Sometimes, you stand your ground

girl on swingset

It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.

— Joseph Joubert

“What is a strike?” I remember asking my father before I was old enough to go to school.

“And what’s the line those guys say nobody better cross? I don’t see any line.”

I really loved watching Huntley and Brinkley. Before I could read, I asked a boatload of questions. As soon as I could read even just a little bit, I studied. I wore my parents and my sisters out.

“Why is she asking this stuff?”

I remember Dad asking our mother. She shrugged with exhaustion. My sister said, “She just never shuts up.”

When I finally got in school, I have a feeling most all of my classmates rolled their eyes when I raised my hand, especially when the subject was nearly closed and crayons were about to be put in play.

I was never looking to be a teacher’s pet. I was looking for valid ammunition by way of factual information. I wanted to win every possible obstacle the boys put up out on the playground.

Battle of life

I had older boy cousins, so I knew this was a battle of life. They wrangled the facts, believe me. The girls were told what they could not do, and boys said it with such authority.

I was a mighty 6-year-old with a plan. The first day of school, recess kickball teams started counting for numbers on each team. I was right there in the counting line.

“Nah, you can’t play,” Patrick said to me.

His reasoning was that I was wearing a skirt. And a skirt made me a girl.

“A skirt does NOT make me a girl. I am a girl because at the hospital when I was borned, they named me a girl,” I argued.

I needed to check my sources a little better. No doubt about that. The boys argued that if the ball got kicked in the creek, no way was a girl gonna run right in to the creek after it.

Put to test

I grabbed the ball, threw it in the creek and told my tiny new best friend Kathy to run in and get it. She did not. You might be surprised to know I lost the battle that day.

I guess I needed better preparation and a tougher cookie sidekick for that particular demonstration. Springtime came, and the boys fought me from joining a cowboy shoot-out near the creek which ran between the school and the funeral home.

I said they needed me cause I could quick-draw left-handed fake pistols better than any boy I knew. I cited the superiority of Annie Oakley, surely earning my spot.

“Oh, yeh? And if you fall in the mud and land in the creek, you know yer gonna cry and the teacher won’t let us play this no more,” the tough boy argued.

I jumped down in the mud just to prove Annie Oakley would, too, do it.

“You know there’s dead people parts in there,” a boy shouted right into my face. This travesty occurred in the days before I started reading Environmental Protection Agency reports for fun, so I froze in place.

Standing my ground

I had no source to quote in debate. I stomped my patent leather shoes with the frilly white, lacy socks and tried to call their bluff by telling them they were more ‘fraidy’ cats than I ever was.

They were unmoved by my eloquence. I gave up and half-heartedly watched girls play Barbie dolls, something I could do any day of the week if I ever wanted to. I counted down the minutes until we could go back to work learning factual information, while I dreamed of a day when recess wouldn’t be quite so taxing.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.



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