Over the Hill

Confessions of an accidental bully

Special to The TribuneJune 6, 2013 

Phil Dirkx

I read Emma Holt’s letter to the editor in Wednesday’s Tribune. She’s a sixth-grader at Shell Beach Elementary School. She said, “Everyone needs to play a part in stopping bullies.”

So I’ll play my little part by revealing something that happened in my schoolyard when I was a fifth-grader in 1940. My school was quite different from Shell Beach Elementary. It was a rural, one room, one-teacher school in Western New York State, where snow often falls in large quantities.

We often brought our sleds to school, but one day the snow on the schoolyard was too deep for sledding. So during the lunch hour I found a snow shovel in the school basement, and shoveled out a sledding trail on a slope on the schoolyard.

I wasn’t quite finished when a boy came whooshing down “my” trail on his belly on his sled. My shovel was full of snow so I threw it in his smiling face as he sped by.

I still plead not guilty to bullying that boy. I didn’t have time to think of bullying as he flashed by; I just reacted. Also, I would never have thought of bullying that kid. He was bigger than me and his older brother was also on the schoolyard.

True, if he’d been smaller than me and didn’t have an older brother I might have tried to bully him away from “my” trail. But that wasn’t the case that day; this kid, with the snow on his face, was on his feet and heading my way.

I ran for the school door but he caught me against the wall and punched me a couple of times, as his brother looked on. I cried and bled from the nose but did little else to defend myself.

The uproar interrupted our teacher’s lunch. An adult cleaned me up but offered no sympathy. The two brothers were clearly innocent of bullying that time, although the rest of us kids were usually intimidated by them — when we were thinking straight.

The worst case of bullying I can remember at that school didn’t feature the brothers. Another boy at our school was noticeably overweight. We teased him about it. We sang a song at him about being a fatty with a hole in his britches. It was cruel.

He was a nice, friendly kid who never hurt anyone. I often think of him. I now suspect that I joined the others in teasing him because I was relieved they weren’t teasing me and I hoped it would stay that way.

I’m glad children like Emma want to reform the bullies. I’m glad programs have been started to do so. Thank you, Emma for reminding me of this widespread problem.

By the way, I think people who loudly disrupt politicians’ meetings also are bullies.

Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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