By Ray Knapp
I recall when I finally got up the courage to just say NO. I’m not talking about the slogan that former First Lady Nancy Reagan coined to discourage youngsters from using drugs. I’m talking about those people whom you and I know that seem to forever want to do something that could get them in trouble. That would be okay, except they always seem to want YOU as an accomplice, or in this case, ME.
When I finally built up the courage to just say no, it was to a school buddy named Bob; a likeable guy with a persuasive personality and bent towards trouble. It seems like every time the two of us got together he always had something edgy to try out, and we always got caught.
I was a good kid, at least at heart; an above average basketball player, and though I could catch and throw a baseball pretty well, I wasn’t good at batting; I never made the team. One time in the seventh grade a ball game was being played at a nearby town between the junior high students (seventh and eighth graders) and everyone got to go.
Bob had sneaked a couple of water pistols aboard the school bus that carried us over there and generously gave me one. It was kind of fun sitting in the back of the bus and shooting someone in the back of the head, sitting three or four seats up from of us, then quickly hiding the pistol before they or the coach caught us.
The game was boring. It was the fifth inning with no score. Bob was getting restless. He disappeared for a while and came back with a quart jar filled with water and motioned me to join him and refill our guns. Squirting our water guns at class mates on the bleachers was entertaining for a while, but Bob had something more risky, or maybe I should say risqué up his sleeve.
In those days all the schools in that area had outdoor toilets. Bob persuaded me to sneak down behind the girls’ outhouse with him. It wasn’t long before we spotted a couple of girls headed that way. I was getting nervous about this and instead of shouting or something to scare the girls, I followed through with Bob’s dastardly plan and as the girls prepared to do their business we put those water guns to use; squirting their bottoms through the cracks in the weathered boards of the old toilet.
The girls had no idea what had happened, they ran screaming and screeching from the outhouse. Bob peeked around the corner at the wrong time. The coach saw him; stopped the game ran down and caught us. He dragged us up to the bus by our ears and sat us in the front seat. “Don’t move,” he warned.
Back in those days, there was a paddle hanging near the teacher’s desk in every classroom as a threat, or maybe a decoration, I guessed. After the game was over and we got back to our school, two boys found those paddles hanging in the school rooms were not a decoration. I can also tell you from experience what a blistered bottom feels like.
That was the only time I ever saw Bob cry. It may have been the only time he saw me cry as well.
I avoided Bob for a good
while, but later on, in high school, Bob got a car, which was a big deal back then – very few high school kids had a car. One school morning Bob showed up at my house with a couple of adventurous girls from school. “Hop in,” he said, “on a nice spring day like this who wants to go to school?”
Unfortunately, a teacher spotted us driving around town; told the superintendent, and we were expelled for three days.
That didn’t deter Bob, a couple of weeks later he drove up with the same girls. “Ready to go,” he asked. “We’ll go over to Williamsville this time.”
“No – just no.” That felt good, I had finally learned how to just say, “NO.”