When I was 7 or 8, my cousin, Marlon Pugh, decided I need to be 'toughed up'.
It all had to do with Ricky, my Aunt Gladys' nephew who showed up every summer and 'ran over me', as Marlon put it.
Aunt Gladys was Uncle Russel's wife. Russel was my father's older brother who lived right behind us in Anawalt, West Virginia.
I grew up in an apartment that was over a grocery store until the grocery store went out of business and then we lived over a vacant storefront. Uncle Russel lived in a house behind our apartment. Russel and Gladys never had children. My father's other two brothers--Del and Sidney--had one and two children respectively. My father's sister, who died before I was born, had one child, Pat Lafon. The Bradley clan were not great pro creators.
On the other hand, I had 14 Jones clan older first cousins. And then Aunt Elise, my mother's sister, adopted a 7 year old when I was 12 or so and I became the second youngest of all my first cousins--Jones and Bradley alike. I was the baby on both sides of my family until Denise came along.
Interesting enough, the two sides of my family had little in common. The Bradley's, were, for the most pare, not religious and the Jones' were super-religious, except for my Aunt Georgia and her children Mejol and Bradley (named after my father--but using his last name since 'Virgil' and 'Hoyt' were the other two choices. Bradley folk drank and smoked but not the Jones'. All of my Bradley cousins were college educated and some beyond undergraduate school. Many of my Jones cousins were not. Two different breeds, in may ways.
But this is about Ricky, my cousin in law and how he ran rough shod over me until Marlon 'roughed me up'.
Marlon, who was at least a dozen years older than me, came to our apartment and took my toys, which I gladly let him have. Then he started pushing me around, not unkindly but with purpose.
Finally, in tears, I started hitting him back and he told me this: "Good, Jimmy! This is good! Just right! Don't let Ricky take your toys...."
The next time Ricky came and took a toy I was playing with, I punched him in the face. He never did it again and all was well.
I never had another fight in my life (amazing, right, growing up in West Virginia?) Though I did, in 8th grade, stare down Donnie Davis, who threatened to beat me up, with a cup sized rock in both my hands. I think I would have used them if he hadn't, as becomes a bully, backed down.
I've never had any other use for my being 'roughed up'. Not once.
I'm not sure I needed being 'roughed up' in a physical way. But, when I ponder that over half a decade ago experience, I think it served me well.
I seldom, in my life, have 'backed down' in moments of conflict--be they physical or mental or philosophical or emotional.
Not bad, I think, for enduring a half-hour of torment from a much older first cousin.
It was a lesson that one needed to learn from someone who loved them and wished them only 'good', not harm.
Many others, I imagine, have learned to be 'tough' in much worse and destructive ways.
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- rain, sweet rain
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