(Translate this site)

Search this site

Search the bookstore


A teenage pressure cooker

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1
This page last updated on or about 9-7-08

a - j m o o n e y h a m . c o m - o r i g i n a l

Site map

Latest site updates

Site web log(s)

Site author

BACK to The journals of Jerry Staute: Crossroads Illustrated story index

The account below was inspired by actual events. Details like names, dates, and more have been changed for reasons of privacy and readability.

My high school's violence

Here's a few memorable samples of the regular violence which went on at my high school my freshman and sophomore years:

Once I was attacked from behind by maybe one of the best fighters in our school of the time. I was drinking from a water fountain when it happened, and so ill-prepared to defend myself.

Of course, with him being one of the best skilled fighters in the school-- and me one of the least-- I probably couldn't have done much better even if he had come at me from the front.

I don't think I even knew he existed until my beating, after which some of my pals explained to me who he was.

He viciously pounded me against a solid brick wall there for a while, mostly my face and head I think (after I managed to get turned around). While at least a couple dozen other students watched.

He didn't pound me into unconsciousness-- I pulled myself up in a daze and went on to my next class after he left me collapsed in the floor-- but for maybe a week or two afterwards I felt like my skull had been cracked in the melee.

Decades later a doctor would see signs of eye damage in me he'd attribute to something like a car crash in my past. But personally I think it much more likely it stemmed from something like this. For I never got banged up that bad in a car.

I never told my parents about it. Partly because getting beaten at school wasn't an uncommon thing for me. I'd been enduring various degrees of it since early elementary school.

But damn if these high school beatings didn't seem much worse than those of earlier years...

I don't remember seeing much of that particular guy again after that. Maybe he dropped out. Or maybe another of his victims took him out, permanently. Or perhaps he got arrested outside of school for something, and imprisonment led to his disappearance. I just don't know.

It wasn't unusual for students to bring knives and guns to school for protection from such incidents. Or to intimidate others (including the teachers).

Another time I was in gym class on a day when the teacher was busy and just had us all sitting in the bleachers the whole time, unsupervised.

That gave two bullies who loved harassing me during that class the perfect opportunity.

Naturally they were both bigger than me-- one a whole lot bigger. I can't remember many of the details now, but basically they just wanted to torture someone I think, and being one of the smallest guys available, that made me a good candidate. Plus, my never-ending defiance of their attempts to beat me into submission seemed to intrigue them, too.

So that one day once they had me in their clutches, with the biggest one holding me down, the other one twisted on my left nipple with all his strength and experience at inflicting pain on others.

It probably couldn't have hurt much worse if he'd used pliers.

I think they were trying to bring me to tears, as well as permanent submission. But all they accomplished was helping further build up my hatred for bullies, and my fierce love for the underdog.

To this day, decades later, my left nipple looks obviously different from my right. For he permanently marked me that time with his malevolence.

I have some dim memory that I may have managed to get back at that one guy somehow, afterwards. When he didn't have his bigger friend around to help him. But I can't recall details. It does seem he was much more of a coward when the odds were closer to even. Like is the case with most bullies.

My resistance to bullies went beyond standing up for myself. I would also at times insert myself into situations where a bully was threatening another innocent person. Although I often perceived relief on the part of the would-be victim in such cases (as my intrusion alone was often enough to make a single bully back off-- as technically he suddenly found himself possibly outnumbered, even if only by two runts), what followed was not always what you'd expect.

For high school culture can certainly be befuddlingly complex.

Not long into my high school journey (likely my freshman year), for a time I found myself with a small group of students forced to sit together on bleachers in the gym for home room, or something like that (it's tough to recall those details now).

Anyway, there turned out to be a white bully in the group who (the moment we were unsupervised by an adult) automatically began harassing this black guy who was almost exactly the same size as me-- and so smaller than the bully, of course.

I interceded. Which was enough to frighten the cowardly bully (since he might have to face two little guys at once rather than only one) and make him back off.

Unfortunately, I knew nothing of any of these other people in my home room group, or certain larger social issues involved.

Naturally I thought after this the black guy would at least know I was no threat to him-- and maybe even be a potential buddy. But it didn't work out that way.

I'm unsure of his name now, decades after the events. But let's call him Kenan.

Unbeknownst to me, Kenan was a skilled boxer, and would ultimately be the winner of a string of official local youth boxing matches. So perhaps he'd been planning to give the white bully a surprise lesson of his own, just before I stepped in and ruined it for him.

Plus, it may be too that word of my deed had not sat well with his own circle of associates. Like maybe I'd made him look bad, without realizing it.

Yep. I'd made a mistake there. And was totally oblivious to it.

Maybe one or two weeks later I was strolling into one of the many doors lining the end of the gym, and there was Kenan, standing among maybe two dozen other black guys, clustered around the doors, nearly completely blocking the way.

As I walked past, Kenan made it a point to shove me for no apparent reason.

I mistakenly thought it was a good-natured shove, and so pushed him back.

Apparently the whole thing was a well-planned ambush by the gang. For they immediately enveloped me all around, and forced me out of the hallway and into the gym, where I ended up being in close quarters in the center along with Kenan-- and Kenan immediately punching me about the head and shoulders.

Was I surprised? Hell yeah! In shock, really. For so far as I knew I had done nothing unfriendly towards Kenan to cause something like this.

As my shock wore off and I tried to shield myself from Kenan's blows, I realized I might make things worse if I struck back at Kenan here. For I was surrounded by a sea of young black men, nearly all them much bigger than Kenan or I. And they were even closer to me than Kenan-- forming a solid wall against which Kenan was pummeling me.

Thankfully the gang wasn't holding my arms-- yet. But I was scared of what might happen if I landed a blow of any sort on Kenan. So I simply toughed it out as best I could, until they all got tired of the game.

Although I was pained by the beating, I suspect my decision not to actively fight back prevented much worse injury. And that Kenan may well have limited the force of his blows to minimize serious harm-- making it all more of a domination spectacle for his gang than anything else.

It could be this was a face-saving exercise for Kenan, and he was glad I didn't force things to a higher level.

Still, I was troubled afterwards that he'd do such a thing at all. Of course, as I learned a bit more about everything (including racism in general), I began to feel I had a better understanding of just what had transpired there.

That was one of my earliest lessons regarding how some people either don't need, or don't want saving.

Shrugging off intimidation

Perhaps my grandest high school moment in regards to successfully resisting intimidation came when I was challenged to a public fight on school grounds after hours by this guy who constantly harassed me in both a drafting class and algebra (or was it geometry?) class. Naturally-- as usual-- he was considerably bigger and stronger than I. He despised the fact I wouldn't follow orders and simply allow him to punch and kick me without reprisal day in and day out. I did my best to give as good as I got, and felt that most of our fights up to that point turned out to be roughly a draw.

It'd helped my chances that we'd never actually been in a location where we could engage in an all out physical brawl, all those times. Rather, we'd typically been in crowded classrooms with a teacher either temporarily occupied at the far end, or who's absence status could change unexpectedly any second.

This meant for example that we could go at each other viciously with long wooden T-squares in drafting class for maybe one to several minutes or so, without anyone else getting involved.

Or wrestle around and punch at one another in the math class for a moment, before having to stop.

My friend Ben witnessed many of these incidents, as he normally sat next to me in the drafting class.

However, the guy really didn't like the fact I'd never back down from him and meekly take my beating as he wanted me to. So he eventually decided taking things to the next level was exactly what was required.

Therefore, one day in algebra, he told me to meet him after school to have it out and I said OK. There were plenty of witnesses. Many high schoolers love to watch fights.

I made certain to show up where and when we'd agreed upon. Sure, I was scared. But there seemed no choice to me. Plus, you've got to remember I was a veteran of many battles by that time. Not a victor (as I was virtually always physically outmatched), but a veteran.

And I wasn't alone. Quite a few other kids had shown up to see me get beaten. Word had gotten around. Sure, there were likely going to be more interesting fights going on at the same time elsewhere on the grounds. But you tended to get the crowd who knew at least one if not both the combatants personally.

So we all waited. And waited. And waited. I finally turned to the crowd and said "Well, it doesn't look like he's coming, does it?" They agreed, and we all dispersed.

So why hadn't he shown up? Because he was positive I wouldn't. He figured it was a waste of time, and so hadn't even come by to check if I was there(!)

That wouldn't be the only time an opponent would underestimate me, or my resolve.

He was chagrined to discover the next day his personal reputation had taken a tremendous hit by virtue of the word of mouth spreading from all the witnesses to the debacle. And my own stock had gone up. If my memory serves me, we got along considerably better after that. Indeed, he even seemed to be cowed a bit himself by events. If he ever came near to calling me out again, he stopped himself short in the act. I'm sure I would have gone through the entire exercise again if necessary. And I believe I made that clear to him.

In a perhaps interesting side note, this guy also happened to be the older brother of Leann-- a great girl my best friend Steve would date for quite a while in years to come, beginning in high school, and lasting through early college.


I had another friend I'll call Hugh here, who was perhaps just barely bigger than me (a fraction of an inch taller, a couple pounds heavier), and likely considerably stronger due to living on a farm and so having more strenuous chores to do on a regular basis than me.

Maybe one reason Hugh and I got along so well was a particular characteristic we shared: being raised by decent people who'd drilled into us an abhorrence of violence, under almost any circumstances.

Although I was awfully backward myself in social terms, poor Hugh seemed still worse than me in that respect. It probably didn't help any that he looked a little odd, with a Jay Leno type jaw at the bottom of an upside-down triangle of a face, and maintained a close hair cut which only accentuated his unusual natural features.

(Lots of us back then had no choice whatsoever in our clothing or hair styles, both being dictated by our parents and/or dire financial straits. Like perhaps all teens through the millennia, we were frequently horrified by the appearances our parents forced upon us then.)

Hugh almost invariably said or did the wrong thing in a crowd, wholly by accident. So I don't think he had a lot of friends.

Hugh loved to play chess though. Me too. I think that was the main connection between us. Of what few options we usually had when trapped in a study hall or whatever together, a game of chess was by far our first choice.

I seem to remember Hugh favored leading with either both knights or both bishops in his chess play.

(Yeah, we hadn't yet realized the ultimate opening act is moving the pawn in front of the king, so you can rapidly perform a cross draw with your queen and one bishop to control the center of the board)

Like me, Hugh had his own encounters with bullies. Spending time with Hugh playing chess eventually brought me into contact with maybe one of his own regular foes.

This incident likely occurred late in my sophomore year, or early in my junior. I don't think I owned Shadowfast yet.

Let's call Hugh's nemesis Kenny. I think Kenny was actually part of the high school class following ours-- so if Hugh and I were sophomores at the time, Kenny might have been a freshman.

Of course, in those days lots of folks got held back for one reason or another, and so a senior could conceivably encounter a freshman who was not only bigger but older than them(!)

I don't know exactly what Kenny's circumstances were. But he was a bit taller than either Hugh or me. And had somehow already built up a reputation as a strong fighter in school. I personally hadn't had any meetings of note with him before this, but for maybe him making some verbal threats to me, and me inviting him to try carrying them out.

Kenny seemed to favor picking on Hugh much more than me. I guess because Hugh didn't stand up for himself as readily as I did, and so maybe encouraged a bit more bullying than might otherwise have been the case.

For some bullies just keep coming at you until they encounter sufficiently stiff resistance.

Unfortunately for me, not all bullies were intimidated by active opposition from their prey...

But anyway, one day Hugh and I were in study hall. Which at the time was being held in the school's spacious auditorium.

The rules were no talking or interaction of any kind between students. Of course, it was difficult to enforce that, especially if the teacher in charge didn't stay in the room the entire hour too.

So what they did was make everyone have to sit with at least two empty seats between them, and one empty row in front and behind them.

But that still worked all right for chess games. Hugh or I would dig out a tiny pocket chess set and have at it, leaning in from our respective seats for the mental duel. I think both of us owned our own separate portable set in those days.

One day Kenny happened to have parked himself on the nearest available row below us (towards the stage of the auditorium). And being a bully, he couldn't think of anything to do with himself but verbally harangue us from his position, as we tried to play.

I can't remember now what all he said. But just imagine the most cutting insults and threats such a guy might make, and you probably won't be far off.

I never did attempt to match verbal challenges and insults in terms of vulgarity or threats, myself. Instead, I'd just repeatedly invite the perpetrator to see if they had the guts to put their ass where their mouth was, and bring it on.

Hugh of course tried to act virtually Amish. Even when Kenny managed to surprise us by throwing something onto our board and scattering the tiny pieces. I believe we were using Hugh's set that day, and were never able to locate all the miniscule pieces again after that.

I guess it'll sound pretty pitiful in 2007; but back then the purchase of a cheap plastic pocket chess set was a significant cash outlay for the likes of Hugh and me. And that was if you could find one. Unlike today, back then there was no huge warehouse store or internet with sufficient variety of inventory to offer such specialty items. You only happened upon such things by sheer strokes of luck.

Kenny didn't realize he'd managed to push me over the edge with that act. For I tried my best not to show my anger.

I patiently waited until study hall ended, and everyone filed from the rows of seats into the nearest aisle leading upwards to the main doorways.

I made sure to get between Hugh and the lower reaches of the aisle-- the direction from where Kenny would be coming.

I subtly hung back as other students came through.

Here came Kenny.

He surely wasn't expecting my attack, as it sent him hurtling backwards over the seat row immediately behind him and to my right.

Due to passing students and my desire not to give him any respite, I had to move sideways into the seat row just above his and bend over to reach him, to continue the fight.

I had the advantage, having struck the first blow. And sending him tumbling over the seat row (that was a bit of pure luck on my part).

The bully's surprise was evident through the whole thing. I don't think he landed a single decent blow on me while it lasted.

Almost immediately though teachers or someone in authority, maybe with considerable help from other students, came to Kenny's rescue, and were soon physically restraining the both of us.

Yes, it was a re-enactment of the classic high school scene of sparring young men: Kenny threatening what he'd do to me when he got hold of me, and me telling him to come and get it.

Amazingly enough, the teacher in that instance did NOT punish me in any way for the incident. Maybe because he knew about Kenny too, and liked seeing someone take him down a notch. Especially a smaller guy like me.

Plus, even the teachers at my school were often threatened by the same bullies which terrorized the students.

Did Kenny ever come after me after that? Hell no! He knew better! Or at least that's what I like to think was the reason! Ha, ha. And he never ever harassed me or Hugh again after that, that I can remember. Of course, he might have bothered Hugh when I wasn't around. And no way would Hugh have ever told me about it.

This marked the first time I ever allowed myself to strike the first blow in a fight. As it turned out so well, I decided to use that strategy from that moment on, wherever a fight seemed inevitable anyway.

For as I was usually out-numbered, or else my opponent considerably bigger and a more skilled fighter than me (or both conditions were true simultaneously), striking first was a way to help even the odds a bit. At least sometimes.

I think my change in strategy was strengthened somewhat by my past history of never striking first, to surprise a few more bullies after that. And quite abruptly, the level of violence in my daily life dropped substantially. Not to zero, by any means. But enough for me to actually begin feeling at ease part of the time at school.

Sue Anne Maddison: girl of my high school dreams

One day in high school I was going along just minding my own business when suddenly I fell head over hills off a figurative cliff that hadn't been there just seconds before.

With no warning at all I found myself deeply, heartbreakingly in love with Sue Anne Maddison. Or at least I thought it was love at the time. For it felt an awful lot like what all those Hollywood films and popular songs claimed to be love, in the media in which I'd been immersed all my life.

Many years later I'd learn it was just a combination of Sue Anne's natural pheromones setting off certain biological triggers in me, plus the fact my testosterone production was going through the roof during adolescence, turning on every system I had, in preparation for a truly tumultuous life.

In high school though, all I knew was that suddenly this wondrous angel had descended from the heavens in the shape of a girl-- a girl whom I found simply irresistible.

And just like that, I was doomed. For a terribly, terribly long time to come.

Sue Anne was tall for a girl: about the same height as me. Well developed too. Long straight blond hair. A cheerleader. Very, very soft eyes. She seemed intelligent as well. I suddenly discovered I had several classes with her, sitting right next to her in at least one.

I was surprised to realize only recently that a certain Hollywood star of today closely resembles the Sue Anne I knew in high school: Jennifer Aniston. But as gorgeous as Aniston is, Sue Anne easily outshown her. So it's little wonder a poor country boy like me was so smitten! Ha, ha.

Before this crush struck me, I'd been utterly oblivious to her existence.

Sue Anne seemed surprisingly introverted for all her extra-curricular activities. Looking back on it now I suppose she was just trying to build up a record conducive to getting into college-- and maybe being popular in high school too.

Sue Anne and I never would get together romantically. Heck: in my worst moments my soul-searing crush made it virtually impossible for me to do or say anything coherent whilst in the direct view or close proximity of the girl.

Keep in mind I was shy around just about any girl I liked. But Sue Anne went far beyond like for me. All my inner turmoil gauges pegged out in overload whenever she was around.

It was awful and yet wonderful at the same time.

Besides the horrific shyness problem, I was also poor. It usually took everything I had just to get by. Rarely did I possess such largess as to consider an extravagant night on the town for myself and a date.

And yet when you're in the depths of a crush that powerful, you feel like anything less than the world isn't worth offering to the object of your devotion.

Heck: it's difficult to write about this episode, even now. Decades after the fact.

The most beautiful (and hot) blonde high school cheerleader in history.

Breath-taking blonde cheerleader beauty Sue Anne Maddison.

The above pic has been modified from the original in order to (among other things) colorize it for the web (since color photos in those days were still relatively rare).

To see other images of Sue Anne on-site, check out the supercar driver logs contents page and What did geeks do before personal computers were widespread?

But no matter how unworthy and low you might feel when your endocrine system has put a person up on such a tall ivory pedestal in your mind, you'll still make some sort of attempt to reach out to her, just for the smallest chance she might respond in kind.

Of course I was so far gone if Sue Anne had responded as I'd hoped I might have blown a fuse or gasket of some kind; had a heart attack or a stroke maybe. Or at least broke out in hives so bad as to require immediate medical attention. Ha, ha!

But seriously: it wouldn't have surprised me in such an event to have fell over dead, on the spot. It all seemed that highly emotionally charged an issue to me at the time.

Sue Anne was the world. The rest of the universe (including me) merely orbited around her, it seemed.

Sue Anne of course was utterly unaware of all this for some time, as I tried to find a way to endure the awful passions which now engulfed me. And maybe figure out a way to approach Sue Anne.

You know that expression "butterflies in the stomach"? Well, mine were more like pterodactyls. Each one the size of Godzilla.

Needless to say, I did some awfully silly things while I was under the crush's influence. Maybe many of the things you'd expect of any geek in such a predicament.

But I think my terrible shyness helped prevent me from causing Sue Anne-- or myself-- any truly monumental instances of embarrassment or humiliation or worse.

It also helped that Sue Anne took my crush in stride after she learned of it. Somehow avoiding making the whole thing even worse for me than it already was.

If the real-life Sue Anne ever reads this and recognizes herself from these tales, this is for her:

Thank you for your kind tolerance of me back then. I hope all your fondest dreams come true. Sincerely yours, the real-life Jerry Staute.

It didn't help matters any that this crush befell me before I'd gotten any wheels of my own. So I lacked any form of personal vehicular mobility as well, by which to court her.

I'm unsure if Sue Anne owned a car at this early stage herself. But if not, she soon did: an attractive green and black 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS.

My impression memory-wise was it sported a 350 cubic inch motor. And her dad had bought it for her (I don't think Sue Anne held a job throughout the time I shared with her in high school: for one thing, she was in so many school clubs and functions she couldn't have spent many hours anywhere else).

Naturally, Sue Anne had a boyfriend. And who else could it be but a jock? A football player. A football player with a handsome all black 1969 Mustang Mach 1...

Green and black 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Above is the look of Sue Anne's high school car.

Black 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

Above was what the Mustang of Sue Anne's jock boyfriend looked like (the actual mags may have been slots).

BACK to The journals of Jerry Staute: Crossroads 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 supercar site map

All text above copyright © 2007-2008 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.