The Contest

It was right after lunch and I was all nestled into my desk on the back row of my 8th grade Math class at Burkburnett Jr. High School in Texas.  The last row offered, to some degree, distance from the cold stare of Mr. Davis.  His piercing blue eyes had probably been intimidating students for many years. His receding  gray hair sufficiently provided proof of my hypothesis of his long tenure of intimidation. Also, the man was quite imposing physically. He probably stood about 6’2″ and weighed about 220 pounds.

Beside me on the last row was an equally uninterested student by the name of Alan Trujillo. Alan was scribbling something on a piece of notebook paper and whatever it was he was writing didn’t look to be anything math related, which did not really shock me.  What would have shocked me was if it would have been anything to do with math.

After the last kid filed into the room just before the bell rang Mr. Davis asked us to turn to page 115 of our math books.  Oh good, I thought, we were going to go over our homework assignment.  Let’s see……. where did I misplace mine this time……  Oh, that’s right, I didn’t do it.  At least Mr. Davis didn’t ask us to turn the homework in.


Mr. Davis began writing some of the homework problems up on the blackboard.  Usually by the time he was done using up all the space on the board the front of his shirt was covered with chalk dust. Today was no different. His once blue shirt shirt was now a two-tone of blue and white.  

As Alan and I were sitting there we both noticed out of the corner of our eyes that someone had stopped at the doorway of the classroom.  It was David Mason, Alan’s best friend.  Mr Davis couldn’t see the doorway from the front of the classroom.  David is standing out there with this big grin on his face and is proudly giving Alan the “thumbs up” and then walks away.  Alan snapped his fingers and says “dang.”

I had no idea what was going on so I leaned over and whispered to Alan, “what was David saying?”

Alan answered in a low voice so the teacher could not hear, “David just went ahead of me.”

Still not having idea of what was going on I asked, “what do you mean he went ahead of you?”

Alan replies, “we’re in a contest to see who can get the most ‘whacks’ in the school year.”

(For those of you younger ones, a whack was getting hit on the butt with a paddle when you misbehaved and got out of line. That’s back when discipline was enforced and enforced with parental approval unlike today)

So, I paused and thought a moment to digest what I had just heard, w-h-a-t…….why would anybody have a contest like that?  Remember, this was 8th grade, so any thought that I gave to Alan’s seemingly ridiculous statement was fleeting and so I resigned myself to a simple “oh” in response.

About the time Alan was uttering the last word out of his mouth Mr. Davis turns around and catches him talking to me.

Mr. Davis says, “Mr. Trujillo, why don’t you tell the class the answer to this first problem up here!” 

Alan realizing he had been caught reluctantly looked up at the problem, then looked at Mr. Davis, then says, ”I don’t know the answer.”

Mr. Davis quickly holds up both of his hands and fires back in a loud voice, “well, if I have 5 here (motioning with his one hand) and 5 here (motioning with his other hand) how many do I have?”

Alan responds equally as loud, “nine and a half!”

Mr. Davis was missing half of a thumb on one of his hands. All of us kids were doing our best not to laugh, some of us successfully, others not so successfully.

Mr. Davis yells back to Alan, “Mr. Trujillo get up, take your books, and go to the office!”

All of us knew what that meant.  Alan had to report to the principal’s office and explain why he was there.  It also meant that Alan was going to be getting a ‘whack’ for his wiseguy comment.

This school was an older school which was two stories tall with probably 12 foot ceilings and when some noise was made in the hall it echoed down that hall from one end to the other.  Well, sure enough, after class resumes after the brief interruption everyone in class hears a resounding WHACK! echoing down that hall.  It was so loud that the kid in front of me jumped.  Everyone was wide-eyed.

I remembered David Mason only moments earlier and I couldn’t help but smile and give the big “thumbs up” in honor of Alan’s achievement.  David and Alan were once again tied up. Yes, David’s lead was short-lived.  Alan didn’t return to class for the rest of the period and I can only imagine that after getting the whack he made a detour to no doubt stop at David’s classroom and give him the big thumbs accompanied by a big, wide grin.

A “whack” contest.  Somethings you just can’t make up.

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