Richard Boone was most famous for playing the mysterious gun for hire, Paladin, on the old TV Western, “Have Gun — Will Travel,” from 1957 to 1963. Boone had a lesser-known role on an earlier show called “Medic,” the prequel to hospital dramas such as “Ben Casey,” “ER,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
The intro to the show had Boone’s serious voice describing a good doctor as having these three qualities: “The eye of an eagle, the heart of a lion, the hand of a woman.”
As a child, I lacked the middle one.
I was a tall, fat kid with nothing remarkable about my appearance. Unlike me, there were the Kramer twins: two identical boys with wiffle haircuts and thick eyeglasses. Quite often you could find them banging on the inside of school closet doors begging to be let out.
For most of junior high school, the worst I experienced was being called “Baby Huey,” an enormous plump-bottomed cartoon duck who wore diapers.
That name stung like a bee.
At Hyde Park High School, I had the great misfortune of sitting next to a football star’s girlfriend in every study hall class.
The rumor was that he had once punched a teacher in the face and only got suspended from school for a couple of days because it was football season.
One time while carrying my tray of food to my place on a wooden bench in the cafeteria, I witnessed the football hero come up behind a kid who was stuffing his face at the table. He begin pummeling the unsuspecting victim, who fell from his seat onto the floor. It took two male teachers to drag him off the kid, who now had a bloody nose, and tears, and a look of terror in his eyes.
I wanted to beg the teachers who monitored my study hall classes to please change my seat to somewhere far distant from that MVP’s girlfriend. But I did not want to explain to anyone why I wanted to do that because word might get back to the vicious guy who did not have a clue as to what a fair fight might be.
So I just kept my eyes on my work and well off her with the one exception of my picking up a piece of paper she dropped and handing it to her with a brave smile on my face.
A couple of days later, the football player came up to me while I was in line for my chopped hamburger and macaroni, and said gruffly, “Hey, are you Weinstein?”
A series of interesting names swirled in my noggin but I could only say meekly, “Yes.”
“I am going to get you, Weinstein!”
But days went by and I only saw him in the corridors when we were headed in different directions.
I never asked or told anyone about it. But my parents commented about my radical change in appetite at dinner for several days.
In the end I did have to get into a number of fistfights before I graduated high school. But for reasons I will never know, Mr. Football never touched me.
I also experienced some cruel bullying at the hands of a teacher. Mr. Z would make kids who misbehaved come to the front of the class and sit in the wastebasket until the bell rang.