February 13th…“WHAT EMBARRASSING EVENT TAUGHT YOU A LIFE LESSON THAT HAS STAYED WITH YOU TO THIS VERY DAY?”
My 13 year old butt cheeks quivered, like a wild bowl of “Jello” in an earthquake, as Mr. Parker’s leather belt blank met my gluteus maximus with a sharp sounding “WHACK”!!! The sting to my rear echelon was not half as bad as the deep embarrassment of what brought me to that public correction.
Ours was a six year High School in my beloved hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. So, as the 1966-67 school year commenced, I was in 7th Grade and considered in High School. One of my favorite classes, that year, was Industrial Arts class with a great teacher by the name of Mr. Daryl Parker. I loved every minute of learning how to use hand tools properly and then applying that knowledge to a plethora of various building projects that ranged from plastic laminate and dye coloring, to wood work, copper relief art with framing, making leather belts, etc.. We all enjoyed Mr. Parker. He was usually quite jovial with a barrel chest of muscles, to boot. Mr. Parker was fair, communicated well and also meant exactly what he said. He was even a great teaser.
While giving instructions to the class, Mr. Parker sometimes picked up a swat paddle from his desk that had numerous large holes drilled through it. We asked him, “What are the holes in the paddle for, sir?” His response? “That’s so when I swat ya, I can watch the “meat” come through!!!” The entire class joined our teacher in a roar of laughter!
Mr. Parker’s disciplined ways came into reality one day as we were learning about wood work and the tools needed to see it done properly. Our wise teacher invested quality time in explaining to us the parts and workings of a wood plane. We were enlightened about the amount of time he spent sharpening all of those wood planes and how that his students should NEVER lay a wood plane FLAT on the work bench table! Reason is, the trueness of that clean blade might be damaged or nicked. Then, when you would push the plane across your wood, that nick in the blade will spoil every pass with a scar into the wood. Clearly, he warned us, “Boys, NEVER allow a wood plane to set flat on your work bench with the blade down!” “ALWAYS lay the plane on its SIDE when you’re not using it!” “It’s an automatic swat for anyone breaking this rule.”
Like all my classmates, I had every good-hearted intention to obey and please Mr. Parker. Yet, as I became “lost” in my concentration to my wood project, that day, I did exactly what I was NOT supposed to do. Without thinking, I laid the wood plane FLAT upon my work bench.
Now, as a consequence of NOT obeying Mr. Parker’s directives, he had clearly explained that the price to pay for laying a wood plane flat on a bench would be an automatic swat. So, there I am working away, when I get a tap on the shoulder and it’s my respected teacher pointing down at the poor wood plane laying there flat with blade down. I had broken the rules, no matter how innocently….I was guilty. My eyes popped open like saucers!! “I’m so sorry, Mr. Parker, I didn’t mean to lay the plane flat, HONEST!!” All to no avail as he crooked his pointer finger as if to say, “Follow me”. Up to the front of the Shop Class we walked. All of the other boys ceased their noisy work as their eyes were following me to my doom. Mr. Parker stops me right next to a tall work stool and has me bend over it to tighten my pants for what was coming next. He stepped into his office and comes back out to the classroom area with a brand new leather belt blank that someone would use later on in the year to handcraft a belt. Mr. Parker folds the belt in half, creating an even more impressive imprint on my “rear echelon” in a few moments. Having the entire class in rapt attention, Mr. Parker then reminded them all of his earlier teaching on caring for hand tools and why I was about to suffer the consequences for NOT taking care of my wood plane. I’m now facing away from the class, and bent over that stool, as our teacher winds up and CRRRACK goes the belt across my “hind thoughts”! What hurt me, even more than the swat, was the public embarrassment that I had been the subject of what correction was all about.
Now in today’s hyper-sensitive, politically correct world, corporal discipline (notice I did NOT use the word “punishment”) is seen as a bad thing. But, you know what? I am STILL an admirer of Mr. Parker! Oh sure, for a day or two, my feelings were wounded, but to this very day I respect the tools I use as I gladly honor Mr. Parker’s memory for being a fine educator, wrestling coach and, overall, great man! Yep, that was a “plane” good lesson for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉