Sometimes I stop in Hanford or Tulare on my way to the Sierra Nevada, and look at my old homes, neighborhoods, and schools, trying not to raise the suspicions of the current residents.
Of all the kids I knew during my elementary school years, Chuck and Cora are among those I remember most.
Cora was known as a little sister of several football stars, two of whom went on to play in the National Football League. She wasn’t little, though—even in fourth grade. I remember her principally for her dominant presence wherever she went on campus, and her steely breasts which hovered out before her like two bodyguards. I don’t know whether she had any friends. A person would have to be pretty brave to approach her. I don’t think she was a bully, though.
Chuck was the star athlete at James Monroe Elementary School. He wasn’t quite the fastest runner on campus, but he was skilled in just about everything. His intense competitiveness was frightening, yet he was as fair in his dealings on the playground as any kid I knew. He was an angel to me, but of course it must be noted that I posed no competitive threat to him. There were times that, if it weren’t for intercession from Chuck, I wouldn’t have been permitted to play on either team in a given game. Sometimes, though, even the grace of Chuck wasn’t enough, for though I was put onto a team in say, kickball, I would usually mark the permanent end of every line. As a kid would take his or her turn and either run home or make out, he or she would inevitably consider the end of the line as the spot in front of me.
I didn’t keep in touch with Chuck, or any of my classmates. I remember seeing a two-page spread on Chuck in a sports magazine years later, and then several years later I heard on some late night show while crossing Nevada that he’d been forced out of the NFL after he hurt another player badly. I was surprised to read that Chuck had earned a reputation as an executioner, though I never doubted his competitiveness.
© 2007 Dan J. Jensen