The Great Mudball Fight of 1978, or Mrs. Martin and the Bullhorn

This Blog is going to be all about my slightly skewed observations on life – skewed in some ways I guess by growing up in one of the few states that is still largely a wild place even today – Wyoming. It’s a fascinating place, full of unbelievable scenery, quirky people, and yes, maybe even a secret or two. My aim with this blog is to have fun – but also make some real observations on life, the Universe, and everything. (Sorry, Douglas Adams, I couldn’t help myself.) – If you didn’t get this last reference, relax – you are not a nerd. If you did get it, well………
Without further adieu, then, let’s get this blog off the ground!

It’s August, and soon the dog days of summer will finally give way to cooler evenings (one hopes), the days will grow shorter, and the leaves will start dropping.  And of course, it will be Back to School time, which means heavy morning and afternoon traffic, and perhaps for someone like me who hasn’t seen the inside of a classroom in over 20 years now, since I graduated from college, maybe just a touch of nostalgia.  Who, me, nostalgic?  Surely you jest.

As an adult, I rarely get into any kind of trouble, except for the occasional traffic infraction, I suppose.  And as a kid, I was not one of those kids that ever got in trouble in school, or got sent to the principal’s office. Much. There were a few times that kids intentionally tried to get me in trouble, but I was innocent. (Really!)  I’m reminded of the time Keith in Junior High drew all these horrid pictures about a girl who everyone called Moose and signed my name to it.  Thanks, Keith. Of course, I don’t mean to say I’m perfect, or that I never get into some minor trouble.  But I do try to stay out of the way of the mass inquisitions.  Usually.  Like Keith, there is always going to be that one delusional mud-slinger, even in adulthood, but what can you do – sometimes all you can hope for is to get out of the way, I guess.

But, none of us are saints all the time.  Sometimes you’re just guilty.  I guess the trick in life is to try to only be guilty of the small stuff (like getting pulled over for 50 in a 40 on the morning commute – really?) and to choose your battles even when you’re innocent.  And when you’re guilty, admit it and take your punishment.  Take for instance the Great Mudball Fight of 1978.  Guilty.

It was the fall of 1978.  The air was crisp, and an unexpected thunderstorm had moved into northern Wyoming and soaked everything and everyone in the small town for three days straight.  As we went to school that morning, looking out the window of the school bus, we could see that everything that wasn’t paved was pure Grade A mud.

How do things like this ever get started?

Morning recess.  We could only play on the relatively small paved part of the playground because the huge dirt field (the makeshift baseball diamond only took up a third of it) was a field of soupy mud the color of brownies.  There were some dirty-muddy hands at the end of the 15 minute recess, as a few of us had dabbled on the edge of the mud.  I can still hear Mrs. Martin’s shrill voice:  “Why, you just look at those hands.  They are CAKED with mud!!! You get into that bathroom and don’t come out until even your fingernails are clean!!!”  Was what happened next defiance, or just sheer stupidity?  Or just mass hysteria?  No, I didn’t fling mud in Mrs. Martin’s face.  Not that the thought didn’t occur to me, but we had respect for our elders back then.  Just not for each other. I’m just sayin.

Lunch break.  One hour, which included eating time. If you have ever seen a fourth grader eat lunch, you know that part didn’t take very long.  I must have looked like the First Man on Mars, as I slowly, experimentally at first, trudged out into the Field of Mud in my rubber overboots (we used to call them rubbers – heh) or galoshes.

THUD.  Jason had thrown a big fat, wet ball of compacted mud at me.  It hit me squarely in the shoulder.  My jacket suddenly and instantly looked like it had been in a battle.  WHACK.  I made my own compacted, greasy-wet mudball and connected it to Jason’s knee.  SPLUT.  Dale had joined in and retaliated against Jason for the unprovoked attack on me.  Out of nowhere came a mudball Dave had thrown at Dale.  Dale threw one at me, hitting me in the thigh.  I retaliated.  Chuck joined in.  Then Charley.  Then Danny.  Then Mark.  Terry.  In what seemed like a very short amount of time, every male child on that playground, not to mention a few of the more tom-boyish girls, were wading through that vast field of mud compacting large round balls of mud and hurtling them at the closest enemy.  At first it was a total, all-out, mud slinging free for all.  Eventually two rough “countries” formed on the playground battlefield – one was the Land of Jason and one the Land of Jib (my school nickname – another blog.  Heh).  Mudballs flew through the air like arrows at Custer’s Last Stand.  The full deluge probably lasted only several minutes, probably less than twenty minutes passed from opening salvo to the end of the Great Mudball Fight of 1978.  By the time Mrs. Martin came out onto the paved part of the playground with an actual bullhorn that the school apparently kept for minor riots such as these, the sight was memorable if less than sanitary.

“Stop what you are doing, all of you, you little monsters!  Stop, I said STOP!  Debby, that means you too!!!  Stop it!  Okay, the next person who throws a handful of mud is getting suspended!!”  That did it.  We really did have respect for our elders, especially teachers.  But by that point we were in full scale battle, carried forward by our own momentum, caught up in a full-blown storm of mock rage fueled by laughter.

I truly wish I had a picture of what Mrs. Martin saw at that moment.  70 children staring at her, some of us with a mudball still in our hands, each one of us literally mud creatures with eyes.  Barely a stitch or a patch of skin was visible that was not caked with mud.  I am actually mildly surprised that no one threw a mudball at Mrs. Martin anyway, but like I said, we knew better than that.  Slowly, unsure of herself, Mrs. Martin lifted the bullhorn once again.  “To the principal’s office, every last one of you!  And don’t track – oh never mind……” she shrieked through tears.  To this day, I do not know if she was laughing or crying.  She got out a garden hose, hooked it up to the side of the school, and hosed each and every one of us down, sending us to the principal’s office in our dripping clothes.  Mr. Carroll was laughing so hard he was almost inconsolable.  He told us that he was not the kind of man who was going to swat (back then teachers and principals could hit kids on the butt when they got out of line) 70 children in one day, so he showed us all his hunting pictures instead and told us all one of his famous hunting stories.  He had a captive audience, in more ways than one.  In the end, the whole school had to go without desert for a week in the school cafeteria.  Mr. Carroll was an example of what teaching is all about. We were guilty, after all.

I cannot sanction children acting the way we did that day.  Perhaps somewhat miraculously, no one sustained even a minor injury, and we all had one of the most outrageously fun days of our entire childhoods.  When it was all over, we all spent the rest of a warm fall day in wet clothes.  I was guilty, but in the end the situation enforced itself.  I’m not really sure whether Mrs. Martin needed therapy after that day, but I hope not.  Probably just a good strong highball at the end of the day was sufficient. (I wonder if there is a drink called a mudball?)

I often find myself reminiscing about those days.  As an adult, the only mudslinging I get to participate in involves clean, dry clothes and a voting booth.  Was 1978 an election year?  I can’t remember……….

 

2 comments on “The Great Mudball Fight of 1978, or Mrs. Martin and the Bullhorn

  1. Andra says:

    HILARIOUS!!! I could totally picture you covered in mud….too funny 🙂

  2. Thia says:

    I laughed so hard….. I fell off my chair!!!

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