Fighting For Respect
Lloyd and I were getting off of the bus coming back from school. Lloyd was a big kid and I was little for my age. He was a year older than me and we were maybe fifteen and sixteen. Just as we were walking past the building that housed Reed’s Party store Mike jumped out from his hiding place behind the building right in front of Lloyd. This was a surprise tactic that Mike liked to use to catch his adversary off guard. Mike was the brother of Randy who was younger than us and was always mouthing off. Deep down Randy was a good kid but he had a temper and he was always irritating people with his mouth. One day he got upset with Lloyd. It was at Richmond’s Field after or during a game. I don’t remember the particulars but Randy got physical with Lloyd. Lloyd easily tossed Randy to the ground. He might have had to punch him to keep him at bay. Randy in his rage left with foul words as he stormed toward home. Randy used all of the swear words I had ever heard and then some. Lastly was his threat of telling his big brother. This had happened a few days before and the memory had faded from our minds until Mike made his unexpected appearance from behind the building. Mike had vengeance on his mind and explained quickly and with a voice of hate why he was going to administer the beating that followed. “You picked on my little brother”, came the angry words out of his mouth. Before Lloyd could say anything the punches began. Mike was a skinny kid maybe 5’7 and 120 pounds but he had a reputation throughout the neighborhood. Everyone was afraid of Mike because he fought like a caged Tiger. He was fast with his fists and feet and he fought with a mean animal like disposition. Lloyd’s books flew to the ground immediately as Mike’s punches quickly dislodged them. I’m standing a few feet from the action watching my friend get pummeled, scared and not saying a word. Although I had seen Lloyd win fights many times (mostly with his brothers) and although Lloyd outweighed Mike by more than 80 pounds he stood there and took his beating without fighting back. I guess it was a fear that if he did fight back the beating would be worse. Mike was in a whirlwind as his fists were flying and connecting. Then for good measure he swung his leg and swiftly kicked his foot into Lloyd’s groin. With that Lloyd fell to the ground at which time Mike kicked him a couple of more times while he was down and told him never to pick on Randy again. Mike walked away and Lloyd got up very slowly picking up his books which had scattered in the parking lot.
There was a price to pay for scuffling with Randy and Lloyd had paid the ultimate price. The same thing happened to my friend Austin one day. It was the exact same circumstance. Once again a few days before Austin and Randy got into an altercation. Once again Randy told his big brother Mike and once again Mike jumped out from behind the building. It was almost a replay of what happened earlier with Lloyd as Mike again administered the beating. The problem as Mike saw it was that both Lloyd and Austin were much bigger than Randy. No matter how much Randy instigated the trouble Mike looked at it like the families honor was at stake. Randy was not getting any respect and Mike took it upon himself to give out a lesson.
Nobody had seen me fight before. That’s because I had not been in a fight since I was 9 or 10 years old. At that time I was very interested in boxing and wondered if I was any good at it. There were a couple of times that I orchestrated “fights.” They were not vengeance fights, more like boxing matches without gloves. There wasn’t a fear of getting hurt, only a curiosity of how well I could perform. I remember a kid named Kenny who outweighed me by 50 pounds. That didn’t matter to me as I thought I could out box him. We weren’t mad at each other and maybe he thought he could use the fighting practice too. We met after school one night in a field around the block. I circled Kenny using my speed and boxing punches I had seen professionals use. It was a very civilized fight and I was having the better of it. After about 20 minutes Kenny got close enough to wrestle me to the ground. Since Kenny was so much heavier this was not a position I wanted to be in. My idea was a straight boxing match but Kenny had other ideas. With his weight keeping me down in a helpless position he was about to administer my beating. Just then we heard a voice from the dad of one of my friends who lived across the street. Apparently Mr. Evans either heard the commotion or just happened to be going for a walk. “Break it up you two, you are going to hurt each other.”, he yelled as he pulled Kenny off of me. That hastily ended our encounter and we never fought again.
Because I was small and a couple of kids on the bus were dying for respect themselves, they started picking on me. I knew both of them well and at different times I considered both of them friends. Separately they seemed alright, but around each other they could be downright mean. Their names were Brian and Terry and they would deliberately sit behind me on the bus. Without warning suddenly I’d feel a sharp hit to the back of my head. Turning to see who it was they would sit there like nothing happened. Every day this problem existed. It got to a point that I dreaded riding the bus because of the abuse I was taking. When I voiced my displeasure at home one time my sister must have taken notes. One day coming home from school the same thing happened. As we were about ready to get off of the bus my sister hauled off and slapped Brian across the face. I didn’t see this since it happened behind me. However it put Brian in a strange position that he didn’t know how to handle. He couldn’t try to hit a girl because nobody could respect that. In the end I heard him sputtering to me about how I had to have my sister fight my fights for me.
Actually for the most part I considered Randy a friend. Although he was younger he was always active in the neighborhood games and I remember many times playing wiffleball with him in his back yard. One day as friends we were wrestling in my front yard. Although I was a little taller Randy probably outweighed me. It was just something to do as we both loved competition. I didn’t consider it a fight just a friendly wrestling match. Randy apparently had other ideas. After we had broke free from each other he wildly threw a right hand that connected with my face. My nose started bleeding and I had to go into the house to get it stopped. I guess Randy was in his glory from what I heard. He quickly spread the news that he had just beat me up. Since nobody was around to see it Randy’s glory was pretty shallow. With his confidence at a high he boisterously challenged me to a fight at Richmond’s field at 4 O’clock on Saturday. Quickly he spread the news that he had called me on and that it would be Saturday at 4. Randy was determined to get the respect he wanted by pummeling an older kid in front of everyone.
I really didn’t want to fight Randy. It wasn’t for fear of his big brother. I’m sure that Randy bragged to Mike about how he had called me on. I’m sure Mike told Randy that this time he was on his own. Actually I think that Mike respected me. He saw me competing against kids much bigger and doing quite well. Mike also knew that I had not instigated this fight, it was all Randy. He must have also recognized that this was not the case of a big kid picking on his little brother. It was actually his little brother picking a fight with me. Still there was no way out for me. Randy had called me on and I would lose all neighborhood respect if I didn’t answer the bell.
I thought about the kind of fight that I would like to have with Randy. As long as I was forced to fight I wanted it to be on my terms and on my strengths. I remember a fight I saw Don fight. Don was the best athlete in our neighborhood and physically the strongest kid around. One day Dave and Don had a disagreement and Dave let Don know he wanted to fight. Dave was a kid around Dons age who was very loud and energetic. Before Dave got to the field for the fight Don shared his strategy with me about how the fight would go. It will be a headlock he said. I’m sure that Don could have beaten Dave any way they fought, but he decided to use this tactic so nobody would get hurt. Quickly Dave charged at Don and Don smoothly viced Dave’s head in the headlock grip. I have to say that it was the most boring fight I have ever seen. After about 10 minutes Dave escaped only to have Don reapply the grip. Finally Dave gave up and that was the end of the fight. Dave’s head was sore afterward but his demeanor wasn’t. He had a new found respect for Don.
My fight with Randy would not be so casual. I couldn’t adopt Don’s headlock strategy. By wrestling with Randy I would put myself at risk for his wild rages. Randy was at his best when he got mad or upset and charged wildly. Being in close proximity of that like I would be in a wrestling match was not what I wanted. Also because Randy outweighed me wrestling him would be to his advantage. I decided to fight him from a distance using my old boxing skills I had practiced years ago. Since I had the reach on Randy I hoped to be able to keep him literally at arms length. Most of the time when two people fought they were seriously mad at each other. This was not the case with Randy and I. I wished that Randy would just call the whole thing off but he had too much pride for that. With everyone excited to see a fight Randy wasn’t going to let them down.
Brian knocked on my door at about 10 minutes to 4. Yes, the same Brian who bullied me. That was the way it was in our neighborhood. Friends could become enemies and enemies friends. I was escorted over to the field and yes Terry was there to watch along with a few of my friends. I soon realized that everyone there was for me even Brian and Terry. I didn’t hear a single voice rooting for Randy. They looked at it as an opportunity for someone to get Randy without Mike’s retaliation. Randy was waiting when I got there. We started circling each other with fists raised. This was exactly the fight I was prepared for. Circling around looking for an opening and suddenly getting into hitting range I methodically jabbed with my left hand. I heard the voices of my fans yelling for me to charge in. However I ignored their voices and kept Randy at bay. I started connecting with my punches and when Randy tried to counter I was just out of reach. After awhile Randy was feeling some pain. When I connected with a right squarely on his jaw Randy went into a rage. Risking life and limb and crying as he charged he connected with his foot exactly how his brother Mike had kicked Lloyd. I had dominated the fight but now it was a crucial moment. I was in excruciating pain but I couldn’t let Randy know that. I bravely held him at bay until I somewhat recovered. Again I connected to his face and Randy went on a rage again. He charged as tears started coming down his cheeks and I caught him coming in with a right hand.
With that Randy ran off of the field back to his house which was one house over. Brian realizing my parents were watching from the backdoor of our house ran over and raised my hand in victory for them to see. After an hour or so Randy was out and about hanging around the old gang trying to gain the respect that he lost earlier. On the other hand my dad took me on a trip downtown probably happy I was in one piece.
I haven’t seen or heard about Randy in years. The old neighborhood kids grew up and moved on and Richmond’s field eventually became a garden. Last month I heard that Randy had recently passed away. I never heard what he died from but the news seemed to catch even his brother by surprise. Although the fight was my strongest memory, I remember a lot of good things about Randy. For instance one time we played in a word of life softball tournament. At lunch they gave a salvation message and Randy was quick to respond. Randy wanted to live his life for the Lord but it was very hard for him in the situation he was in. You see his dad was an alcoholic which explains why Mike felt he had to be the man of the house. As kids we look at what is apparent around us but don’t study the behind the scenes realities. We look at the symptoms without considering what is causing their outbreak.
Rodney Dangerfield made a living as a comic talking about how he got no respect. He was funny but It isn’t a laughing matter in real life. Respect is something we earn by how we live. Having respect is a very important thing. When you or I are witnessing to someone they will not hear us if they don’t respect us. Reputation means everything in whatever we are standing for. When we stand for God they may not like us or agree with us but they will respect us! Trying to earn respect is why we fought so hard as kids. That had to be why I reluctantly fought Randy that day. Now Randy is gone…I hope he had a happy life. I saw in his obituary that he was in the army for quite awhile. I hope he got the respect he was looking for. I have a strong feeling that he did! I also read that Randy had been married since 1979! In this age of divorces that is a record to be truly respected! I hope that Randy found the Lord and was serving him. I know that he had a heart for God but could never live the way he wanted to while in his daily dilemma. The truth is we all have our own crosses to bare and no situation is the same. We all are dealt our own cards and some hands are better than others. I felt like I got a pretty good hand and Randy didn’t.
I ran into Mike a few years ago and we talked. He was very happy to see me and I mentioned how everyone feared him in the neighborhood. Although he knew that everyone respected him it was an empty forced respect that he had to constantly fight for. Mike talked about how regretful he was about his actions. He knew and regretted his reputation as he very humbly told me his story. You see Mike had lived in a neighborhood that he considered unsafe before they moved into our neighborhood. Early on Mike felt it was his duty to protect his family and that didn’t change when they made the move. It was hard to believe that this calm seemingly peaceful man was the same whirlwind raging guy I remembered. He fought for our respect years ago and we were forced to give it to him, but now I respect him more than ever because without a fight he gave me reason to!