Growing up in rural Carolina in the 1970s meant a taste of ‘paddle medicine’ from the teacher for misbehaviour.
Somehow my friend Chad and I had survived six years without this medicine; in other words, we had never been paddled through the sixth grade. That was a miracle of sorts, since every boy in the class had received such ‘medicine’ except us. As you might expect, we received the usual ‘goody-two-shoes’ remarks from classmates.
Chad and I had heard enough of those remarks. We decided to do something about it. On the bus one morning riding to school, Chad and I agreed to misbehave enough to get a paddling from the new seventh grade teacher.
Being early in the school year, she had not paddled anyone. We had seen her paddle in the desk drawer and it didn’t seem too bad, especially compared to others we had seen. What happened that morning is still unbelievable. We went from the scaredy-cat position to the big man in the classroom in a few minutes of ‘medicine action’.
Ms Harris had warned the class to stop talking. It seems that everyone was unusually talkative that day and Ms Harris was not in the best of moods. That combination would surely lead us into the hall to receive our paddling, and it sure did – but I did not expect the events that day.
With that final warning, Chad and I looked at each other and winked. We knew we were close to reaching Ms Harris’s breaking (or should I say paddling) point. Sure enough, we talked one time too many. Ms Harris told Chad and myself to ‘step out into the hall and wait’.
We strutted out of the class like proud peacocks. We would finally join the ranks of the paddled and stop all those ‘sissy’ comments from classmates.
As we waited in the hall (which seemed a few minutes short of eternity), we wondered what it was going to be like. We flipped a penny to see who would be first – Chad lost. That would give me a time to mentally prepare for the licks by watching Chad get his first. Everything was going according to plan.
Finally, Ms Harris opened the door, stepped into the hall with paddle in hand, and began a lecture on talking and behaving. After a five-minute tongue lashing, she asked: “Are you ready?” Chad smartly answered: “Sure am.” I guess his comment prompted Ms Harris to turn to Chad first.
This is where the plan began to fall apart.
Ms Harris told Chad to bend over and touch his toes. He did, looking over at me with a grin on his face. She began to swat Chad with what seemed to be light whacks. After the third lick, Chad looked at me and began laughing. And I mean laughing.
Ms Harris stopped, took his arm in a turn-around swing and asked: “Do you think this is funny, young man?”
Chad couldn’t answer because he began laughing again. Needless to say, Ms Harris turned a bright red. I knew he was in for it now, and I had to follow him. Can you imagine following someone who just made the teacher mad as a wet hen, as they say in the country? I knew I would be dead meat.
Ms Harris took Chad by the arm. She didn’t even take time for him to bend over this time. She just began whacking and Chad just began laughing again. If I had a handkerchief, I would have stuffed it into his laughing mouth.
Five licks later, Ms Harris told Chad to go back into the room. Upon his entrance, the class just broke out in laughter. I knew that wouldn’t help my situation, either.
Ms Harris looked at me and sternly told me to bend over. I knew she was warmed up and ready to blast me through the wall, thanks to Chad. She gave me five licks. I didn’t laugh. I just walked back into the room with a grin on my face. The boys thought that we were real tough guys now.
It didn’t take long for other boys in the room to get their paddling from Ms Harris. Most of them laughed, too. But it was great being ‘king of the hill’ for a brief period – at least the sissy remarks stopped.