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Help! I’ve Been Bush Wacked!

Micheal Petrillo

Or Help, I've Still Been Bush Wacked!

In the early years of high school, we used to stand outside the entrance to the school and wait for the magic hour, when we could go in and report to homeroom.  While waiting, we could catch up on current events (who is dating who? or how about them bears?).  Freshman year I made the huge mistake of choosing to stand outside the door in the back of the school, at the end of the hallway leading to the gym.  This door had a stairwell that led up directly to my homeroom (213, Mr. Jensen—the “Claw”).  It was very convenient to go up one flight of stairs and be in homeroom in a matter of a few seconds.  That way we could have more quality time in homeroom, asking Bob if that was a new shirt he was wearing.

There was only one problem with standing outside this door – it was hazardous to your health and well-being.  To the right of the door was a medium sized Euonymus Alata Compactus, planted, no doubt, by the grounds-keeping crew to balance the Feng Shui of the area.  This bush started as an innocent decoration to an otherwise bland minor entrance to the school, and became a notorious symbol of death and destruction.  I could never be sure who started it all off or who the first victim was (I suspect Paul Harvey). 

My overactive imagination creates the initial happening like this: (note this is a recreation, professional actors were used in controlled environment, do not attempt this at home!).  Paul Harvey joking around with a few of the guys; strays to the side of the covered entrance; ends up lined up perfectly with the front of the bush; someone (Maybe Iron Mike Foreman or Joe Kuhn?) gives Paul a 2-handed shove directly into the bush; Paul goes flying into the bush and springs back out; everyone laughs.  The first of many bush wackings was probably a minor event, but it left a profound impression on an unruly mob.  Bush wacking became a common event, anyone who accidently strayed too close to the bush ended up in it.  Outdoor fights normally ended up with the loser being dumped into the bush.  When the mob’s hunger for more victims grew, several people would gang up on someone and toss them into the bush.   The bush, of course, became smaller and more scruffy looking with every bush wacking. 

My own experience with bush wacking was fairly traumatic.  Somehow I had avoided being bush wacked for a long time.  This in itself was amazing because I was the smallest kid in the class, and therefore a prime target.  Keith Bobula was also small in stature, and managed to stay out of the bush for a long time.  In Keith’s case, I guess it was because he had the unique ability to grab onto the pole that held up the small roof covering the entrance, and using only his arms, hold his body perpendicular to the ground.  This entertained the mob and earned him bush wacking exemption (at least for a short while). 

When my time came, it was both unexpected and quick.  Someone grabbed me from behind, lifted me entirely off the ground took 5 or 6 steps and threw me directly into what was left of the bush.  I immediately jumped out and spun 360, flailing my arms and trying to punch anyone who was close.  Of course whoever threw me into the bush was long gone (I never saw who it was).  I came up to the closest person and made to push him. 

By the merest of coincidence it was Joe Gabuzda.  Joe was considerably bigger than me, and probably the last person who would ever push someone into the bush.  I came up to Joe with murder in my eyes and took a swing.  Joe just calmly grabbed my hand and in his normal, even voice said, “Settle down, Wild Man”.  I turned and left, went into the school, down the steps into the cafeteria, sat down at a far table, put my head on my arms, and cried.  Fortunately, no one was in the cafeteria, it being morning.  That was the one and only time I remember crying in High School. I didn’t even cry at my father’s funeral. 

Why would bush wacking bother me so much?  Everyone was bush wacked at some time or another: it was almost a rite of passage. Something about this one incident, broke my will and turned me into a raver:  just like everyone else.  I never returned to that area.  I moved on to wait at the door at the North East end facing Chestnut Street.  As far as I know, no one else changed doors that year.  Bush wacking continued until the bush became so emancipated that it was cut down (more like a few ratty twigs pulled up). 

Who knows how many lives were sacrificed to the bush or what the final toll was?

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