Saturday, June 30, 2012

Enter The Pit: Diary of a Husky Kid II

Image: Durley Park at the bottom left and Haydock Jr. High at the top right. Click on image for a closer look.

As to the main title, this is not a recount of my days as a folk style wrestler as the center of a mat is known as such. But rather it speaks to an arena frequented by middle schoolers of Haydock Jr. High during the 1970s (1). When an insult or challenge arose in the hallways or on the playground between two boys or girls, a pause in the confrontation took place. Rather than fight it out for it to be quickly broken up by teachers and face punishment by the principal, the two foes agreed to meet at the nearby Durley Park to settle a score uninterrupted.

Staying away from trouble was a lesson my old man tried to instill in me. When sirens ended at a car accident or fire near our home on I Street, my dad had us watch from afar when the neighbors walked up close to the scene. But one day I disregarded this teaching when two of my Haydock Jr. High classmates where going to have it out after school at “the pit” of Durley Park. From the throwing down of the gauntlet to the final school bell, the whole school knew of a pending fight. Walking west on Hill Street from campus to the Durley Park pit, each side had an entourage of supporters.

Usually, when I followed my classmates to one of these periodic, yet regular, contests, I safely observed downward from the ridge of “the pit.” I understood that I risked getting into trouble if I got too close. But one day I decided to disregard my dad’s admonishment of staying a distance away from fights when all others looked on closely. As I jostled through the crowd to see the brawl, I pushed back someone who gave me stiff shove. It was Jimmy H. He was a short, skinny kid who had a reputation for being a street tough. I never saw him fight but people feared him because he talked and walked threateningly. You didn’t mess with Jimmy. He also had an older brother that looked meaner, and uglier.

After I pushed Jimmy, he responded with f%#$ you punk before he began to wail his fists. Before his attack, I did what my dad showed his husky, wannabe cholo, Chicano kid. I got into my boxing stance and raised my dukes, one fist slightly in front of the other. Soon we were at where most street fights end up: on the ground. I took advantage of my girth to straddle Jimmy H’s chest while I unremittingly pummeled his face. It was though I was unleashing pent up rage. All of a sudden, from the corner of my right eye I saw a black biscuit shoe headed toward my face before it knocked me off Jimmy H. It was the foot of his older, fouler brother, Michael. Dazed I got up and the fight was over. Maybe Michael understood that if he went for me a possible larger melee would break out—who knows?

Anyway, I was sort of the hero the next week as I heard classmates talk how I stood up to Jimmy H. and won. From then on, I was one of the kids in school that others thought twice about tangling with, except for Jimmy H. Every time we met in the hallway or at the park he’d challenge me by calling me punk as if he won our last and only fight. I never understood this. Never taking my eyes off of him (2), I always said no to his invitation to a rematch.

But what I did from then on was to stay far away as possible from street fights, except when I was backing up one of my friends.

1. I have been told that to this day the pit is the site of similar match ups.
2. My dad also told me to never turn your back on your enemy.

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