My True Account of The Masters of Meanness
High school had its own brand of problems. A bland opening, I know. But there were no giant fireants to write about. But speaking of fireants, what I want to share with you right now I would think is the equivalent to my buddies and I in 10th grade being treated as willing ticket holders to the Front Row of any circus that happened to be in town--and the Feature Attraction, Special-Bred Giant Fireants From The Amazon! Watching these giant ants doing tricks in front of a packed circus tent might have been fun once, maybe three times, but eight times seeing the same giant ants with glazed faces doing the same tricks--jumping through a ring of flame and letting an Ant Trainer snap his cruel whip to get them all to stand up in unison so the crowd would tell their friends and then the next night's crowd would be three times as huge.
Truthfully, and with respect to you, the readers, I feel as if I need to tell you that there is really no jazzy way to start this narrative. I am not selfish. Not really. But I would be willing to enterain any and all of your colorful and eye-catching openings. Honest, Mean Joe. You can have it. If only I had a friend just like Mean Joe Greene in this time in my life and I can promise you with clarity and clear conscience that I would have been more successful and happy in life.
My high school, Hamilton (AL.) High School, was no eutopia. Not any morning that I craved to see daylight and set out for school long before my parents got out of bed. Who in America, and I mean 10th graders, ever arose at dawn, dressed and headed to school without eating a nourishing breakfast? If you were one of these rare kids, I want to meet you. What a hub that would make.
The main problem with our high school in 1970 was with Larry Duncan, Danny Young, his big brother, Gary, Ronnie Wiginton and Jimmy Avery. And all of these are REAL names of REAL folks. We lived in fear of them each school day that God sent. I would not go as far to label these guys as bullies, but close. They were what I would call a "Playful Mean" set of guys--out for having fun at the expense of others, terrorizing the older teachers and getting away with it. This was the strangest part of my description. These guys were the first Masters of Meanness in our day because they knew exactly how much meanness that they could engineer and never be called to the principal's office. Many of us witnessed these guys who all hung-out as a gang (Duhhh!) and one day I was going to the school library to do some research on a paper that a teacher thought that I might write, and I saw the prettiest girl walk in front of me.
Sandy Riggs was her name. She had short blond hair and an athletic body that would not quit. Just this much information about Riggs was cause enough for these "Jackals" to start stalking her while whistling, saying suggestive remarks (that cannot be published here), but never getting too close to touch her. Sandy must have enjoyed the show for she didn't flinch. But Larry, the most theatrical of the gang, started kissing the wall and making out and I should not go any further. Bu the rest of Larry's gang almost fell in the floor with a boisterous, bawdy style of annoying jackass laughing--braying was more like it. The teachers who had the misfortune to have their classroom doors open got a load of these guys sucking in air and laughing it out while braying so much that I just knew that one of the male teachers would surely take charge and get rid of these guys. Didn't happen. It never happened.
I wondered where all of these guys belonged in such a quiet part of the school day. But was I that stupid as to interrupt their laughing, whistling at Sandy and passing gas as if they were having a contest. Are you nuts? I did not want any trouble with these guys. I really thought that like giant fire ants, they would grow weary of tormenting the students and teachers and cut school to inflict more terror on the private citizens of Hamilton.
Let me briefly elaborate another dangerous antic that the Masters of Meanness loved to do. Our janitor, an Archie Channel, a gentle guy and minded his own business, was always the butt of their dangerous mischief. My meek and civil-minded friends witnessed this antic: Do you remember the dangerous firework, Cherry Bombs? People were accustomed to firing these things off at New Years Eve, Christmas and The Fourth of July because these fireworks were louder than an M-16 used by our troops in Vietnam.
Before I go further, may I ask why folks in 1970 and years prior, see in shooting Cherry Bombs and other dangerous fireworks to celebrate the birthday of Jesus? Did this ever occur to you? I have read the story about Jesus' birth in Luke, chapter 2, in the NT, and I do not see or read where anyone ganged up around the manger and shot bottle rockets, Cherry bombs and other fireworks that can cause harm to people and property to celebrate our Savior's birth.
The Masters of Mean had the boys rest room well stalked. They knew to the second when Mr. Channel, our mild-mannered janitor, would make his rounds to make sure that the male and female rest rooms were kept clean. Channel was dogmatic in his duties. But he did not notice the Masters of Meanness who were acting as if they were standing against the wall reading a book, but really watching his every move. Channel went inside the rest room. In went the Masters of Meanness and in about half a minute, Channel flew out with the speed of the Batmobile followed by the school's most notorious gang of "fun-loving" troublemakers--running and laughing at the same time.
Remember the films of the Atom Bomb exploding? We thought that the boys' rest room had been sabotaged by some underground Communist group that we suspected were working covertly in the United States. The Masters of Meanness stood by and watched the gallons of water gush from the rest room pouring into the hallway--causing teachers to run and see about the explosion. The Masters of Meanness only laughed, punched each other in the ribs and acted dumb, but the teachers and now the principal, Mr. Joe Sargent knew who was responsible, but the guys were bigger and stronger than he was, so all that could do was threaten to expel them from school, but he chose to stick his head in the hallway and let them go.
The damages, we heard later, ran into several thousand dollars including the already-expensive rate for a plumbing company to come in and install new commodes and pipes caused by the two or four Cherry Bombs that were lit and thrown into the commodes and flushed. And you can already guess who was behind this trouble.
But the prank backfired. Instead of our student body thinking that these troublemakers were the coolest guys in the world, they were now hated and shunned by every student in the school as well as the teachers. Did they, the Masters of Meanness care? What do you think?
Probably the most-vile of pranks that these guys pulled was not as dangerous as bombing the boys rest room commodes, but just as vulgar. Jimmy Avery and Danny Young, two of the troublemakers were sitting a Study Period that I had at that time and I really had to do some studying for an Algebra test that was due the next day. I hated Algebra. I only took the class to get one unit toward my graduation.
Our Study Period teacher for that day was Mrs. Lily Mae Howell, an elderly woman who should have been at home spending time with her nine cats and doing a fair share of gardening, but no. She chose to work more and get a bigger pension. And in 1970, the only crisis then was the short-lived Gas Crisis. The overall economy of our country was fine, according to President Regan's economic experts.
Jimmy and Danny were sitting in the very back of the big study hall. Everyone was quiet. Including me. Suddenly we heard the unmistakable sounds of someone passing gas and then lighting a cigarette lighter to see the flames flash with the human gas. Then Jimmy and Danny would do more jackass laughing and get the rest of us to laughing. At first, their prank was fun as it could be. Until Mrs. Howell, who had a short temper, after a few more "gas bombs," jumped up from her desk in the front of the room and charged toward the guys who were as afraid of her as they would be a fence post.
"Jimm--uhhh, do you have an intestinal problem?" Mrs. Howell stormed out.
"Uhhh, what's that?" Jimmy said very snide.
"Well, young man. It's when a human releases a huge amount of gas that has built up from eating spicy foods and that gas has to come somewhere . . .but why here?" she argued.
"Uhhh, I didn't know that I was sick," Jimmy said making the scene more tense.
"Jimm--uhhh, do you smoke those cigarettes you have in your shirt pocket?" she said.
"Uhhh, smoke? Me? I am, uhhh, keeping them for my buddy, Danny, over there," Jimmy said while laughing at Mrs. Howell along with Danny.
Mrs. Howell did not return a word. But instead took Jimmy's Bic gas cigarette lighter away from him that made him so angry that his face turned redder than any Japanese Zero on a Kamikaze. Danny settled down, but that was the end of the gas passing and Mrs. Howell was again happy.
Things like that. The Masters of Meanness were always pulling pranks like the above mentioned prank that I still remember today.
Years after we all graduated, Masters of Meanness included, Jimmy died of a heart attack--some said due to hypertension. Danny retired from a big telephone company and made a solid citizen of himself. Ronnie went to work at a big factory and in 2005, met with severe health problems that put him at home for good. Larry, the most-outgoing of the gang, became a Christian after a life of working on an oil rig in Texas where he fell and permanently damaged his back.
Larry as well as Danny, are still good friends.
I didn't have a catchy ending for this piece. I guess I can end it with it's funny how life ends up for some people, huh?
© 2017 Kenneth Avery