What became known in our family and in our neighborhood in Ruth, Nevada as the "Billy Shaw Incident" took place one warm summer morning in 1948. Billy Shaw was a Norman Rockwell type looking kid. He had bright red hair, bordering on orange, which was always worn in a flat top. He had big red freckles that covered his entire face, arms, and I would imagine the rest of his body. I'm sure he was a "cute" little boy by anybody's standard. He lived down the street and he and I played together all the time. We were good friends, were in the same class at school, and spent lots of time playing in the neighborhood.
The summer morning in question found us outside messing around in the weeds that grew on the hill below our home. As we were poking around we discovered the leg from an old wooden table. It was quite ornate and looked a little bit like the jousting weapon used by Knights of old as they engaged in mortal combat. A conflict began between the two of us because there was only one jousting weapon and we both wanted it for our own. Before we knew it we were pushing each other and trying to pull the table leg away from one another. Finally this great weapon was dropped to the ground and we were wrestling each other. I was on top of Billy when all of a sudden a hand reached down, jerked me away from him, slammed me to the ground on my back, and threw Billy on top of me. I looked up and saw him Billy's mom standing over us screaming, "Now let's see a fair fight!" Obviously she had not seen the beginning of what was not really a fight but just two boys wrestling a little bit over a dumb table leg. Our energy would have been expended quickly and a compromise reached.
Those who know me well know that I have great patience and a calm disposition. What you may not know about me is that when I get angry I totally lose control; I feel a white heat inside me and everything starts spinning around. I guess I was so incensed by what Billy's mom did that I just totally lost it. I was filled with adrenaline, threw Billy off me, got on top of him, and just started pounding at his face. It reminds me a little bit of the scene in the movie "The Christmas Story". Billy pounded back at me but was no match for my anger. Soon Billy's blood was all over his face and shirt, and my hands and arms were drenched with his blood up to my elbows. Finally his mom pulled me off without saying anything and took Billy home. I was not elated with my victory and instead I was sobbing and sick at my stomach. I remember going to the side of our house and washing the blood off of my arms and hands from the outside faucet. I can't think of any event in my life that has made me feel quite so badly as the day I beat up on Billy Shaw.
I'm happy to report that Billy and I resumed our friendship, which continued through grade school and high school. I can't remember who ended up with the table leg. I don't know why Billy's mom did what she did. I hope she learned a great lesson from her unwise actions. This was really the first fight I had as a young boy and thankfully one of the last. Maybe it was important that I had this fight then than later in life when I could have done severe damage or been damaged by someone much bigger than me. I knew from that experience that I didn't like to fight. I have always felt there was a better way to handle things. However, I have to share my last fight with you, which took place when I was about twelve years old; two years after the Billy Shaw incident.
Another good friend was Jimmy Gardner. His dad had been a semi pro baseball player – a catcher. He had trained Jimmy from his birth to also be a catcher. He and I were great friends and played baseball together continually. When we were 12-year-olds some older teenagers wanted to have some fun and so they talked Jimmy into picking a fight with me. I was across the street from our house with a couple of other kids. We were standing on the bank of one of the water ponds - empty of water now, but with banks about four feet high. We always played baseball in those empty water ponds and it took a mighty blast to hit a baseball over the bank and out of the pond. Anyway, Jimmy and these bigger teenagers came up to us and Jimmy said some insulting thing to me and pushed me hard. As I began to roll down the bank I grabbed hold of his leg and pulled him down with me. He jumped up and in a very cocky voice said, "Come out here and let's finish it!" I don't think he thought I would come out to fight him. But I jumped up and ran over to where he was and threw the hardest punch I could right at his nose. My dad had always told me that it wasn't good to fight, but if you found yourself in that situation to go for the nose with your first punch and if you landed it the fight would be over. Thankfully I didn't hit his nose but came close and stunned him. He grabbed me with his arms and whispered to me that he really didn't want to fight me and let's just quit and go home. I was only too happy to do that and in spite of the taunts of the older boys we went home.
To my knowledge those are the only two major physical fights I ever had. Since then I have learned that it takes more courage to walk away from a fight than to fight. My oldest son, Mike, as a district attorney could tell all of us how fighting can lead to terrible things. The Savior's message of agreeing with our adversaries quickly and then turning the other cheek is absolutely true but not always easy to do. It takes great self restraint not to verbally or physically fight with others; of course nothing good ever comes from it. Love and kindness toward other people will usually help us to avoid confrontations and enable us to live in peace and harmony.
If all else fails however, go for the nose!