When students are in the third or fourth grades, their talents are not measured by how well they can play the piano or perform in a school play. At least not in my memory. Abilities of this age group lay in much more critical areas such as whether or not a buddy could take a “lick” without yelling “uncle” or whether or not he (or she) could cross his eyes or wiggle his ears. These were more essential talents than adults would have suspected.
Guy remembers around this time in school that he and a buddy waited for the teacher to turn her head, and they swapped licks.
“I went home with my arm black and blue, but so did he,” Guy said.
I remember seeing boys do this in my class, thought about how silly they looked and wondered what measure of a boy they thought that made. Evidently, the harder the lick on the arm, the more of a powerhouse.
Eye crossing was a talent most of us tried to perfect. I might have been sitting at my reading table and looking across at another group, and someone would look back with his eyes crossed. Who wouldn’t laugh? However, laughing often ended with a ruler to my hand. Most usually, I would cross my eyes and look back, which became a contest. I was at home practicing one time, and my mother scolded me. “Don’t you know your eyes could get stuck like that?” I was afraid she was right, so I stopped practicing.
We also admired not how well a classmate could read, but how he could slide down the sliding board backward, stand up in the swing and make it look as if it were going to wrap around the frame, and hook his feet under the edge of the merry-go-round and lay his head back almost to drag the dirt. No one lost his head doing that as the teacher had yelled might happen. "Do you want to cut your head off?"
Another to add to the list of admirable talents that might have qualified some for a spot on "America’s Got Talent" – knuckle popping/cracking. Guy recalls trying to pop his knuckles louder than the same buddy whose arms he bruised.
“It was a real skill when I could pop them as fast and even better, all at once.”
This was another time when my mother offered words of wisdom when she found me practicing.
“Stop doing that. Don’t you know it will make your hands look like a man’s.”
I didn’t want man hands. To this day, I cringe when I hear that sound.
As we grew older, our talents changed. We were now more interested in how many friends could get inside a car and ride to town. For boys, it might have been how many hotdogs they could eat at one sitting. Once we graduated those talents faded. We no longer cared who could wiggle his ears, cross his eyes, swap licks or pop knuckles. Life was more fun back then!