If it happened to you, would you tell your classmates, decades after the fact, how a teacher made you wet your pants in the sixth grade?
My 40-year class reunion was last weekend. For some reason, I was asked to say a few words. Since I had nothing profound or prophetic to say, I decided to tell a few tales from our school years.
My classmates seemed to enjoy them, so I figured why not share them with a larger audience.
In the sixth grade my classmates and I attended school in Marshall, a little village six or seven miles east of Hillsboro. In those days we changed classrooms after each period. One of teachers there was Mary Hiestand, an old-school sort that didn’t put up with any nonsense.
One day as we were changing classes it had been raining and there were lots of puddles around. As we walking to the next class, one of my classmates stomped in big puddle in a playful effort to get me wet. He succeeded. So I went chasing after him to pay him back. About the time I caught up with him and raised my foot to stomp in a puddle, someone I had not seen up to the point grabbed me from behind and started furiously shaking me back and forth.
She caught me by surprise and scared me so much that I literally wet my pants. Now, there was not a puddle or anything running down my leg. But, let’s just say that for a couple periods I carried my books very strategically.
In the winter of my freshman year I was starting to pay more attention to girls. For a while there was this one particular girl that everyone kept saying I should ask to “go with me.” One Saturday night we were at a basketball game in the old East Clinton gym in New Vienna. The girl was setting next me, and everyone kept nudging me to ask her. So, after fretting over it a bit, I finally summoned the courage to ask her.
When I asked, she turned toward me, looked a bit confused, and very plainly said, “Where?” Ummmm, was about the only reply I could manage.
Not long after that Valentine’s Day was nearing. So, I went out and bought her box of chocolates in a heart-shaped box with a big bow and all that. Valentine’s Day came and went, and I still had not found the courage to give her the box. So, after a few days, I said what the heck — and ate the chocolates.
My school years, especially high school, came with about every kind of emotion imaginable, and a large helping orneriness, at least as far as I was concerned. Somehow, though, I managed to get through almost all of it without getting in much trouble, and never having my backside greeted by a paddle — until the last few weeks of my senior year.
One gorgeous spring afternoon that year I was headed back to school from lunch with four buddies. The weather was so enticing that it seemed like a shame to go back to school. So went didn’t.
We were cruising the countryside in my 1957 Volkswagen when a big bumblebee flew in my window. The bee was flying around my legs — where the clutch, brake and gas pedal were located — and I was desperately trying to get rid of it. My buddies told me to ignore it, but that was not happening. So I stopped to get it out.
About that time a sheriff’s cruiser was rolling past a nearby intersection and the deputy must have wondered why we were stopped. He turned and headed our direction. As he drew near we concocted a quick fabrication.
“Where are you boys going?” the deputy asked.
“To Wilmington to get tuxes for the prom,” we responded.
“Well, do you know you’re about 10 miles out of Greenfield? he replied.
After a brief and seemingly pleasant conversation he sent us on our way.
It was nearing the time for school to be out by then, so we headed that way. When we arrived at the school my buddies went their separate ways, but I had track practice. So, I grabbed my duffel bag, slipped in the school and into a restroom, changed into my track gear, and headed toward practice.
Just before I made it to the track one of teammates said, “Jeff, coach Tate wants to see you right now!”
I went and found coach Tate. About the only words he had for me were that Mr. John Burton, the high school principal, wanted to see me in his office right away.
I was beginning to believe that skipping school might not have been such a good idea.
When I arrived in Mr. Burton’s office we exchanged pleasantries for a couple minutes. Then he said, “Jeff, you’ve been doing pretty good in track this year, haven’t you?”
“Um, yes,” I said.
“It sure would be a shame if you didn’t get to run in that league track meet Saturday, wouldn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes,” I gulped.
“Well,” he said,” I know five boys that were at school this morning and were not at school this afternoon. One of them was you. If you give me the other four names, I’ll let you run in that track meet Saturday.”
All kinds of thoughts suddenly flooded my brain. But in the end, I figured he already knew the other names, and I wanted to run in that track meet really bad. So I gave him the other names.
Mr. Burton hinted that it was too late in the school year for detention, and that some other type of punishment would likely be coming the next morning. So while I was not shocked when me and my four buddies were called to the principal’s office after morning announcements the next day, I assume they were. Because I had not warned them.
We each got two swats that day. For me, they were the only ones of my school days.
But I never felt them much. Because, thanks to the warning, I wore four pairs of underwear to school that day.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette.He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.