Naturally, this calls for some scene setting.
As I have written here previously, my family lived on farms/ranches in Freestone County. My parents came from farm-ranch families in that locale and, after marrying in 1935, began their married life trying to establish themselves as ranchers.
I was actually born in a yellow frame house in that rural area, so my claim to being a “country boy” is legitimate, since those are my roots. I was never a country boy in my mind or with my attitude. We moved to the town of Teague when I was almost eight years old, near the end of my second grade school year.
AT ANY RATE, my first and second grade school years, we lived in the Donie Independent School District, which was consolidated with the Teague schools in the mid-1940s.
Our home was about four miles from Donie. The bus stop was down the road about 200 yards from the log house where we lived in the 1943-44 and 44-45 school years when my public education began. Donie School had grades 1-12 in one large frame schoolhouse. No, it wasn’t red.
Mother saw to it EVERY day that I got dressed and at the bus stop well ahead of the bus. Standard dress consisted strictly of jeans or overalls.
Of course, a six- or seven-year-old boy is going to find something to do once he arrives where he’s supposed to be before a scheduled time. This particular morning, I arrived at the bus stop probably 15-20 minutes ahead of the bus, which was kind of irregular anyway. There’d been rain the night before and there was a puddle of water where I waited for the bus.
NATURALLY, I began to play around the edge of this pretty good-sized puddle, slipped and seated myself right in the middle of it. Well, I couldn’t go to school with wet jeans, so I went tearing back to the house screaming for Mother. She came running out the front door, thinking I’d been hurt or snake-bitten or something worse.
I yelled that I’d fallen in the puddle and needed some clean jeans. Mother informed me that all my jeans and overalls were dirty clothes and that she was due to wash that day. She immediately dragged out a pair of short pants.
Oh, you’d thought she’d hit me with a belt. I screamed and cried that no one wore short pants. I knew it prompted teasing and bullying from the bigger, older boys. And, with grades 1-12, there seemed to be no shortage of older boys. She said I had to wear the shorts and go to school because I wasn’t sick. So, off I went in short pants looking like Little Lord Fauntleroy.
TEASING and taunting began on the bus. That was nothing compared to when I got to school. “Sissy” seemed to ring in my ears all during the wait for the bell to ring to go into the school. “Sissy” bounced off the walls in the hallways. The word was an individual hiss in my ear by neighboring boys in the classroom all day. Lunch was sheer torture and I didn’t want to go to recess in the afternoon but the teacher, who was totally aware of the situation, insisted. I suppose she thought it would “make a man” out of me.
No small amount of pushing and shoving came my way and once I took a boxing stance as if I were going to fight. A smack to my nose took that wind out of that sail.
I suppose the bus riders that afternoon figured I’d had enough and didn’t pester me any more.
I silently vowed never to get in a mud puddle again. And, I checked the jeans-overalls supply daily.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.