Amber (not her real name) sat next to me in Mrs. Yonner’s first grade class. I did not like Amber. She was stinky and sneaky, and she stole little things—pencils and such—from her classmates.
One weekend, my dad took me fishing at the Nolan River in Cleburne. I got bored with fishing and began exploring the banks of the river. Not far from our spot, and partially buried, were several large, old bones—probably from a cow. I happily collected the bones and took them home.
On show and tell day, I brought my bones to school where I proudly presented them. Of all students, Amber was the most interested and asked repeatedly to look at them.
Later in the day, when we returned from recess, I looked in my desk for my bones. They were gone. I was furious. Surely the teacher would be, too. This was a class emergency.
Amber, though, was casual about the missing bones. I knew, without a doubt, that she was who stole them. (I now think it unlikely.)
My teacher did not elevate the matter to the appropriate extent, in my humble, first grade opinion. It was up to me to administer justice.
Amber got out of her seat to sharpen her pencil, or blow her nose, or perform some other Amber task. When she returned, as she sat down, I pulled her seat back causing her to plant her rumpus on the floor.
Amber cried, and I immediately felt bad and said I was sorry. But it was time for Mrs. Yonner to administer justice. We stepped in the hall with her wooden paddle which, in those days, all teachers had.
Mrs. Anderson from across the hall came to witness the event. Our unhappy trio went into the vestibule (I had to look this word up to use it here), where trouble making primary students met their fate.
An eye for an eye and a rump for a rump. I received two swats, and I cried as bad little boys do. Not from the pain (spankings from female teachers never hurt), but from shame.
Because my behavior was consistently poor, Mrs. Yonner’s habit was to walk me out to my mother every day after school and give a report. She always delivered the message using “we” instead of “he” as in, “We were not very good today,” or “We tried, but could not quit talking,” or, “We had to get our ass busted today.”
I found it unjust that my teacher and mother conspired against me. On this day, I especially thought it wrong that I would be in more trouble after what I’d already gone through. But I can still remember mama saying, “Just wait till your daddy finds out.”
We had to go to the laundry mat right after school, and I didn’t even get to play in the carts. Instead, I had to sit in the hard plastic 1970’s yellow laundry mat chairs and “think about what I’d done.”
I can’t remember if Daddy spanked me again or not, but I do know that I was nice to Amber for the rest of the year.