Friday, January 05, 2007

Mr. Wilson And His Paddle


Mr. Wilson

When my brother Steve, G, and I were sent to the principals office, we were covered head to toe in mud. Not watery slush, like dark chocolate milk, and not composty like we had been rolling around in the garden. Mud mud. The dark, black, smelly and stinky kind that you got on bottom land that had an even mix of dark, sticky clay and rotten silt. Mud mud. The ewww kind of mud. And we thought we were in for The Paddle.
Stucco had written THIS STORY describing his sixth grade principal in very unloving terms, a derivative of this post by Slaghammer (remind me to read his archives one morning with coffee) and a reasonable spur to get me thinking about my own elementary school principal, and what an amazing man he was.

His name was Mr. Wilson. He was in his fifties. He was “a formidable man”, to steal a line from a TV commercial, with an enormous head and extra wide shoulders and a big, genuine barrel chest. He wore cheap suits with an array of bolo ties, and I always imagined he came from a farm of some sort, because he looked good in overalls and a straw hat and brought his tractor to school once a year and rode it around the field in a big oval for days and days.

We had been playing “Smear The Queer”. (I don’t know what kids would call it now, but our very unPC name was a harmless rhyme crime and the point of the game was to “be the queer and get smeared.” as you tried to possess the ball. If you possessed the ball, people tried to smear you. They would tackle you and dog pile on top of you.) Fun fun fun. And during lunch recess there were both fifth and sixth graders all dog piling and tackling and vying to be the queer and we did this in the grassy portion of the field, avoiding one particular area that was the mud mud of Mudville fame, the dark and chewy kind of mud that smelled like sewer sludge and had to be removed with a flat stick if you got it on you.

The bell sounded, and G was running around unsmeared and taunting Steve and I, and this would not do. We chased G around for ten minutes until we finally caught him. When we did, it was all our luck that we were now near the huge gaping mud wound, and Steve and I had the same thought. Put the little crapper into the mud face first. Sure. That was one of the brilliant ideas we were known for. And we picked a squirming G up and deposited him face first into the pile. Only he didn’t get his face in it, because his arms stopped him. So we had to try to pull his arms our from under him, which meant kneeling in this mud. And of course G had a handful of mud in each hand as he grappled for purchase. And of course each of these handfuls needed to be jammed into the faces and eye-sockets of his assailants. Which of course led to an all out mud wrestling match with the two Simpson brothers completely overwhelming and submersing the squirmy little G. And at some point, there were teachers who were there to teach us standing in the field with arms folded blowing whistles and shit to get our attention.

Huh? Uh Oh...

The three of us were sent up to see Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson had a paddle. He was rumored to have used it on many of the boys but rumors were what they were. It had holes drilled in it and tape around the top of it, and was flat like a cricket bat.

In fact, it looked like a miniature cricket bat exactly.

Mr. Wilson had a crotchety, no-nonsense air about him and Andy Rooney eyebrows. He was kind but gruff, and he had two events that happened at the end of every school year that, upon reflection, were amazing gifts of love and dedication. The fifth and sixth graders got to participate in a playground go-cart relay race. You had four pushers and one driver. Mr. Wilson chalked out an enormous course across the blacktop, with cones and hay bales and numbers on our home-made go carts. The families were all invited to come watch. Our VP had a PA and announced the race like a professional horse race announcer and did a marvelous job. Our team did mediocre in the fifth grade, but took the sixth grade event and a trophy Mr. Wilson would pay to have engraved with all our names on it. He had a trophy case where the year’s winners were all displayed, and this made us proud.

He also solely created and sponsored the inter-school Olympics every year. He invited all of the other elementary schools to send over their best jumpers and runners and shot putters and relayers and an entire day near the end of the year was dedicated to track and field. This was when he would bring his tractor to school. We had a track that would get lumpy over time, and once a year, Mr. Wilson would show up in over-alls and a straw hat with a box scraper blade on the back of his John Deere and he would make that 1/4 mile oval track as smooth as a basketball court. He would work that scraper all day for several days in a row, and I remember watching him out the window sitting there looking as proud as anything, straw in his mouth, creating the perfect dirt track. He would spend a whole other day with ropes and measuring devices and lime chalk, and he would line that dirt track out with straight as can be lines and perfect curves at the corners and finish lines and distances and it really was a yearly gift of love he gave to his school.

So when we arrived in his office, the three of us looking like creatures from that famous lagoon, we were not sure what to expect. Our teachers promised paddles and all hell breaking loose. We had disobeyed the two most important lunch break rules. Come in at the bell. And stay away from that mud.

They left us standing in the middle of his office with instructions not to move, not to sit, not to TOUCH anything. We did this all for them, and we shivered some too.
Ten minutes went by and Mr. Wilson finally walked in his office and just stood and stared at us in amazement and furrowed brows. It was as if he was concocting the punishment for us in his mind as he stared at us. The three of us just shivered. We were also wet from head to toe, though mud was drying in spots and threatening to crack off and fall.

He scratched his head. He shook his head. He looked at us and thought and thought...
I felt sure I was going to get the paddle. This was it. Paddle time. The rumors were going to be proven true. Paddle paddle...

Would he pull my muddy pants down first? This is what I thought he was thinking about as he mulled this all over, saying nothing.
Finally, his face changed and was to speak. He leaned toward us a little and with words I can still hear to this day, the exact pitch and tone and volume and deep metallic coloring...

“Get out of here. You stink!”
He walked out of the office without saying another word. I think he said something to the office administrator, because she told us to simply go home.

What a great man, that guy was.

PS-- This is the post I learn how to add live links in paragraphs. Does anyone want to help a poor ham-fisted carpenter?

13 comments:

Hammer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hammer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hammer said...

Ok here goes... highlight the paragraph or text you want made into a link. Click on the little icon that looks like the globe with a paperclip on it.

You will be able to paste your link info in there.

Once you publish the post everything that you highlighted will be a clickable link.

Flat Coke and Flies said...

That principal was so dedicated to that school. I wish teachers/principals had that same attitude now about extra curricular activities.

The mud story was funny. I can just imagine you kiddos covered from head to toe in stinky pig pen stinched mud. YUCKY!

Glad you didn't get that paddles...the ones with the holes hurt worse--not that I would know!

Nancy Dancehall said...

What a stud. Why can't we have more like him?

The newish principal at my old Catholic grade school is like that. Once a year he gets 'kidnapped' and spends the day on the roof of the school, helping to raise money for the eighth grade field trip. When I was there, we went to Great America (now Six Flags) in Gurney. Now they go to _Rome_.

CapricornCringe said...

Being angelic, I never got sent to the principal's office. I'm not even sure we had a principal. Actually, I'm not certain I ever went to school ...

Great story, Scott. :)

slaghammer said...

I’ve heard the term “smear the queer” but in our school we called it nutty ball. The name of the game provides a clue as to which appendage was in the greatest danger of injury. There was a football involved but it was used only as a target designator.

Stucco said...

For us it was "kill the man with the ball" which appealed to us I guess since we all liked the sound of killing, and none of us were men.

Hammer said...

We had a game called no rules basketball. Which was basketball with absolutely no rules except make baskets for your team. It sucked playing it on the blacktop.

That sunds like an awfully cool princi(pal) I wouldn't have soiled my cricket bat on you guys either.

jedimacfan said...

My principals were always like the kind from Calvin and Hobbes. Middle-aged, slightly overweight, and counting the days until retirement.

Scott from Oregon said...

I'd be curious to know the types of "invented" games and the rules that people played when they were kids.

My brother and I played one called "flinch", but we played it with bows and arrows. You stood on opposite knolls, about two hundred feet aay, and then...

Oh, I should just write that one daown...

kario said...

Ahh, smear the queer! A toast to the days of unPC-ness. Even my parents used that term, quite innocently.

And our principal had the same cricket bat/paddle. I wonder what happened to all of the old ones out there. I think at least one of them ought to be interred at the Smithsonian. Thanks for bringing up such fond memories of my childhood.

I don't blame your principal for not paddling you (or wanting you in his office). Ours would have ordered us to go sweep the playground while the mud dried and we became increasingly uncomfortable before he sent us home.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Oh I hated the kind with the hole drilled into them. Ouch!