My First Day of School

By Jeep Collins

When my parents moved the handbag factory from the ranch to town a whole new world opened up for Cynthia and me.  Prior to the move the shop was in the old house at the ranch.  We came to town regularly in those days, but now Cynthia and I would spend days in town in and around the workshop while our mom and dad worked.  

One of the kids we played with was Bobby Ray Walker.  He was Cynthia’s age; three years older than me.  I think he had a crush on her because he was always doing athletic feats to get her attention. There was an outside stairway that led to the Eastern Star meeting hall above the workshop my parents rented.  He could jump from the top landing; I was aspiring to that, but still at a much lower level working my way up one step at a time.  One of the services provided by the boys I hung out with was to rid the town buildings of wasp nests. We would go around town looking for them under the eaves of buildings and knock them down with rocks, or a cane pole if it was close to a window. All that rock chunking practice paid off for Bobby, when he got older he was the quarterback on the football team.

I looked up to Bobby because of all the things he could do so well, but the first day of school when I entered 1st grade, Bobby became my hero.  Living up on the ranch I was not exposed to racial prejudices; my father; one of the kindest and caring men I've ever known, never used racial language.

At morning recess that first day we were released to go outside and play.  I was exploring all the homemade playground equipment when I noticed a commotion across the playground.  I and every other kid ran over to see what was going on.

There was little Jesse Esquivel surrounded by six or eight little boys with their dukes up shouting in their poor Spanish, “quieres combate - quieres combate.”  Little Jessie stood there in a defensive stance with tears streaming down his cheeks.  Suddenly out of nowhere Bobby Ray Walker broke through the ring of boys, stood in front of Jessie, and shouted, “yeah! - I want to fight, come on.”  The little bully boys, shamed by my new hero dispersed.  

Hero today has taken on a new meaning; or lost its meaning; grocery store signs say mom is a hero because she brings home her kids favorite dessert.  Athletes are heroes because they are gifted by God, and get paid to do what they love.

My heroes are men and women, little girls and boys who do the right thing considering the welfare of others before themselves. I don’t know if anyone other than I remember that day; I have seen Bobby only one time after those school days, as we got older we were not particular friends, but his actions that day are as clear to me as if they happened this morning. The lesson I learned that first day was the most important one in all my twelve years at the old Medina School.

Photo:  Bobby Ray Walker wearing a Lone Ranger shirt, how appropriate, my heroes have always been cowboys.   1955

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4