Gut Rumbles

September 25, 2008

once upon a time

Originally PUBLISHED May 16, 2005

I was 17 years old and the starting strong-side linebacker on the Jenkins High School football team. I had a head as hard as a rock and a temper that I had difficulty controlling sometimes. Ask anybody familiar with Jenkins football back when Bubba Atwood was head coach and Bill Boyd ran the defence. We had a damn good team every year. We could beat everybody in the state except Valdosta, and we came within one point of doing THAT one year.

I got into a fight at practice one day. That was a foolish thing to do, because punching somebody in full football equipment is a waste of perfectly good energy, but the bastard had it coming to him, and the coaches usually allowed the two assholes involved to roll around on the ground for a while before they broke it up.

After that, you suffered a "gut drill" to pay for your sins. After practice, after wind-sprints and after all the other running and hitting, you and the other guy lined up between the goal posts, ten yards apart, and just knocked the living shit out of each other until the coach said to quit.

I was giving up about 25 pounds to my opponent that afternoon, and we must have butted like horny billy-goats a dozen times--- and I'm talking about full-tilt, growl like a wild animal and plow your fucking HEAD into the other person as hard as you CAN football hits. I was blinking technicolor and feeling a wobble in my legs as I got up from the next-to last one.

We did it once more and I'll guarantee that we were hitting hard enough to rattle the silverware in nearby kitchens. We both lay on the ground gasping and blinking, and as I was getting up again, my opponent said, "Got-Dam, Snuffy! What does it take to wear you down?"

"More than YOU'VE got," I replied, as I struggled to my feet, fully prepared to do it again. The coach blew the whistle then, told us to run a lap and hit the showers. I was sore as a boil for two days and I had a headache that didn't go away for a long time. But I was back at practice the next day, ready to go.

I'm going to whine again here.

I've ALWAYS gotten up when I was knocked down my entire life. I would fight ANYBODY, any time and anywhere. Sometimes I got whipped, but I always gave a good account of myself and I never had to fight the same person twice, except for my brother. I figured that I was a student of the school of Hard Knocks and I could eat whatever anybody put on my plate. Pile it on. I can handle it. I was that way for a long time.

I'm NOT that way anymore. Remember when Cool Hand Luke grabbed the boss's leg and pleaded for mercy, saying , "My mind is right now, boss. Honest. My mind is right."

Well... my mind is right now, too. I'm tired of fighting battles I can't win. I'm tired of lining up between the goal posts and giving away a big weight advantage to my opponent. I'm tired of being hit in the head. I'm tired of people who don't know me, who know NOTHING about my life and really don't give a shit in the long run telling me how to behave.

I paid my goddam dues. I've never been a diva and I've never had things come easy for me. I've worked since I was 12 years old, and I've done whatever it took to get by, only to see most of that stolen from me when I was too old to start over. YOU try that and then we'll compare notes. Until then, think what you want to of me. I don't give a shit what you think. Am I upset about my current situation? You bet your sweet ass I am.

But if I went off weeping and crying every time somebody took a swipe at ME in this life, I'd probably be asking, "Would you like fries with that?" today. I'm just too tired to keep getting up off the ground anymore.

I did that shit for long enough. I think 40 years is plenty. Now, when I'm knocked down, I'm going to stay there. I've had all I can handle.

I'm beat up and worn out.

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