Solid as a Rock
It was my older brother Tom who inspired me to take up physical fitness. He was solid as a rock and I admired him. It was the early 1960’s and both of us had been extremely active adolescents. But Tom, only a year older than me, had become a fanatic by age 14. He was into it all…body building, jogging, calisthenics, sit ups, pull ups, pushups or any other exercises that would transform him into the perfect “hard body”. He was also into martial arts training.
Tom also had all the usual collection of body building magazines complete with photographs of the day’s current champions as well as popular karate and judo instructional publications.
Early every morning before the sun came up he would be out running a 3 mile course, followed by a strict exercise regimen. I had to admit he not only looked good, but was hard as nails to boot.
Combining those attributes with what some would say were natural good looks and a super cool demeanor made him an instant “Chick Magnet”. He never lacked for female companionship…including the gals I brought home. One look at him and I became history. To top it all off, he was in a “Rock and Roll Band”. I never stood a chance.
I enjoyed watching him work out. It encouraged me to follow his example. And since I had always looked up to my older brother, it was only natural I would ask him to teach me his techniques. Tom examined my physique and determined I had a good basic foundation to work with and agreed to be my mentor.
The “Tom Young’s School of Physical Fitness and Martial Arts” was born and classes commenced in earnest the next morning. As the months passed, Tom’s body became transformed into a finely chiseled, muscular machine. Not nearly like his pictures of rippling, brawny champions, but well-developed to say the least. I would never qualify for the “Mr. America” title either. However I did become as solid as a rock. My abdominal muscles became especially hardened due to the 100 plus sit-ups I did daily. This fact was going to become extremely important with a few incidents which were soon to occur.
I was in the 6th grade at the time going to school in a small, rural South Carolina town. Our family had moved there while Dad went off to fight in the Vietnam War.
Being “military brats” who had traveled extensively, made us “different” then other kids in the community. We dressed and spoke differently, which classified us as “Yankees” as far as they were concerned. Thus, we didn’t make many friends. In fact, there were some who downright hated us.
It was a certainty we were going to have to fight to survive in this environment. But the battles to come only involved me and my younger brother, Mike. Tom was cool, and struck quite an imposing figure. Therefore, they wisely avoided tangling with him. I, however, never developed a beefy, strapping body that impressed anybody. I was short and always looked a little pudgy. Mike was legally blind, but that didn’t stop bullies from pushing him around. I always stood up for Mike, but he rarely needed my assistance. When pushed too far Mike became a raging wild cat tearing into whoever was within reach. It never mattered if Mike won the fights. They would always return later, usually with backup. I suppose it might have been southern pride which kept them coming back, but I believe some of it was just pure hatred of “Yankees”. The times were different in early 1960’s, rural South Carolina.
My battles began one day in the school hallway. The halls were empty except for me and another kid walking toward me. As he passed, he punched me in my stomach as hard as he could…why, I’ll never know. At this time I wasn’t aware of know how strong my body had become from my fitness training. But I soon found out. The boy’s best shot to my stomach had absolutely no effect. I calmly looked at him and asked, “What was that all about?” The boy’s eyes opened wide in astonishment. The expression quickly turned to fear and he fled the scene. I scratched my head, perplexed.
The Boy Who Ate Bricks
The story spread through the school like wild fire. Only, after traveling through the grape vine the tale had transformed into a total fabrication. I was now, “The Boy Who Ate Bricks for Breakfast”. This is when I learned, the bigger the lie, the more people you’ll find to believe it. Students would ask me if the story was true. I figured if they were dumb enough to believe such nonsense, I’d let them.
But that wasn’t the end of the ordeal. When recess began, I was confronted with a line of about 10 boys… all intent on claiming the distinction of being the one who knocked the breath out of me. It was futile to refuse. So, the daily routine began and it wasn’t long before the high school boys got wind of what was going on. So far, no one had been able to knock the wind out of me. I’d just tense up my stomach and let them give me their best shot.
One day, a large powerful boy from another 6th grade class demanded he be given a turn. The boy was 17. I hesitated, and then thought what the heck, why not? The Brawny lad began a swing, starting from somewhere in Oklahoma, and delivered it squarely into my solar plexus. I stood apparently un-phased by the blow. I was about to laugh at the kid thinking he had failed. However, slowly, very slowly, I felt the air start to leave my body. I briefly dropped to one knee as I lost a little pressure, but quickly recovered. Of course, the boy claimed victory. I let him believe he had, thinking maybe it would put an end to the senseless pastime. It didn’t.“The Boy Who Ate Bricks for Breakfast” reputation followed me for several weeks, until I finally told them they were a bunch of idiots for believing the story. They then asked how, if I didn’t eat bricks, was I able to take punches to my stomach. So I told them about the 100 plus sit-ups I did every evening. They had bought the brick eating story, but this statement, they DIDN’T believe. This had to be the most academically challenged group of people I ever met.
I recalled “The bigger the lie” philosophy and promptly remarked not only could I do 100 sit-ups but 500 if I chose. I was immediately challenged with a $20.00 bet I couldn’t. I was confident I could do the 500 and accepted the bet. I did complete the 500 sit-ups, but the challengers welched on their bet.
A word of advice for anyone making a bet to do such a large number of sit-ups. Make sure you don’t do them on a carpeted floor. I had strawberry burns on my butt for two weeks.
I can understand you’re disbelief in my truthfulness of the accounts contained herein. Many years ago, my brother-in-law, expressed the same doubt. I was napping on his sofa during a visit to my sister’s and I overheard this comment to her. “Debbie, if your brother had been everywhere and done all the things he’s claimed to have done, he’d have to be 90 years old!” My sister replied, “He hasn’t lied to you. He has done all of those things.” She should know. She witnessed most of them.