The Barneys (not their real name) lived about 10 houses up the street from us. They had some sons who were just “mean widdle kids.” I remember Ronald, who was only a couple of years older than I, was particularly nasty about “picking on” me. Today it would be called bullying. He would follow me when I walked to school and pull my sash loose. He would knock my books out of my hands and kick them around, then run away laughing.
He organized some of the more malleable kids in the neighborhood and they would attack me in groups. I would be kicked and hit, several times I was bitten. I was feisty, and fought back, kicking, hitting and biting whoever got in range. I, too, knocked books down and kicked them around. Once I destroyed a social studies project (after Ronald had knocked me down into a mud puddle and pushed my face in it).
Old Ronald had me buffaloed. He outweighed me, and he usually had the advantage of surprise. I knew the bushes and brick banks he usually ambushed me from, but he was always changing them, and I would be soundly thrashed once more. It didn’t happen every day, or even every week. Sometimes 2 or 3 weeks would go by and I would begin to relax my guard. Then I would be attacked 2 or 3 days in a row. Did I “tell my Momma?” No. I just wanted to deal with this myself. Of course, I <strong>couldn’t</strong> deal with it! I was too little, too weak, and too inexperienced.
This went on for months. I just couldn’t tell anyone what was going on. It had become a heavy burden that I had to carry. I dragged on and on and on, feeling less and less and less able to defend myself or to do anything else. When I got home, instead of playing outside, I would curl up in a chair and read and listen to records or to the radio.
The final misery was when I took a beautiful doll to school one day to demonstrate my grandmother’s sewing. She had made an outfit for the doll that matched mine. It had a fur jacket and everything. I shoulda-coulda-woulda asked my little Gam to give me a ride to and from school that day, but I didn’t. I took the chance and walked. My mistake. Ronald caught me in the little park at the end of the block. He and his gang of bullies shoved, kicked, and hit me, tore up my homework and my notebook, pulled a smelly jacket over my head and bashed my head against the stone marker in the park several times. They stomped my doll, then they took it and ran away.
I was only semi-conscious, and my nose and lip were bleeding. But I picked myself up and dragged myself home. The maid and my little Gam fussed over me. My little Gam drove up to the park and collected all the things she could find of my books and papers and notebook. No doll.
When Momma got home that afternoon, my little Gam had a big confab with her. Then they sat me down and extracted all the beatings and attacks I had suffered through over the past several months. Momma said, “Those darn Barney kids!” (only she didn’t say “darn!”) Then she went to the phone and started dialing. First she called my Daddy. That’s when I knew it was a really Big Deal. He came over. Then they both went up to the Barney house. I have no idea what was said or done. But Ronald came down to the house with my doll. She was a wreck – her dress was torn and there was mud and grass sprigs all over the fur jacket – and that was REAL Mouton fur! Her face had a cracked cheek and one glass eye was missing. That’s when I really started crying. Ronald said he was sorry, but I knew he really wasn’t. I had lost the “contest” by telling on him. But there were no winners in this contest. Ronald lost, too. I don’t know what his folks did to him, what his punishment was, but he never touched me again, and neither did any of his gang of bullies. They gave me a wide berth.
My little Gam re-did the outfit for the doll, and Momma got a new doll to wear it. But it wasn’t the same. I survived. Ronald survived. I heard later that he became a dentist. Maybe he was a good one. But I would never consider going to him!