I was 12 and Darrell was 10. We grew up 2 houses apart and were the best of friends. Our summers were spent outside playing make-believe games, dreaming of girls and just doing boy stuff. Every childhood memory I have includes Darrell, but no memory is more vivid than the summer that everyone carried a slingshots. Everyone on the block carried a slingshot that summer, including big Curtis Smith, the neighborhood bully who lived two blocks away.
It was a simpler time and life was good in the neighborhood. Our biggest worries in life were that our moms would make us come in early and do chores, or that big Curtis would show up just to bully us around.
Curtis was older than us. He was also bigger, faster and stronger than everyone else on the block. As all bullies would, Curtis loved picking on Darrell because he was the smallest kid in our group of friends. Thankfully Curtis wasn’t a regular visitor to our neighborhood. But when he did show up, he’d reek havoc on our Summer day of fun.
I’ll never forget that one summer day when Curtis showed up for another afternoon of bullying with his slingshot around his neck. In those days if you didn’t have a pocket to carry your slingshot, you simply wore it around your neck like a necklace. Then when when you needed it, you had it close by. When Curtis showed up that day he immediately ended our game and started trying to pick a fight. Curtis got up in Darrell’s face, their noses two inches apart, and said, “Come on squirt, I double dog dare you to start something with me.” It was like Goliath challenging little David, and the rest of us stood around watching like the scared Israelites.
I never expected Darrell to do anything, because he never had before … no one ever had. Big Curtis had spent many a day bullying us without one person ever standing up to him. But today was different. That day would be celebrated from this day forward as VOC Day … “Victory Over Curtis Day!”
What happened next will forever be ingrained in my memory. Some who saw it think it was because of the “double dog dare” that Big Curtis thrown down to Darrell. As you know, double-dog-dares are impossible to turn down when you’re that age, but I think it was something else. I think it was that Darrell had spotted a weakness in Big Curtis that no one had ever seen before. It was the slingshot Big Curtis wore around his neck like a necklace.
The sling shot dangled from Big Curtis’s neck as their noses were two inches apart. Just about the time Big Curtis’s challenge rolled from his lips, Darrell quickly reached up, grabbed the wooden handle of Curtis’s slingshot, pulled it down as far as he could stretch the rubber band and let it fly back towards Curtis’s head. It was the shot heard around the neighborhood. The wooden handle of the slingshot smacked Big Curtis HARD right under the chin. I remember Curtis’s eyes immediately turned solid white just before he took two steps and fell face first to the ground with a large crash. Goliath was out cold.
I’m not sure what shocked me more. The fact that someone had just stood up to Curtis or that it was possible that he lay unconscious there in the dirt. As we stood over Big Curtis’s body, our hearts beating a million times a minute, my brother Bruce asked, “Is he dead?” Seconds later we did the only thing we knew to do … we ran away as fast as we could. I have no idea how long Curtis lay there in the dirt because we were blocks away within minutes.
From that day forward Big Curtis wasn’t all that “Big” anymore. The Goliath in our lives had been defeated by the littlest David on the block. Darrell walked a little taller that summer knowing he had done what everyone thought was impossible. Big Curtis didn’t come around much after that. Oh, occasionally he’d wander through our neighborhood, but when he did, he never bothered any of us anymore. I know he was humiliated because it got out at school that a kid two years younger than him had knocked him out. While Big Curtis never wore his slingshot around his neck again, what he did wear from that day on was a big scar on his chin where the slingshot hit him.
I miss those simple times as a kid, but more than that I miss my friend Darrell that passed way 8 years ago. I think about him, our friendship and the good old days every May 16th … today he would have been 44 years old. He will forever be a champion in my eyes!