All of this changed when I entered Junior High. In Junior High I was set afloat in a sea of pubescence made up mostly of students I did not know. In this new environment, I had a problem, something that, until then, I had not realized was a problem: I was the youngest, the skinniest, and almost the shortest kid in the school. The outgrowth of this problem was that I tended to be the daily recipient of character building experiences.
On my first day, I discovered, for example, that it was unwise to actually use the locker that had been assigned to me. For some reason the boy who had the adjacent locker preferred not to see me anywhere near his locker or himself...and I, of course, realizing that he was most likely from a difficult home environment, was happy to oblige. I actually became quite good at stealth lockering, that is, moving quietly and unseen through the hallways of Wahlquist to my locker. This acquired skill has been extremely valuable in many other areas of my life.
I also learned that there were a number of other male students who were concerned for my physical toughness. This group would spot me coming down the hallway and crowd around to see who could provide the most effective training. One student, in particular, decided that he needed to toughen up my upper arms and shoulders. He would hang around the hallway until my stealth abilities slipped up and then deliver a fist to my arm, back, or shoulder. I think this probably helped both of us...toughening up my upper body and giving him a bit of a workout as well.
I was perfectly content with this situation and refused to engage in any cross-training. I didn't even blink when one day he decided to do some of this training in Boys Glee. Unfortunately, the Boys Glee teacher was not very observant. All he saw was a disturbance in the back of the room and he grabbed the first student he could reach...me...and hauled me up to the front of the class. There he had me do a few "touch my toe" exercises while he taught me the difference between a wooden paddle with holes in it and one that did not have holes. Again, this has been a valuable life lesson and may be one of the reasons that I later enjoyed studying physics.
However, amid many other lessons learned in Junior High--too many to detail here--my faithful friend, follower, and trainer continued his regimen of toughening me up all through the fall and into the next spring. By the springtime my arms, shoulders, and back were almost oblivious to his workouts. Whatever he was doing, it was certainly working, and I wasn't about to complain. One day, however--I think it was shortly after he realized that his blows were having little effect on me--as I walked past him down the hallway, he stuck his leg out and pushed me to the floor.
Now, I consider myself as tolerant as the next fellow, but this, I thought, was taking our training beyond the point where I wanted it to go. I stood up, not even picking up my books, and pushed him back. In less time than it takes to say "Engelbert Humperdinck", a crowd had gathered. I'm sure it was the spectacle of the year, but thankfully my yearlong training paid off. Before the Assistant Principal swooped in to stop the fight, I had given my opponent a black eye and he had given me a bloody lip. I suppose it was pretty much a draw, but to me it certainly felt like victory.
You might suppose that I then got in trouble with the Principal and with my parents. But there you would be wrong. For here was another valuable lesson I learned: It helps to have friends in high places. The Principal, you see, was a fairly close friend of our family. I took voice lessons from his wife and spent many hours in his home. He asked me what had happened, I told him, and he sent me on my way. I do not know what he said to my fellow student and trainer, but I do know that I never again had the opportunity for personal physical development during class breaks at Wahlquist Junior High.