Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jul 07 2003

I had two tormentors when I was in fifth grade

I had two tormentors when I was in fifth grade, my last year at Ed White Elementary School in El Lago, Texas. Their names were Steve Smith and Mike Kopfer. Every day they would follow me around all day at school, taunting, making fun and insulting me. I bore it as best I could, even fighting with them, but no matter where I went, they were there. This went on for several months until one day the assistant teacher, Mr. Moran, took the two out of the classroom for a short while.

I have no idea what he told them, but from that day on, Steve and Mike acted like they were my best friends. It was extremely bizarre, but what was I supposed to do, complain? We would hang out after school, sleep over at each others houses, all of that. The next year, our first year at Seabrook Intermediate School, we were practically a gang. This all meant a lot to me as most of the years since we had moved to Texas due to my dad’s working in the aerospace industry had been spent in a rather friendless, fight-ridden state. I was always getting into fights with Craig Puccetti, who lived a couple of doors down, and the trend continued at school. My only friends were Richard Koester, a little guy with asthma who also had no friends who thought my jokes were funny, and sometimes Chris Davis, who, when he wasn’t my friend, was either kicking my ass or getting his ass kicked. Even then I had the unfortunate habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time; one time a remark I made to Chris’ friend John Silver about his height resulted in detention for all of us after a mean scrap and chase through the hallways. But Steve, Mike, a middle-eastern kid named Behi and I were always hanging out together.

All of this came to an abrupt yet not unwelcome end in the summer of 1980, when we moved back to Florida, where we had lived before we moved to Texas. I was convinced Florida was paradise after the hell of Texas, and I was ecstatic that we were moving back to a place where everyone had pools and Disney World was only 45 minutes’ drive down Interstate 4. I was expecting a return to what I remembered as a place where I would have friends again without getting into fights all the time, since we ended up living only a few blocks from the house where we had lived before. I even remembered a couple of childhood friends.

Of course, you’re thinking, it couldn’t be as good as I had remembered it. Nothing ever is. Still, it seemed that way after a couple of months of living there. I met some kids in the neighborhood, but it seemed I didn’t fit in any longer. Something during the six years in Texas had changed me somehow, made me distrustful and even petty sometimes. Or perhaps it’s just my nature; I dont know.

It did help that we were all entering 7th grade, and Maitland Junior High School, with its open-air hallways and newly painted tan concrete block walls, was a new school for all of us. Everyone assumed I was from “the other elementary school”, so I wasn’t the new kid. I joined the local scout troop, made first chair in the band. My two best friends were Ben Champion and Bill Moore. We went everywhere together, ate lunch together in some isolated spot far away from the cafeteria, sitting around making sketches for our “Ninja Death Squad”. Ben’s father Jack was the scoutmaster, and they lived on Lake Maitland in a great house with acres of wild forest, perfect for night-time ninja activities such as climbing trees and sneaking around trying to avoid Ben’s older brother Charlie, who was reputed to have vastly superior ninja skills. Ben’s mother seemed the opposite of my own mother; she was always happy and confident and always had a treat on hand for us kids, and she didn’t mind a mess. Their house was lived in, while ours more closely resembled a museum set. Bill’s parents yelled a lot and didn’t care who heard them. We went to Model UN together (representing, ironically enough, China), and were in the same patrol in scouts.

Then one day, everything changed as suddenly as it had for me that day Mr. Moran took Steve and Mike out for a little talk in the hallway. Ben and Bill stopped me in the open hallway out in front of the school and told me they didn’t want to have anything to do with me any longer. I was no longer cool, I was no longer their friend, and they didn’t know me any more. The end.

I was, of course, devasted; this had taken me completely by suprise. But there was nothing I could do. I was at a complete loss as to why it had happened. I was transferred to a different patrol in scouts, one full of guys I didn’t know or didn’t like. The scoutmaster, Ben’s father, played ‘games’ with me, things like “TC, Grant here is going to try to make you angry, so we can see how you react.” Grant, a 16-year-old Eagle Scout, would then proceed to taunt me, step on my tent and carry me around upside down until I was screaming at him in rage in front of the whole troop.

Of course it wasn’t long before I quit scouts, as I have written about on here before. A few years later Bill wrote in my high school year book that he was sorry about what he and Ben had done, but I never understood it, any more than I understood why Steve and Mike had suddenly become my friends back in Texas. I do think these events had an influence on my character and how I deal with people, though. Probably not a good influence, but then again, what do I know? Obviously not a lot.

All of these events happened at least twenty years ago. Why am I bringing them up now? I can’t say, really. I wish I could leave all this behind me, but some things never change.

posted by Poagao at 8:36 am  


  1. Hey Chris,
    I found your website and it blew me away. I didn’t remember any of it until I saw your picture then it all came back to me. I remember us fighting, being friends, hanging out, then one day you were gone. Your story is so detailed about people and places that I can’t believe you remember that stuff. I think Mike Kopel is actually Mike Kopfer. All the other names are dead on. Anyway, just wanted to say hey and hope there are no hard feelings about the tormenting crap. Take care……….Stephen

    Comment by Stephen Smith — March 18, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  2. Wow. Thanks for the message, Steve. All of that is so far in the past that I hardly ever think of it any more, but I’m curious: Just what did Mr. Moran tell you and Mike that day? What made you change your minds? Also, what happened to Behi and Mike? I often wonder how things would have turned out if I’d stayed in Texas and gone to Clear Lake High.

    Comment by Poagao — March 18, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

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