Every summer there was a fishing derby for kids in Denver's City Park.
I can't remember now whether fishing poles and bait were provided, but I think that kids had to bring their own.
Because my father was an excellent river (trout) fisherman, I am sure that he made sure that we---his sons---had the best bait, the right hooks, the correct test of fishing line, and sturdy fishing poles.
I preferred to use a pole with no reel.
I wanted to keep it simple.
Plus, there was no need to cast the fishing line.
The fish swam in ditches that were only about five feet wide.
Some were wider.
The depth of the water was about two feet.
All that had to be done was to put the fishing line and baited hook down into the flowing water.
There were plenty of fish to be caught, and fish were tagged with different prizes that could be won.
Some prizes were just small bags of candy and trinkets, but other prizes included fishing gear…
This derby was more exciting than going camping in the mountains, something that I did a lot every summer.
I wasn't a very good fisherman.
But the derby allowed me to easily catch fish...
And win prizes.
I never liked to fight, but my father, who had competed for the Golden Gloves in Denver, and who claimed that he had beaten every fighter that he ever fought on his naval ship in World War II, showed me a few tricks of the trade.
I remember (before fights were televised) the night that my dad and I listened to the radio as Sonny Liston fought an unknown fighter named Cassius Clay.
The radio made pictures in my mind. There was no incessant jabbering from TV pundits while the fighters were trying to kill each other.
I didn't have too many fights in school.
In sixth grade I was "chosen" to fight in the parking lot of my elementary school by Tommy Fish.
I remember he had a baseball bat, and that his face was peppered with freckles.
I said, "This isn't baseball."
He agreed and replied,
"O.K. Let's fight."
I was taller and thinner than Tommy Fish.
I was much faster, too.
I did a lot of jabbing, connecting now and then with a few solid punches.
We stopped when Tommy's nose started bleeding.
Then Tommy's older brother Jimmy said:
"You have to fight me now."
I said no, but someone pointed to the baseball bat.
I knew that I had no choice.
Jimmy was about as tall as I was and just as thin.
I knew he would be a better boxer than his brother Tommy.
We began throwing punches.
He was quick, so I speeded up my punches and increased their number, and got more through his defenses than his did through mine.
Now it was Jimmy's turn to have a bloody nose.
We stopped and said goodbye.
I almost said,
"Thanks. It was nice fighting both of you."
I felt good about myself, but (strange I know) I also felt a little sad that I had "beaten" both brothers.
I was still in fifth grade the afternoon that Del Shimpf and his boys chased me all the way to my house.
As I got near to the backyard of my house, I started yelling for my mom.
She yelled back,
“What the heck are you yelling about?”
And when I told her I was being chased, she said,
“Don’t you chicken-out! Fight back!”
That was easy for her to say.
I yelled back that there were about four of them chasing me.
“O.K. Climb over the fence and get in here.”
It was then that I realized that my mom had some good sense.
I didn't have any more fights until I was in the eighth grade.
My much bigger brother was a ninth grader at the same school, Belmont Junior High, and he had a reputation as being the toughest kid in school.
I guess that Del Shimpf (yes, he was still bullying me) didn't know this fact, but he soon found out, and quit bothering me (except for that one time when he found me with Joann Babbs at Lakeside Amusement Park. I wrote about that experience on Friday, March 16, 2007:
BUMPER CARS COTTON CANDY AND THE LAUGHING LADY.
In ninth grade I was in the locker room when Dick Height started fighting Greg Feazell.
Dick threw some Tuf Skin on Greg when Greg was in the shower.
Greg came running out and tackled Dick.
I never liked Dick, but Greg was a sweet and polite kid, at least until now.
I jumped between the two.
Dick started punching me.
I didn't appreciate this and let him know it with a quick right hook.
Dick fell to the floor and started bleeding.
I remember the shirt that I had on that day.
It was an ugly yellow, long-sleeved shirt.
I was glad that it was this shirt that got covered with Dick's blood and not one of my other shirts.
Mrs. Adams the vice-principal called Dick and I into her office one at a time to give her our story.
I forget if she talked to me or Dick first, but after I told her what had happened, her face turned as red as a tomato, starting at her throat.
The blood’s red color moved up her throat like it was a thermometer. I was worried that her head was going to explode.
But I knew one thing for sure, and that was that Dick was in bigger trouble than me.
He was suspended. I didn’t get any punishment.
My one and only other fight was my choice.
I didn't even know the other kid.
He just looked like a good fighter, and I wanted to find out.
I was a block away from my house.
I said to him
"I want to fight you.”
He shook his head to indicate that he would not turn me down.
One punch later and I had a painful chipped tooth.
End of fight.
End of story.