Bullying and the Bully



Recently I have been seeing a lot on TV, on the internet, and in magazines about “Bullying”. I see a theme running through all these. The bullied individual may use diplomacy, may just walk away from the situation, or just learn to “understand” that the person that is bullying them needs attention or to boost their own self esteem by running roughshod over the other party.The “Bully” may or may not wish to go along with any of these solutions.

Parents are supposed to keep from letting their emotions get the best of them and not intervene directly. Be a support mechanism and give counsel and advice. Reason should be able to eventually solve the problem. Parents of the Bully are likely to quickly defend their ‘little darling” who could not possibly be doing anything mean to anyone. After all, kids should never be told no or receive any punishment when all they need is to be talked to about a situation.

I have a perspective about bullying. I was a victim of bullying. I am the father of a child who was a victim of bullying.  I had some friends who were bullied. Even my grandfather, who was a 50+ year old adult, saw bullying on the job. In each case, the bullying was dealt with and brought to an end. There were no outside forces at work. The solutions brought forth were by those directly involved and they were not always “politically correct”.

When I was about to enter high school, we moved from a small rural community into the city. I was leaving a small community elementary school where there probably had not been a fist fight among students while I was there. I was about to be thrust into a high school of 1200 boys from all walks of life. The girls had their own school a couple of miles away. Things were about to change for me. Private schools were rare at that time so the school had a complete cross-section of the local social white population since there were no blacks, as the schools were racially segregated.

I had to walk about ½ mile to the bus stop which was where a dirt road intersected with the main highway in the area. There were 3 individuals that palled around all the time and the ringleader was constantly hitting, punching, and tripping and generally trying to make my life and the life of a several the of other guys pure torment. They were constantly trying to mess up my hair, knocking my books out of my hands, trying to push me down and hitting and kneeing people were their most fun things to do.

My friend Randall had gotten some of the same treatment and he found a little book on Judo somewhere. He brought it over to my house and we went out into the garage and looked at the illustration of some basic moves and we practiced some of these moves over a few days.

One morning it had been raining a lot during the night. The bus stop was mud, mud, mud.

The three “tough guys” came over to me and started their routine. The leader pushed me in the chest hard enough to make me fall but I somehow kept my feet. On his next attempt to push me, I grabbed his thumb with both hands in a little Judo hold I learned from the book and started back pedaling, and spinning him around at the same time. I got him spinning around pretty good and then I released him and his thumb. He fell headlong in the mud and slid down in the ditch and he was now covered in mud from head to toe. Things had not gone the way he expected and he was surprised, mad, and humiliated. I was not sure what would happen next. His two pals were taken completely off-guard and stood by with no attempt to do anything to me or to assist him from him from the muddy ditch.

All the kids were laughing and pointing, but not the guy in the mud. He was furious and telling me what he is going to do to me.  About that time the bus arrived and I wasted no time in getting aboard. He was yelling about what he was going to do to me that afternoon. On the bus I was safe because Andy, the bus driver, did not put up with any rowdy behavior. Andy’s other job was projectionist at the 41 Drive-in Theater. You don’t meet one of those every day.

That afternoon the Bully’s buddy came around when we got off the bus and started in on me and tried to knee me in the groin. He missed but, thankfully, I did not miss. I caught him fair and square. That can tend to take the steam out of someone.

Interestingly, there was no more bullying. For the first time, their target did not run, walk away, or cower down.  The bullied no longer could be intimidated and bullying was no longer fun.

It changed me, too. I never again allowed someone to have that kind of ‘fun” at my expense.

Instilling self-confidence and overcoming the fear of “what might happen if I stand up to the bully” is not easy and may be impossible for some. My grandfather always said it was the frightened person who was the most dangerous.

Later, my friend Steve was experiencing some bullying by another student. I saw it happen several times and did nothing about it. It only happened when Steve was alone and not with any of his group of friends. The bully was a tough talking and bigger guy and could be intimidating.

We had a day when we were restricted to the gym area and the bully and his buddy (Bullies always have some buddies around) had found an old, nasty Tee Shirt and he was rubbing the rag in Steve’s face. It got quite a laugh from everyone in the room each time. Steve seemed powerless to defend himself and no one else was standing up.

I finally got up the courage to walk over and snatched the Tee shirt from him and rubbed it in his face quite vigorously. The guy was so taken back by this action that his demeanor changed immediately. Rather than jumping up and hitting me, which I kind of anticipated, he slumped back against the wall on the bench he was on. I asked how he like having the tee shirt rubbed in his face and he responded in a rather docile manner that he did not like it. He did say something about getting me later and I suggested that he should “get even” at that time. He never followed up on the “getting even” and he never bothered Steve again. Steve went on to become a successful dentist and he exuded confidence in everything he did.

Certainly, not every case will end up as well as these first two examples, but when I have seen other situations, bullies do not like dealing with people who do not respond by shying away or cowering down and will likely go on to easier pickings.

Then, there was this other kid at Lanier High school named Bobby D. He was a rough looking, rough talking and generally mean guy who looked like a Chicago gangster. His father worked at the mill with my grandfather and he reported on the knockdown, drag out fist fights they had at home. He had the usual entourage of losers following him around and enjoying the “fame” that came from being pals with, no doubt, the toughest guy in school.

There were these other two guys who hung out together and I can’t remember their names now. I believe one was called Bubba but I’m not sure. They were just two ordinary guys that seemed to bother no one. No one, it seems, except Bobby D. Bobby D. had gotten at odds with one of the two other guys and decided to attack him in the school courtyard at class change just before last period. Why, I do not know.

Bobby D. went after the guy and they ended up on the ground with Bobby D. literally sitting on the other guy’s chest, pounding away as the victim was doing his best to defend himself. No one was doing anything to help. Then, the other fellow’s friend, Bubba, appeared and leaned down and told Bobby D. to stop and let his friend up. I don’t know exactly what Bobby D. said to him but I took it to be something like, “It’ll be your turn, next”.  No doubt it was probably a little more colorfully said.

Then something happened that big, bad, mean and tough Bully, Bobby D., did not count on:

The nice, quiet guy, Bubba, that never bothered anyone grabbed Bobby D. by the hair, pulled his head up and back, and hit Bobby D. in the mouth about as hard as I have ever seen anyone hit! Two of Bobby D’s teeth literally fell on the concrete, blood started pouring out of his mouth and he landed flat of his back while Bubba was helping his friend up.

Bobby D. was cussing and threatening, but that was about all he could do. The steam was gone out of him, as well as some teeth and blood. This really had not gone the way he planned and no one came to his aid. By this time some of the teachers and coaches had arrived on the scene and the crowd was dispersed.

Nothing was done to the guy for busting up Bobby D. (They probably were quietly cheering in the principal’s office). For several days after that, when Bobby D. got back to school, there was talk that he was “going to get” the other guy. But, he never did. He had had one meeting and that was enough to last him a lifetime. He soon was gone from the school and I guess ended up at the Vo-Tech school.  Another Bully had met his match!

George W. was working in the peach packing shed where I was working and looked like a good candidate to be bullied around. With his somewhat effeminate demeanor and the big thick black rimmed glasses, he was perfect! There was the usual guy with his two or three buddies and they decided George W. would do just fine!

We were on supper break. George W. and I were eating and sitting on the packing shed frame when the guys found their way over and started taunting George W. and telling him they were going to whip him. George W. had a Nehi Orange bottle in his hand. He jumped down from the place he was sitting and announced to the big talker that he would “hit him up side of his head

with the bottle if he messed with him”. Not the reaction they expected and I think George was scared enough to do it! They never bothered George W. with the big black rimmed glasses again.

My son was in elementary school. He was a sweet kid and never got into trouble and he was a good student.Back then he was just a little kid. But, along the way he ran into some bullies.

He started getting up and not wanting to go to school. He gave all kinds of reasons and it took some digging and talking to find out what was going on. It turned out that two and sometimes three kids were pushing him around, hitting on him, and generally making him afraid to go to school.

I did what I thought was a responsible thing to do: I took a day off and so did my wife and we went by the school to talk to the principal about the situation. He listened kindly and basically said he “did not think there was a real problem”. “Boys will be boys”, he said.  So, “he wasn’t going to be doing anything”. So much for doing the responsible thing.

I was never a tough guy and never had any formal training. I did get into weight lifting and did get into pretty good shape. I was pretty strong for my size and my dad, who loved boxing and boxed in the Army, sparred with me some and gave me some tips on boxing. I boxed around with Bobby and Randall in my garage and some of the other guys I knew for fun.

My dad was only 5’8” tall but was a hard hitter and very fast. He taught me one important rule about personal self-defense when you are about to be “backed into a corner”, so to speak.

His philosophy was that if you saw something about to happen and there was no way out, hit first, hit hard, and hit a place that will hurt enough that the opponent will not want to continue. His target, “right in the mouth” and If you get a little nose, too, that’s all the better. The lips, mouth, and nose bleed easily and hurt a lot!

In the few times I had had to test this theory, it worked well. That business about, “you hit me first” is for friends playing a game. Not for someone out to hurt you.

So, I took my son outside at home and we went through a few drills and I instructed him to not be looking for trouble, but if the guys started on him again, to pop the ringleader in the mouth. A good, stiff, and unexpected left jab would usually do it. My wife advised that this was going to lead to trouble, but I felt we already had trouble. Our son was afraid to go to school. You can probably see where this is headed.

That’s right. A few days later, we get a call from the principal and our presence is requested for a meeting. I asked my son what had happened and he said he just did what I told him to do. He had hit the guy in the mouth!

We met with the principal and he told us that our son had beaten up the other boy and that they were trying to decide what action they should take and what were we going to be doing about it.

I reminded him that we had just come to see him about the problems with the other kids ganging up on our son and him being afraid to go to school. Then I said, “I don’t think there is a real problem.” Boys will be boys”. And, sir, “I don’t plan to do anything. I really doubt there will be any more problem, however.” There wasn’t. They did not bother him again.

However, my son went on to beat up several other guys. He fought Golden Gloves and was Southeastern Amateur champ. He even boxed in a Tough Man Competition. He actually liked hitting people in the mouth!

Mr. Arthur T. worked at the mill with my grandfather. He was like a lot of people from the rural areas that had found the need to go to work to supplement their incomes. Farm life was changing fast in the rural South. They were “country come to town”. They wore their overalls and dressed a little different but were all “salt of the earth”. They liked the 3:00 to 11:00 shift because they could still farm and work too.

There was a fellow who worked at the mill who was known as a big, mean bully and he had the run of the place. People tried to steer clear of him. Mr. T went to the mill to work and he did not want any trouble, anywhere. The Mill Bully made it his task to get the best of any newcomer and to make life miserable for them. He would also go through the other employee’s lockers, large bags, or lunch boxes in hope of finding something of value or to eat. He took what he wanted.

The bully like to grab the bill of Mr. T’s  cap as they walked past each other and yank the cap down as far as it would go. He thought it was funny that this simple, quiet farmer was here working in a mill. He did the same to some others and no one was willing to report the situation.

Mr. T. finally had enough and warned the guy several times. He told the bully that if he yanked his hat down again, he might lose a hand! The big bully was in heaven! He had this old guy right where he wanted him.

On the one night, Mr. T. had his small pocket knife open in his hand and he had his hand in his pocket. When he met up with the big guy, the big guy did his usual and reached out to grab Mr. T’s cap. Mr. T made a quick move and grabbed the bully’s thumb and hooked it with the newly sharpened Boker Tree Brand knife. He put a deep and painful cut in the thumb. The bully yelled and the manager came out of the office to see what was going on.

The mill manager took over the scene, sending the other guy to the emergency room to get stitching and Mr. T in for a reprimand or worse. After hearing the facts of the case and getting the supporting information, no charges were filed and Mr. T went back to work. There was no more bullying in that mill. Losing a thumb, or coming close, takes a lot of the fun out of pulling a guy’s hat down over his eyes.

The recurring theme here is that when a person is the victim of bullying, standing up and giving the bully a serious taste of their own medicine seems to stop the bully every time no matter whether the bully is 6 or 60. The degree of success is about 100%. The psychology and reasoned conversation approach does not seem to be nearly as effective.

In the age of cyber bullying, where the bully can hide while in plain sight and make vicious accusations and statements while remaining anonymous, new methods may be needed. If they are, applying them to the place that hurts the most will likely work. And, as long as parents defend bad behavior of their “perfect little children”, it will be harder to correct the problem. If I got a paddling at school, I was likely going to get another one at home!

Cyber Bullies have the advantage that the biggest cowards can feel safe and no one will ever get to them. They can do their dirty work and not have to meet their victim face to face. But, it is unlikely that “Bullying” is taking place without the Bully having an audience. Bullies feed on the knowledge that they are impressing someone when they put down or injure someone else. The supporters should get the same punishment as the doer. The supporters are usually worse cowards than the perpetrator. There seem to be more rules to protect the perpetrator than the victim and political correctness has replaced good common sense. Nothing has replaced a stiff left jab to the mouth!

© 2016



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