Left To Sweat It Out

I was a sophomore in high school and still small for my age. All the big boys liked to pick on me, but I’m sure I provoked a lot of it. I was in the building trades program where we learned about carpentry and actually built a house during the school year. It was a rowdy class. Our teacher was Robert Woodard, but we called him Jake. Our shop/classroom was in the old bus barn. It was just a big tin building with no insulation. The temperatures in that building could be extreme, both directions.

We had caused enough trouble that the school board was considering abandoning the program at midterm of that year. Everyone knew that if we didn’t change our ways, we would be back in a regular classroom all afternoon rather than outside actually learning something. Jake did everything he and his wooden paddle could do to keep us in line. But we were really a bunch of misfits.

A new high school was being built and would to be ready for us to move in at midterm. The new desks to furnish the new school with arrived and with no other place to store them, they brought the dozens of boxes to the bus barn. The boxes were stacked four high, almost to the ceiling. One day, with the days still very hot, we were loading the bus with tools to go to the project house to work.

Several of the older classmates decided they would bind my hands and feet, then put me on top of the boxes. As I struggled to free myself, I heard the bus leaving. A few minutes later, Mr. Wann, the School Superintendent came by to inventory the boxes. I had just gained my freedom but was still on top of the boxes. Mr. Wann walked around that stack of boxes time after time with a clipboard in hand. He was no more than a few feet from me at times. It was so hot laying up there, I could feel the sweat pouring off of me. My eyes would followed him as far as possible with each trip he made around the boxes. Then I would quietly roll over when I would hear him coming down the other side. I couldn’t make any sudden moves. How would I explain being left behind? He was there for probably for no more than ten minutes but it felt like hours. To my relief I finally heard the door open then slam shut. He was gone. I climbed down and found something to do while I waited for the bus to return.

Finally I heard the bus pull up. I figured that if I stood back and waited for the others to come in I could just mix in and Jake would never realize I hadn’t been with them all afternoon. But when he stepped in the door he hollered my name and when I stepped out. He said: “Lewis bend over. That’ll cost you ten licks.”

I guess he must have paid better attention to what was going on than we ever gave him credit for.

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