It was a John Wayne western. I don’t remember the title. I think it may have been “McClinchismcahill Cogburn” or something of the like.
Short interlude: I am a big John Wayne fan, but have you ever noticed that the Duke wore his gun waaaaay back? I mean, practically in his butt-crack back?
In my best John Wayne voice: Just a minute there, pilgrim. Let me dig this gun out of my ass and we’ll just see who’s in charge here.
Anyway, the big fight scene came on; you know the one… everyone throws their punches by telegraphing them from about a mile away –always a ginormous roundhouse, while the person about to be hit conveniently holds his head still and, in fact, often pushes it out there a bit more to make the hitting easier (we don’t want to inconvenience a man who is going to all the trouble of swinging his fist from somewhere south of Australia). The receiver of the punch then flies backwards, usually landing on a balsawood poker table that demolishes in a spray of splinters.
I am amazed that civilization has made it this far with the inferior wood and crappy craftsmanship of the 1800’s. No wonder they had outhouses. If they’d had indoor ceramic toilets the things probably would have exploded in a cloud of dust with the first strong bowel movement.
As I got older, I learned that real fights don’t happen that way. And me being me, I had to make this discovery through experience. I couldn’t just take someone’s word for it.
One of the first fights I got into was with a semi-psychopath. We played football in P.E. and I had accidentally (and unknowingly) blocked a kid who went backward and hit his head against psycho-kid’s nose.
The next day, psycho-kid was in the locker room putting on cleats. Cleats. We never wore cleats in P.E. With my highly tuned deductive reasoning I said, “Huh.”
He came at me on the field. I didn’t know why, but his charge had serious intent and his eyes had a curious vacuum. I managed to step back and hit him about three times, but then I found out another interesting fact about psycho-kid: he was a wrestler.
So that’s what he did. He wrestled. He took be down and must have been having one helluva fine time twisting me into a pretzel. He finally stopped moving and I realized that he had me pinned, but was covering my face with his torso. I couldn’t move my arms. I couldn’t move my legs. But the worse part?
I couldn’t breathe.
My thought process went something like this: Damn, he’s got me pinned. Shit, I can’t breathe. Damn, he’s not moving off me. Shit, I REALLY can’t breathe. You know, Joe, if this continues, you will black out and probably die. That would really make mom sad.
My thoughts finally reached a point of panic. I was trying to move in some way….in any way. All I could do was turn my wrist a little.
But that little was enough. The powers that be thought it right and just to send me my deliverance.
I turned my wrist and his testicles plopped into my palm.
I squeezed. I squeezed hard. I squeezed like a man with scurvy trying to get the very last drop of juice from an orange.
I think I remember hearing his scream, but I’m not sure.
The next thing I knew I was on my hands and knees, getting up.
Then the next thing I knew I was on my hands and knees, getting up. Déjà vu, which is always a weird feeling. What I didn’t know was that as I was getting up the first time, psycho-kid kicked me in the head. A ‘friend’ told me afterward it looked like psycho-kid was trying to kick a field goal from the 40 yard line.
When I got up, psycho-kid was running away and everyone else started in with the “I was just about to jump in…” and “In another few seconds I would have…” crap. Total crap.
Later that day, I was called into the principal’s office for fighting. He was a very serious man and even moved a chair directly in front of me so he could get the whole story. His brow was furrowed and he nodded now and then as I told him everything…except for the part where I wrung out the kids nut-sack like a wet dish towel.
He looked at me very seriously and said, “Joe, did you squeeze his testicles?”
The poor man looked so intent when he asked the question I couldn’t help but laugh.
“I may have just a bit,” I said.
“That’s what he said,” and then the principal laughed. “He said, and I quote, ‘it felt like a volcano went off in my balls.”
You wouldn’t see that happen today.
The other lesson I received in the reality of fighting versus fictional movie fighting was fairly brief. It happened after a barrage of martial arts films were engulfing theaters throughout the U.S.
To be brief (and because I honestly don’t remember how it began), another guy and I were facing off to do what some macho types call “the man dance.” I was ready. I’d been in enough fights…I had a little bit of a size/weight advantage. This would be easy.
Then the guy pulled a knife.
That put a whole new spin on things. This could get serious. Suddenly my advantage didn’t seem to comfort me near as much. But I had seen a few martial arts films.
I dropped into what I thought was a reasonable imitation of a martial arts crouch. I put my hands out as if I knew how to karate chop.
He came at me. I pivoted and aimed an arcing kick at his wrist to disarm him.
I disarmed him and watched as he turned and ran away (by the way, the running away thing happens quite often in real fights).
I was pretty proud of my martial arts prowess and being able to disarm a knife-wielding opponent. Then I looked down and saw the knife sticking out from the side of my foot.
I think my thought process was something like, Damn, these are fairly new Nikes. And now there’s a cut in the side. The cut in my foot wasn’t much and I settled for gaining a knife for myself in exchange to some damage to my tennis shoe.
I’ve not been in too many fights since then. I think I may have slowly discovered that the running away thing is actually a strategically smart move.
Maybe if people actually fought like they did in those old movies I would fight more.
Just so long as the other guy sticks his head out there for me to hit and there’s plenty of that cushy, easy-break furniture around.