Saving Ryan's …

Like most men, I think denim is best worn when it's darned-near worn out. Well, I had a pair I wasn't ready to say "good-bye" to, that had taken a step or two beyond the "darned-near" stage. With head bowed, I humbly asked my mom to see if there was anything we (she) could do. Not only did she patch the holes, but she fortified all the weak spots to slow the progress of more holes.

I recently Tweeted (that's a micro-blog for all you non-Twitterers), "I'm sending thankful vibes my Mom's way for saving my busted-out britches," and I meant it. She replied to me via e-mail quoting my dad: "... and that's not the first time you saved his britches." 

Ain't that the truth.

I was in third grade and our teacher, Ms. Joffey (she was my first non-Mrs. teacher, I remember distinctly), thought taking her class for a nature walk to a nearby creek would be a good idea. And, it should have been a good idea — but it wasn't. We made our way to the creek, and it was nice. We looked for tadpoles, and Ms. Joffey pointed out the varieties of algae and moss, and even let us throw some rocks into the water. She said it was time to go, but I didn't think so — my arm was just getting warmed up. 

Suddenly, all the gravel on the side of the road that had gone unnoticed on the way to the creek, looked like a street paved with baseballs on the way back from the creek. I wasn't sure what work was in store for us once we got back to our wooden desks, but as far as I was concerned, my only assignment was to show my classmates how far I could throw, well, anything. But, my classmates weren't impressed with distance alone, they demanded accuracy. 

"See if you can hit that window over there." 

That window wasn't just any window, it was the kind that was still on a house, a trailer, to be more specific — the kind actual people lived in. I couldn't have weighed the pros and cons before letting that rock fly because I let that rock fly. Accurate, indeed. 

I immediately knew I had done something wrong because I was looking for a place to run. But I couldn't. That's the kind of kid I was, I think: ornery enough to throw a rock through a window, but too good of a kid to not own up to what I had done. While Mrs. Joffey probably appreciated that I took responsibility for the offense, she made it clear that I would be getting The Paddle (you know the one).


A. Drill holes — these are meant to limit resistance from it's drawn-back position to the perp's bottom. Teachers and Principals often created unique hole patterns in order to brand their kid's bottoms. Us kids also believe that the holes make the paddle hurt worse, but we can't back that up with science.

B. Paddle name — any paddle worth its timber has a name, usually a scary one like The Devastator or The Enforcer. This name was usually written on the paddle with an indelible marker, or sometimes burned in with a soldering iron.

C. A leather strap — the strap was used to hang The Paddle prominently for all to see and fear. It also ensured a secure grip. My fellow students and I also believed it was used for strangulation in special cases.


I sat outside Mr. Wright's Office (more ominously known as The Principal's Office) in a puddle of tears awaiting the inevitable. Then my Mom, who worked at the school at the time, showed up and made sure I was okay and fearlessly headed into the Principal's Office. I'm not sure what she said in there. As far as I was concerned, it didn't matter because I didn't see The Paddle on that day, and I'm not sure why. 

Maybe she convinced Mr. Wright that I felt guilty enough already and wouldn't throw anymore rocks; or perhaps she assured him that she would handle my punishment when I got home; or it could be that she was in disbelief that her son could have done such a thing, and convinced the principal that the rock actually came from the grassy knoll; or maybe she saw The Paddle and the damage it could do to both me and my pants. I don't know.

In any case, she saved my britches — and it's true what my Dad says — she's been saving them ever since.

1 comment:

  1. "My fellow students and I also believed it was used for strangulation in special cases."

    Didn't see that one coming. Laughed decaf right out my nose.