Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
If they say, Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason; …
my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths”
(Prov 1:10-11, 15)

In the third and fourth grades, I attended Brent Elementary School[1] which required that we meet a school bus every morning, but on other occasions I walked there or rode my bicycle. Generally, I crossed Good Luck Road, walked to Jodie Street, followed Jodie all the way to the Carrollton Parkway. Going right on Carrollton Parkway, I could cut across Brier Ditch by going up the hill to Charles Carroll Junior High School and down the other side which had a sidewalk. But that route was dangerous if the usual bullies were hanging around when it was safer to go left on Carrollton Parkway cutting over to Lamont Drive. Turning right on Lamont Drive took you all the way to the school, but it was a much longer walk and more difficult because of the hills.

The bully problem around Charles Carroll stemmed from the fact that the school sat on a hill surrounded on one side by Brier Ditch and on the other side by a deep creek. For a long time, the only way across the creek on our side was to cross on a fallen tree. So if someone picked a fight with you, they would simply say in front of all your friends: “I will meet you at the creek.” If you did want to fight or be pushed into the creek, it was a long walk home down Lamont Drive. Everyone was happier when they later built a reinforced steel bridge across the creek.

In third grade, I had a friend named Michael who I used to enjoy working with in class. He and I built the only working telegraphs in our class that year, but the following year he started hanging around with a gang that enjoyed picking fights on the playground during recess. One day in recess, he threw sand in my face and grabbed the kick ball that I had been playing with. When I cleaned the sand out of my eyes and went to retrieve my ball, a gang fight broke out. Michael began throwing punches while his gang harassed me. I threw the gang off my back and fought back with Michael until the teachers broke up the fight. They sent us to the aid station where the nurse cleaned up all of Michael’s blood; they then sent us to the principal’s office where our parents were called and we were sent home.

Michael never reformed, but he always kept a nervous eye on me. Apparently, most of his victims did not fight back. We shared a shop class later in eighth grade where he spent the hour sharpening wooden knives on the sander to threaten people with—including the teacher. By the time we reached high school, Michael disappeared into the juvenile detection system never to return.



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