I was shocked the night my father casually revealed to the family that he had purchased a pair of shoes for the likes of Genie Arneson, my mortal enemy. He dropped the bomb when all of us were sitting around the kitchen table, enjoying our evening meal and engaged in casual conversation. When I heard it I was flabbergasted. Could it be the same Genie Arneson who was in my fourth grade class at school? How did Dad even know him? Where did he meet up with him? And why for heavens sake did he take the kid shopping?
I was raised in a small rural town where the term “gang” referred to a group of elementary school kids who played together after school. There were good gangs and bad gangs. The bad gangs were typically the ones that bullied the good gangs. Genie Arneson led a bad gang and he was the biggest bully of them all.
Just weeks before my father’s disheartening news, I had gotten into the one and only fist fight of my life. It was with Genie. After school he and some of his toughs were picking on my friend Jimmy Smith. Now any gang member worth his salt is loyal to his mates. So I didn’t hesitate to come to Jimmy’s defense and jumped into the fray. Genie was a bigger, stronger, seasoned fighter and got the best of me. It is a fight I am proud to this day that I fought even though I lost. Jimmy and I ended up high tailing it to my house with Genie’s gang in hot pursuit.