Norman: Awkward moments just a part of growing up

Glen Rose Reporter

You’ve got’em. I’ve got’em. All God’s chillens got’em.... those awkward moments in time we can laugh at now, but at the time, well... you know.

So it was with me, way back in 1964 at Crockett Junior High School in Odessa. I was in the eighth grade and taking art class as an elective. It’s good to know that I always liked the girls and was pretty popular, I guess, but was self-conscious about having braces on my teeth.

Charlie Norman

For two years, I endured the name calling --- “Metal Mouth, Brace Face, etc.,” while my teeth were being straightened. It was toward the end of the school year and I finally got my braces off and got to smile again! That next day in class, the art teacher, Miss Lorette, volunteered me to be the “model” for a portrait drawing session. I happily agreed, and took my place on a chair on a table for my fellow students to do a pencil sketch.

I noticed that the girls seemed especially attentive and may I say, “cheerful.” They were grinning big-time, whispering among themselves and I, for the first time in two years, did I smile back uninhibitedly. I just knew they were admiring my new pearly whites and noticing my straight teeth.

Maybe so, but the main thing they noticed --- my fly was open!  Forty-five long minutes worth! Class bell rang, I hopped down, and was so proud of myself. That is, until my pal Alan walked by, and told me I ought check out my zipper before I got too smug. Oh... my... gosh... I was so embarrassed.

I can’t believe it! No wonder the girls were snickering and smiling so cute-like! Am I over it? Pretty much... 55 years later, the memory still lingers though. Whatever. 

Fast forward a few years, and I’m taking trigonometry in high school. Now I was pretty smart and studied hard, but there were others in my class smarter --- they just had it. You know the type. Like Barney Fife used to say ”Some people want it and can’t get it. I got it and can’t get rid of it.” 

Well, that was not me... that was Jesse, Clay, Bruce, Janeen... those types.  Anyway, one day in trig class, ol’ Mr. Kuser asked who's got the right answer on a particular homework assignment. He’d already told us the correct answer. Well, I’m thinking, it’s probably better to raise your hand that you “got it right” than not raise your hand at all.

So I halfway raised my hand and sure enough, Mr. Kuser called on me, “Norman, you got that answer? Put it on the board and explain how you got it.” (You need to know, for many students – the smartest ones – they loved Mr. Kuser... I was in that other category who was intimidated by him).

So I diffidently got up in front of class and started putting the problem on the board. About halfway through, Mr. Kuser interrupts me and says “Norman, see that negative there, isn’t that supposed to be a positive?” I start trying to figure that out. “No, sir. It won’t work if I change it.”  “Go ahead then.”

So I keep on-a-going. He questions me again. I keep on going. Finally I come to the end, explaining to everyone how I came up with the answer. Mr. Kuser tells me to have a seat. I was so relieved, I think I might have “relieved myself” in the process. Then Mr. Kuser says something to the class like this: “Norman got the right answer alright. But not correctly. He actually came up with a ‘double negative’ that produced the right answer the wrong way.”

I learned the hard way how the expression “two wrongs don’t make a right” can apply to math problems too.  OK, last one, my school was the Odessa High Bronchos... cross town rivals to the uppity better-known school, the Odessa Permian Panthers. Though I would have liked to have played varsity sports, I was of slight stature and just not big enough.

But I still loved the games and football was my favorite. As a senior, somehow I was selected to be the one guy in school to be the judge/monitor of how intense and loud the “spirit” was at our pep rallies in cheering for our team. The shop class had built a large 15-foot wooden “horseshoe” (remember our mascot was a “Broncho”) placed flat on a platform with a hinge, pulley and ropes --- this horseshoe could be “raised” vertically 90 degrees by pulling on the ropes.

So the idea was, this contraption was to be an indicator of sorts for how loud the student body cheered for the team. The louder, the more erect the horseshoe. I would pull on the ropes and sometimes it would hover at 45-60-75 degrees, then finally be straight up perpendicular if the noise level was really loud. It was my call. Anyway, the last game/pep rally was for Permian.

I was getting all situated in center court of the fieldhouse as the student body of 1,500 started filling the bleachers. The cheerleaders were a few feet right behind me, and the football team and coaches were lined up right behind them. I go over to check the knots on the pulley one more time, bend over, and “RIP!”

Uh oh... my pants had just ripped in the back all the way... can I say it? Down the crack! I’m in a mell of a hess. I can’t leave. I’m stuck. What to do!? The rally starts in one minute and all eyes are on me! So, in a panic, I untucked my favorite blue Ban-Lon shirt and pulled that thing as far down in back as I could go. I pulled and pulled (trying to be as discreet as one can be with a thousand eyes peering down).

It stretched just below the cheeks... that is, if I “hunkered up” just so and didn’t move. The rally started and I was just hoping nobody --- especially the pretty cheerleaders right behind me --- would notice my behind. For some 20 minutes I was stiff-shouldered slouching backwards. I gave new meaning to “tucking one’s tail” as I high-tailed it on home right after the rally to change pants.

Never did wear that Ban-Lon again. Am I embarrassed by any of these things anymore? Nope. At 71 years old, I’m  over it, and mighty proud of it actually.

Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at chas234@windstream.net.