Last Updated December 5, 1997
However, I recall that we started out on the wrong foot.
You see, when I entered the first grade during the 1959-1960 school year, I did so at the Elbow Elementary branch of Forsan ISD. Elbow was (and still is) a school even smaller than the one in Forsan. Both are part of Forsan ISD, but separate campuses. Elementary students in the district had the choice of attending classes at either the Elbow or Forsan campus. For the first grade I chose Elbow.
After the first grade I chose to attend the next grade at the Forsan campus. Probably because I had several older siblings who were attending class at the Forsan site. When I switched, I met Ricky.
In later school years, Ricky would become a great athlete. If you browse through our online High School Yearbook you'll see Ricky involved in just about every sport. Even in elementary he was what would be considered a "big kid".
To this day, I do not know why Ricky and I argued. It could have been about anything kids argued about back then. Whatever we argued about it reached a point of becoming physical, but Ricky didn't punch me. Instead, he pinned me to the floor and SAT ON ME!
I remember thrashing vainly to get Ricky off my chest, but he just sat there until I agreed to "knock it off" and he let me up and we resolved our differences.
Over the years I have thought about that incident and learned to admire Ricky. He could have easily have "punched out" his annoying opponent (I was MUCH skinnier in those days), but chose to restrain me instead.
I also wonder if Ricky thought about that incident in later years. If he were alive today I'm sure we could laugh about it together at one of our class reunions.
A while back I watched a news program about the pros and cons of corporal punishment in public schools. I thought back to my school days and I could recall only two instances where I personally experienced corporal punishment. They both took place while still in elementary school at the Elbow campus of Forsan ISD.
The first instance involved a teacher hitting the palms of my hand with a ruler. However, I don't remember what it was I did to deserve the punishment - but I'm sure I never did it again!
The second memory is a bit more vivid. The elementary school was located in the town of Elbow. Elbow consisted of the school, a few homes for the teachers, and a combination gas station and grocery store (an early convenience store).
One day another student (I've tried, but I can't recall his name) and I decided to sneak across the street to the store. The tiny store was directly across from the school and we dashed over furtively. I recall I bought a lemon and a packet of koolaid (I liked to sprinkle the powdered koolaid on pieces of lemon). When we returned to the school grounds, the principal was waiting for us.
Within minutes, my companion in crime and I were sitting in the principal's office. Hanging on the wall, like Medieval instruments of torture, were "the paddles". I believe there were at least three - small, medium, and an extremely long one with holes drilled in it (the drill holes reduced friction and allowed the board to swing more quickly).
The concept behind the multiple paddles was simple. The first time in the principal's office a student was introduced to the small paddle. The second time, the medium, and so on.
That particular day I probably received three whacks with the small paddle along with a stern lecture. In retelling over the years, the number of whacks probable doubled, perhaps tripled.
Whatever the actual number, it was very effective at the time, because I never was introduced to the medium paddle.
We were not perfectly behaved all the time at Forsan High School. If he were alive today, I'm sure a particular bus driver could provide testimony.
We had a bus driver who practically begged to be tortured. He was gruff. Never seemed to crack a smile. To make matters worse, he wore a funny hat. A wide brimmed straw hat. He didn't wear the hat while driving the bus. He kept it on the heater control panel to his left.
I think I was a freshman when this story unfolded. When the driver climbed aboard the bus to drive us home that day, there was a surprise waiting for him in his seat (no, it was not the snake - that comes later). Someone had wedged a tree limb in between the seat and the ceiling. It looked like it was growing from the seat.
After his surprise wore off, he demanded to know who had done the deed. No one spoke up, of course and he proceeded to yank the limb from the seat. It was wedged in really tight and he litarally had to rip it to shreds to get it off the bus.
Suffice to say, the driver was not in the best of moods when the bus rolled out of the parking lot for our twenty mile journey home. But his troubles had just begun.
As usual, the driver had placed his straw hat on the panel at his left. A student in the front seat slyly snatched the hat and passed it to the back of the bus where a senior placed it on his head and waited for the driver to notice it.
It wasn't long until the driver noticed and demanded that the hat be returned immediately. This is where the snake comes into the picture.
You see, this particular day was Science Fair Day at school. Students had brought all sorts of weird stuff to school. One student had brought a snake. It was green and barely larger than an eartworm. The student cradled in a mason jar on his lap in the seat in front of the senior with the hat.
The senior took the hat from his head. He then took the snake from the jar an placed it inside the hat before passing it forward. Each person passing the hat to the seat in front glanced down at the hat and whispered to their seatmates. By the time the hat reached the driver, everyone on the bus knew about the snake in the hat.
When the hat reached the driver, he did the unexpected. He placed the hat on his head rather than on the heater panel and continued on down the highway, scowling.
The bus was the quietest it had ever been. All eyes were focused on the driver's hat. He must have sensed something was odd because he threw frequent glances in the rearview mirror.
And then it happened. The tiny snake slipped out from the rim of the hat and curled around the driver's ear. And all Hell broke loose.
The bus swerved into the oncoming lane (thank God there were no other vehicles) and onto the shoulder several times before coming to a halt. The driver leaped out the door screaming. He was a basket case. We found out later he had a phobia about snakes.
To wrap up the story, the science project kid returned the snake to the jar and a busload of shaken students were returned to the school yard for a dressing down by the principal.