Field Day Champ · 7 November 2008
Field Day was the best day of the school year at Slater Elementary. There was the high jump, standing long jump, softball throw, shoe kick, sack race, and of course, the three-legged race. It was a great day of fun with kids from each grade competing against each other for blue, red, and yellow ribbons. Some of the guys looked like decorated war veterans, they had so many ribbons. I used to get a few ribbons but nobody got nearly as many as Pat and Tom. It seemed like they won everything. It was a good thing too because Tom and I or Pat and I won the three-legged race every year. Almost.
One year, Brook and I discovered that best buds should not necessarily do everything together. We played football together and were always at each other’s houses, but that did not mean that we would be good partners in the three-legged race. Of course, we found that out the hard way. We paired up one year and fell down half way through the race. Either he was too tall or I was too short for us to be a good team. The next year, he found a taller partner and I found a shorter one.
Tom and I were great partners. We were almost exactly the same height. And we could step together as fast as I could run. Tom played running back on our football team until he moved away. He was a great athlete and for two or three years, we were unbeatable in the three-legged race. We would step step step to the finish line. Everybody who tried to catch us would either fall down or fade back into the pack. I think it was Tom’s athleticism and balance that kept him upright on the football field and kept us winning the blue ribbons. Those were the few blue ribbons that I did win. Scott, King of the Jungle Gym, was the perennial shoe kick winner on field day. Pat, Tom, Brook, or one of the baseball players usually won the softball toss. And one year, Pat and I were the last two in the high jump. We were doing it the old-fashioned scissor kick method because we were jumping into a sand pit. But I decided that I needed to try the Fosbury flop. I did it okay. Once. I only did it once because I knocked the wind out of myself when I landed. So I did get at least one second-place ribbon that day. And of course, I had one blue ribbon from the three-legged race. A race that I won with Pat or Tom.
Besides his athletics, Tom did lots of other stuff to entertain everybody. He had the charm and good looks to garner most of the attention from the girls. And he could really play football (which is what really mattered back then). I remember one game when Tom was running a kickoff back. I was watching him run instead of blocking. He started right then got hit so he decided to go left. It was wet and slippery that day and Tom slipped as he was starting upfield again. But instead of falling, he just put his hand on the ground, regained his balance, and kept going. He probably would have scored if the referees had not blown the play dead saying that he was down. There was no way that his knee touched the ground but the refs always get the last word. Tom was down.
As great as field day and football were, the thing I will remember most about Tom is when he got his head stuck in the window. When we were in the third or fourth grade, we had a teacher who was always the model of decorum but was always late after recess. Consequently, we were always the last class back into the school on our wing.
In the spring, we got in trouble for playing in the courtyard between the wings. The sprinklers were on during recess and we ran through them. We knew that we would be last into the classroom so we spent more time than we should have just getting wet. I am sure that we did it more than just the one time when we got warned. Mr. Smith, the principal, warned us that the next time we got caught, we would get spanked. As a warning, he took five or six of us and lined us up in front of the class and made us assume the position as if we were getting spanked. We never did get spanked even though we did not stop running through the sprinklers. We just did not get caught again. We must have gotten away with some other bad things that got our teacher riled because when Tom got stuck, she blew up.
As usual, we were waiting for our teacher to get back from class after recess. We finished running through the sprinklers before the other two classes went back into their classrooms so their teachers would not see us. We were lined up by our door. All the windows were open because it was a nice spring day.
We must have waited longer than usual or been awfully impatient that day. Tom was at the front of the line. He was especially tired of waiting and probably needed to show off to the class. So he said that he was going to stage a big surprise for our teacher. He would climb through the window and open the door. We would all go in and be at our desks when the teacher got back to class. Everybody thought that would be a great surprise and encouraged Tom to go through with his plan.
At first, Tom figured that he or Brook could just reach in to open the door. They both tried to no avail. Even Brook’s arm was not long enough to open the door. So Tom started to crawl through the window. He got about half of his body through parallel to the length of the window but he could not get his head in through the opening. So he started over with his head. Tom pushed the window open as far as it could go. Some of us helped push it open as he started to push his head through. (Looking back, I suppose that Tom’s head was crowning through the window.) It seemed that he was going to make it. Then he got stuck. He could not go farther in. He could not get out. No matter how hard we pushed on the window, Tom was stuck. And then our teacher came.
None of us had ever heard a teacher swear before that day. When our teacher came into the room and saw Tom’s head stuck in the window she exploded. We all literally saw a blue streak of filth escape her mouth even though all that she said was, “What the hell are you doing! Pardon my French!” Tom was still squirming to get loose as she seemingly took only two steps to get clear across the room. She only had to push the window down hard by leaning on it and Tom was free. I do not remember whether Tom went to the principal’s office with the teacher or not. I just remember that the lights never came on that afternoon and the teacher left the room. None of us moved from our seats or said a word while she was gone. I do not remember her threatening us but we had all heard her say “hell.” And if a teacher could say that, there was no telling what other atrocities she might commit.
Eventually, the teacher came back. I do not remember how many days it took but we finally got to get out of our seats. I haven’t seen him since the fifth grade but I will bet that Tom still has a thin groove on each side of his head where the window dug in. And maybe, like me, he still has those blue ribbons from the three-legged races that we won on field day.
© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi
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From Long Walks Home or Pee on Poo, Potty on the Shoe, unpublished.
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