Tag Archives: high school days

Broken Noses and Broken Hearts at Beach Week ’89

NOT what you want to see at the beach.

NOT what you want to see at the beach.

Anyway, the week wasn’t off to the greatest start with having to wrestle down and hogtie a skeeved out stoner so I figured it had to get better. Day 2 — rain, and lots of it. This wasn’t a passing shower to cool things down for ten minutes then raise the humidity out the roof. This was what Papa Wham called, “a good soaking rain,” which is great if you are growing corn or some such crop, but it sucks all the life out of a beach trip.

The most immediate danger was just being in the room all together. Too much testosterone confined in too small a space is trouble enough, but add in copious amounts of alcohol and you have the Balkans right before World War I — everyone wants to fight and fight badly, but honor demanded an excuse. “Borrowing beer” was always a great excuse, and two or three times things came to blows in the room over someone taking more than his share of the libations from the fridge or cooler. Luckily, everyone was slightly too drunk to either cause any real physical damage or to feel much of the damage that resulted from the few haymakers that managed to land on the odd jaw or nose.

It’s at this point I need to interject some background about my place in all this mess. While most everyone else was binge drinking to make a sailor proud, I was limiting myself to nursing a couple of Jack and Cokes. Truth be told, I wasn’t a very big drinker throughout high school. The prospect of having to face Mama with liquor on my breath was a buzzkiller every time so I was a pretty light drinker. I would sip a little at parties but I preferred to stay mostly clearheaded and alert enough to talk to anyone in a uniform who happened to show up at the most inopportune moments. Don’t worry though, when I got to college, I quickly made up for lost time.

Typical boys hotel room at the beach.

Typical boys hotel room at the beach.

In the early afternoon of the rain-soaked second day, several of the guys got word their various girlfriends had arrived “in country.” Most of the girls had waited an extra day to come to First Week, ostensibly because it took that much longer for them to pack their suitcases and then get all the suitcases into the 54′ U-Haul trailer to bring the stuff down. Most of us guys had two — maybe three — pairs of shorts, a handful of t-shirts, some swimming trunks, and some type of footwear. I packed everything I needed for the week in one backpack and had plenty of room to spare.

In any event, the arrival of the females of the species meant we wouldn’t see quite a few of the guys anymore that week. For one thing, the girls always stayed in much nicer hotels — the kind with running water and real sheets. Also, just to be honest, several of the guys were giddy at the prospect of finally getting what had been promised, for some since freshman year. I leave the details to the gentle reader’s imagination. Suffice it to say, with no parents around to walk in at the worst possible moments, many couples were, in the words of poet Robert Herrick, “Gather[ing] ye rosebuds while ye may.

Typical girls hotel room at the beach.

Typical girls hotel room at the beach.

Not all my lusty boon companions had perforce waited for the arrival of some maiden fair, however. Several of the guys were at the beach specifically to hunt for foreign eyes, ruby lips and shapely hips, and when you grow up in the booming metropolis of Greater Laurens County, “foreign” is any out-of-state plates — even if the state was Georgia or North Carolina. The siren call of girls strange to them was irresistible and several ended up in whirlwind Beach Week romances. Unfortunately for some of them, their souvenir of the week was a little more than a scrapbook but thankfully nothing Ajax couldn’t get off. They were lucky. In 1989 in the backwaters of South Carolina, we had heard of AIDS, but it was still just a boogeyman, not a real threat, or so we thought. I found out different in college, yet another story for another time.

For my part, senior year had “put me off my feed” insofar as females went. I broke up with the first great love of my life late  junior year in pursuit of greener pastures. By October senior year I realized the pastures were only greener because they sat over septic tanks, so I worked hard to get us back together. For awhile — a few weeks right around Christmas — it seemed we were an item again. Then in late January she disappeared for two weeks and all her dad (who absolutely hated me) would say was, “she’s at her momma’s in Georgia.”

I think that went well; don't you think that went well?

I think that went well; don’t you think that went well?

She came back on a Thursday  just after third nine weeks ended and met me at my locker after school with no fanfare, no “hello”, “how are you”, “kiss my ass” or anything; she just handed me my class ring. The last thing she ever said to me was, “Dean (to this day she is the only person who used my middle name), I’ve got some good news for you and some bad news.” Normally, when someone tells you that, you get to choose which you wish to hear first but in her case she just continued on with, “The good news is — IT’S NOT YOURS — I guess you can figure the bad news out for yourself.” Then she turned and walked out of my life forever and I made an exception to my usual “light drinking rule” for a few days. I made a very interesting discovery during those drunkenly hazy days too — when you are drunker than Cooter Brown, you don’t notice the tandem-axle dump truck load of emotional pain life heaps on you day after day nearly so much. Thus began a long period of self-medicating a clinical depression and personality disorder I didn’t even know I had. Anybody see an eminent train wreck in this locality?

Anyway, twenty-five years on, she’s a mother of three, and grandmother of three more (I’ve discovered all too often Facebook has a way of giving you news you aren’t looking for and don’t really want) and I’m in the midst of a good life with the third and greatest love of my life. My Budge has stayed with me through episodes that would have sent any of my former ex-girlfriends running in terror so it seems all things worked together for the good.

Sorry that I still haven’t finished the story of Senior Week. Actually, I haven’t even gotten to some of the rougher moments. Still, it’s enough for now.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean . . . unless it’s sand between your toes.

Kid! Just.Stay.Down.


They look nothing like the characters in this memory.

For some reason today, I remembered a fight I witnessed when I was a freshman in high school. It was over some real or imagined affront to one of the guys’ honor and — most likely — a girl had something to do with it somewhere because they pretty much always did. I know I heard girls complain time after time about their “hotheaded” boyfriends always wanting to fight over them. They talked like it was the most embarrassing thing in the world, but the funny thing is, the Lady Fair was always present in the rustic berfois whenever her Shining Knight was tilting in the lists. Even funnier is how often the loser in the fight would lose his girl as well. Milady doth protest too much over the bloodletting, but she isn’t likely to stay with someone incapable of defending her honor either. It’s natural selection at its finest.

But I digress.

I ended up at this fight because my ride home was going to the melee. Apparently,  the “challenge a la guerre” took place between classes or at lunch or some such. In any event, fighting on school property — while it did happen — would end in a lengthy suspension for a first offense and a recommendation for expulsion thereafter so unless someone blatantly spit in your face or proclaimed loudly and profanely that your mother was something less than pure as the driven snow and a saint among women, fights happened at “The Rocks” at 3:30 after school.

The Rocks was a sandy beach beside the Little River less than a mile from the school down Raider Road. It took its name from the shoals created by — duh — rocks and the flattened, worn boulders dotting the beach. It provided good footing, was spacious enough to accommodate a pair of pugilists or a group of warriors, and had ample viewpoints to watch the fight and watch for the local constabulary.

Close, but a few more big rocks and a little smaller stream.

These affairs were always “straight up” as well. I think my generation was the last one to settle fights solely with the weapons God gave us. I knew several boys carried knives — I myself was seldom without my stainless steel butterfly blade, even at school — and more than one — of which number I would be included during my train wreck of a senior year — carried guns in the glove box of their cars. Despite such an weaponry, no one I knew from any group in the school would have pulled a knife in a simple dispute like this. His own friends would turn on him in a second for such an egregious breach of longstanding tradition. Against a rival school or in a clearly delineated gang fight, you took your chances of getting butchered or shot, but not while “settling scores” at The Rocks after school.

In one corner was a junior I didn’t particularly care for. His face was too handsome by half and when he took his shirt over his head he revealed sculpted muscles my pasty white doughboy belly would never see. This guy could throw down though. Fighting came as naturally to him as his stylishly tousled blonde hair. He wasn’t the biggest guy in the school by a long margin, but he was big enough. I sure as hell wouldn’t have wanted to have a go at him. I don’t consider myself a coward and I have enough scars to prove it, but I also adhere strictly to the Kenny Rogers dictum that one must, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em; know when to walk away and know when to run.” After all, a wise man said discretion is the better part of valor.

The other fighter was a sophomore. He had moved in to the area in his freshman year. I didn’t know his name, but I’d seen him in the halls. He was an inch or two shorter than Adonis and seemed reasonably fit. Standing with a couple of his clique, he didn’t seem too anxious to participate in this barbarism, and I figured none of this was his idea. Unfortunately, school’s like prison — you back down when someone calls you out, you set yourself up for endless bullying and torture.

At least they avoided this crap.

This wasn’t Madison Square Garden and no one standing around the circle — except me — could have told you who the Marquis de Queensbury was. To their credit, they dispensed with the usual circling shoulder to shoulder and trash talking. The kid just walked up to Adonis and tossed out a right hook that grazed the sculpted perfect chin. That was the first and last blow the kid landed. Adonis gave with the punch and came back with a straight left hand to the kid’s nose that started blood flowing and sent the kids sprawling flat onto his back.

At that point, the fight could have been over. Honor was satisfied, at least to all of us. Apparently, the kid had other ideas. He slowly stood up and waded back in, launching a haymaker right that whiffed miserably. Adonis popped him with a right – left combination and the kid was down again with the beginnings of a beautiful shiner on his left eye. Again, this is over, right? No. The kid staggers to his feet again and goes right back at Adonis and receives a matching contusion over his right eye for his trouble. This time, Adonis strode over and when the kid got to his knees, Adonis anchored him flat again with a huge right and turned to walk away. The kid somehow got up again and lunged at Adonis, grabbing the older boy around the waist. Adonis spun out easily and — once again — put the kid face down with a hard punch.

Looked a lot like this . . . a WHOLE lot like this.

Now this was getting awkward. This kid wasn’t going to stay down even though he had absolutely no chance of winning or even hitting his antagonist. Any of the rest of us would have taken our ass-whipping and called it a day, thank you very much, but this guy just kept coming. Three more times he got up and three more times Adonis leveled him. It was just like the boxing scene from Cool Hand Luke except these guys weren’t wearing any gloves. I know Adonis wasn’t holding anything back, but this kid just kept getting up. He looked like, well, he looked like someone who ran into a buzz saw, but he would not quit. I saw him get plastered twice more before Scott tapped me on the shoulder and shrugged his head towards the car. A few other people left around the same time.

I heard the next day at school that Adonis finally knocked him down then knelt beside him and put his hand on the kid’s chest to keep him from rising. When the kid struggled to knock the hand away, a buddy of mine who stayed said Adonis held firm and said to the kid, “You win. Just stay there and you can tell anyone you want to that you won this fight. Please stay down because I don’t want to hit you anymore.” He said when the kid heard that, he just relaxed and passed out. By the end of the year, he was a member of Adonis’ crew.

I guess I was thinking about that fight because of all the crap that’s been hitting me lately. Sickness, bills, general troubles. We all have to go through dark places, but honestly, it feels like it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the light. Of course, the one huge difference between my current state and the kid’s that day long ago at The Rocks is life doesn’t tell you to stay down or you’ve won. Get up as many times as you want to; Life’s big right hand is going to put you flat on your back one more time until you break or die. It’s a rule. Nobody gets out of here alive; you just get to choose how disfigured you want to be.

Sorry about the bummer ending, y’all.
Just remember ol’ G.S. Feet loves each and every one of you. Stay safe and keep those feet clean.