Friday, November 21, 2008

Howdy Week

In the high school that I attended, long ago, the first week was called Howdy Week. It was supposed to be a time of gentle hazing for the Freshmen, where Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors could order a Freshman to do something and the Freshman had to do it. It wasn't supposed to be anything bad though, basically just some teasing and mild humiliation.

To identify themselves, the Freshmen had to wear name tags the first week. It was probably something made of paper, maybe construction paper, that they pinned on their shirts. I think they had to write their own names on it.

In that first week of high school, back in 1967, I was somewhat nervous about what might be done during the hazing. To be more specific, I was somewhat nervous about what might be done to me or be required of me. I gave some slight consideration to to leaving the name tag off. I was very tall, 5 feet 11 1/2 inches I think, in the summer before high school, and might even have been slightly taller by the time I got there. Since I was so tall, if I didn't wear a name tag they probably wouldn't know I was a Freshman. I didn't really want to do that, though. It felt too much like cheating, and there might be a chance I could get into trouble for not wearing it, or at least it seemed so to me. And if I left it off I would miss whatever was out there for me, whatever that might be.

Nobody bothered me at first, but I remained nervous about it. Since I was taller than the vast majority of the students, taller than the average height for adults even, potential hazers may not have wanted to try anything with me.

Wednesday, though, as I was walking between the rows of buildings, heading toward one on the end, I saw a group of people with a small kid, apparently trying to put him in a trash container. A few other students were sitting along a large concrete planter, watching. One of them got up and headed in my general direction, not looking at me, moving at a diagonal, heading partially in the direction I was going as if to meet up with me a little ways ahead. I hoped he wasn't really going to do it, that it was just a coincidence that he was heading that way.

As he came closer though, there could be no real doubt that he intended to meet me. I stopped and waited. He was several inches shorter than I was, and came up to me with a strange expression on his face, not really looking at me, seeming to look slightly to the side. Stopping in front of me, he fiddled with the pin on my name tag. Finally getting it loose, he took the name tag, folded it, and put it in his pocket. I think he also clapped me briefly on my left arm, near my shoulder, but I'm not sure now. He turned then and went back, never speaking to me and never looking me in the face.

After that I had no more problems.

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