Growing up on a farm makes you tough. I suppose it’s like growing up in the city, but different. On the farm, we are faced with life and death every single day. Dealing with cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and what have you can place you in harm’s way in a split second. So you learn early to be aware, agile, and quick thinking. There are enough bruises to go around in just a normal day’s work, so you don’t want to add to them by not using your God-given common sense. All this, to say that inner strength that you get by growing up on a farm can translate to other parts of your life. I was a late bloomer. Small, short and skinny. And being so, I was a target of the older kids on the school bus and in the schoolyard.
My wonderful life on the farm came to a crashing halt when I had to go to school. Interaction with other kids wasn’t easy. Things that I thought were fun and honorable became objects of being the fun from the dishonor of others. One of my first experiences was the long bus ride to school. My brother Chuck was attending Ashland College and he had brought home a beanie with a short gold brim and a purple crown with gold letters “A C” sewn in the middle. Chuck gave it to me. So I proudly wore it to school one day. Kids on the bus made fun of me, took it off my head and threw it around the bus, saying that the A C stood for Ash Can. I found it insulting and humiliating. I cried when I got home that day, saying nobody liked me. Mom consoled me. Dad said I needed to toughen up, but this harassing didn’t stop there.
Grades 1 through 8 were all together at our township school. Many of the older kids got a kick out of picking on the younger ones. One big guy, I don’t remember his name, would come up to me and punch me in stomach every day. He and his buddies got a good laugh at me wrenching in pain. I got to thinking about it and I had this big trophy belt buckle with two little holes in it where at one time there was a metal bucking bronco. I found a carpet tack that fit through one of the holes right nice. The next day, I stopped the kid in the hall and told him I wanted him to hit me as hard as he could, but he had to hit me right at the beltline. He looked around at his friends and they all laughed. He hauled off and walloped me good. Imagine his surprise when that carpet tack lodged in the bone of his fist. He never bothered me again.
Another time, a guy who was constantly picking on me shoved me aside when we were getting on the bus after school and said, “Get out of my way you big fat slob,” which, when you think about it, was pretty funny as I was so skinny. I followed him on the bus and sat down right beside him. I asked him what he called me and he repeated it. I punched him in the face, broke his glasses and gave him a bloody nose. He was crying and all the kids were like, “wow, did you see that?” He became a pretty good friend. Point is, we used to handle bullying a different way down on the farm. We fought back. Romans 12:19 reminds us “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Seemed to me back then there was a fine line between vengeance and self-defense. I have since repented. But don’t try me.