My StoryWorth question #8 of 50 was, “Have you ever gotten into a fight?” The short answer to the question is yes. The true short story below shares some “interesting” moments from my early childhood years and the life lesson I learned while living in a small house on Charleston Road.
FIGHT ON CHARLESTON ROAD
When I was four years old, I remember us moving from an apartment building on Ellis Avenue to a small house located outside the city limits on the Charleston Road (Hwy 21). It was a rural location. The house didn’t have any insulation in the floors, walls, or attic, so you could hear the wind howl through cracks in the walls and floor during those cold winter months. I remember being very cold during the winter and brutally hot during the summer months.
There was a big field with peach trees located behind the house with a fence on all sides of the orchard. I climbed over the fence many times to find small bottles buried in the ground. I’d bring them back to my yard and play with them. Why, I don’t really know. I guess it gave me something to do with my time. The bottles were nothing special, but maybe it was because of the colors—blue, brown, green, and clear bottles. I have no clue what they once contained or how old they were. I just remember seeing many of them scattered around. I would place them on top of the fence posts and throw rocks at them. I even managed to hit them often!
In retrospect, this may be a time in life when I started developing my ability to throw objects. This activity would later translate into my incredible accuracy throwing rocks, baseballs, or whatever. I‘ve never thought about it until I started writing this article. Day after day, I would throw rocks and hit the tiny bottles from a great distance. Unfortunately, the distance to a four year old may not have been “great” after all. For the moment, I will assume it was less than ten feet. At any rate, I learned how to hit them with consistency. I could look at a spot and hit it with whatever I threw. I spent many hours perfecting my ability and became very good at it.
Another thing I did constantly was throw rocks up into the air and hit them with a stick—any stick worked for me. I hit rocks for hours at a time. I don’t know how many sticks I destroyed by hitting rocks with them, but if I had a penny for every rock I hit, I would be a wealthy man today. It was a good thing to do when I was playing alone. Again, this probably helped me develop the skills necessary to hit baseballs a few years later by improving my hand-eye coordination. (Refer to my first article in this series, “ONE ROCK TOO MANY.”
A boy who was my age or slightly older lived two houses down from me. I only knew him as H.L. and called him by that name. To this day, I do not know what the H.L. stood for. I guess it’s one of those great mysteries in life. We played together often doing the typical things like cowboys and Indians and hide-n-seek.
Trust me, I am not a violent person and have always tried to be fair to people, even to this day. I vividly remember my experience at three years old with Lang, but that’s another fighting story. However, that’s not to say I didn’t have my moments of confrontation with others.
One such instance happened when HL and I were at his house playing something, but I can’t remember what it was. Anyway, we managed to get into a fight about something. Trust me when I tell you, I didn’t start it. My daddy always told me he had better never catch me starting a fight with anyone and I remained true to his words. All I remember is that HL jumped on me and started punching me. He had me down on the ground and then grabbed a piece of steel pipe. As he raised his arm to hit me, I swung my fist with all my might and hit him in his mouth. There were several more blows thrown, which finally knocked him off me, and his lip started bleeding a bunch. He started crying and ran into his house. I was scared to death and ran home. I didn’t know what else to do or what was going to happen next.
Well, Daddy came home from work, and as was typical, asked me what I had been doing that day. Being more honest than George Washington and the cherry tree, I told him about my fight with HL.
His first question was, “who started the fight?” Again, I did not lie and told him that HL started it, but I didn’t know why. Daddy, all 6 feet 4 inches of him, stood tall in front of me, and I feared what my punishment was going to be. To my surprise, he reached out his huge hand, ruffled my hair, and told me he understood that I had to defend myself. He told me he was proud of me for ending the fight and not starting it.
However, he then told me I had to go back to HL’s house and apologize to him. I was now in total disbelief. Why did I have to go apologize to HL for what he had done to me? Daddy told me that even though HL had attacked me, I would be a bigger man if I went to tell him I was sorry for hitting him. He further said that HL was my friend and I would be playing with him in the future. I was glad my punishment was as light as it was. My daddy knew it was going to be hard enough for me to go back to HL’s house, and that was enough punishment.
Well, I guess I slowly meandered down to HL’s house, making sure I took the long route. I didn’t want to arrive at his house too soon and felt it would be better for things to cool down a bit longer. I finally summoned enough courage to knock on their front door. In a few moments, which felt like days, HL’s mother opened the door. I was scared but managed to ask her if I could talk to HL. She asked if I was the boy who had hit HL.
I didn’t know what she was planning to do to me, but my heart was racing a hundred miles an hour. I managed to say, “Yes, ma’am, and I’ve come to apologize to HL. She just smiled and called HL to the door. Boy, oh boy, was I glad she didn’t say anything else to me while we waited for HL.
In what seemed liked hours, HL finally came out on the porch holding a wet rag on his lip. I said, “I, I, I’m sorry for hitting you.”
He replied, “That’s OK,” and that’s about all he said. I guess he forgave me because we continued playing together, but not quite as much after that day. I’m not sure, but I bet his mother was standing where she could hear what we were saying to each other.
Daddy must have known what he was talking about because I did feel better about the whole thing after apologizing, but I still wonder to this day, why HL didn’t apologize to me. I guess that’s another one of life’s little secrets. I was the better man that summer day. I don’t know what would have happened between HL and me if I had not apologized.
Remember the wise words Dad said to me, “Son, don’t you ever start a fight, but don’t you ever walk away from one. When someone else starts one with you—stand your ground—be brave!”
+++++++ YOUR THOUGHTS +++++++
What would you do if someone jumped on you and then tried to hit your head with a piece of pipe?
Would you ever start a fight?
Would you apologize on your own, or wait until one of your parents told you to do so—as I did?
Do you think my dad punished me properly by making me apologize to the boy who tried to hit me? What was the life-lesson learned by this fighting experience?
Tom Tatum – Author
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