fat kid sat on top of me and started pummeling away while the two smaller boys got in pokes and prods however the could. Well, being the fight to kill type of person, the first chance I got I sank my teeth into one of the little fuck’s hands and boy did he start howling. He startled the fat kid so much that Fatboy? stood up just enough for me to slam my leg between his legs. It didn’t hit very hard but it was hard enough and he fell on his side out of commission for the rest of the rumble. I quickly stood up and punched the only one left standing right as a teacher started frantically blowing her whistle. We all scattered as she came running over. Unfortunately, she recognized me.

As a second grader, having the principal come down to visit you outside your class is a humbling thing. Actually, I was just afraid my mother would find out. Anyway, the first thing he did was admonish me about biting. Evidently the teacher had seen the bite. Then he asked who the boys I’d been fighting with were and I told him. He went and got them out of class as well and had a chat with us all about the incident. That was pretty much the end of it as far as school was concerned. The only thing I felt horrendously wronged about was that the third grades claimed I destroyed something they’d been building in the sand box and the principal wouldn’t let me counter it. I was furious!

So, the valuable lesson. When I got home from school that day my father was outside mowing the lawn. As I approached he shut off the mower and said “Mike, I don’t want you fighting at school no more! You hear me?” I nodded meekly and headed into the house. What he said sunk in on a subconscious level and I didn’t recognize it for what it was til years later. Do you see the important part of that statement? “Mike, I don’t want you fighting at school no more!” No? How about “Mike, I don’t want you fighting at school no more!” See it now? He wasn’t telling me not to fight. He wasn’t angry at me for that at all. It was because I did it at school that he was mad. What’s even worse is that just as I was about to go in the house, he shouted after me “Did you win?” My answering “Yes!” got me a grin and “That’s my boy!”

Did I stop fighting in school? More or less. Sometimes you just can’t help it but mostly I kept it out of school. The best part of the whole thing is that Dad never told Mom. It ended with him. I think he understood that sometimes you have to defend yourself. Besides, Mom would have just made a big deal out of nothing. After all, it was just schoolyard brawl.

What? Oh right, the valuable lesson. It’s okay to fight. Just don’t get caught.