Three years ago when I was fifteen, a group of us in high school in Arkansas decided we’d attend a rally in the big city in support of action against global warming. We live in a rural area and our school uses a number of school buses to collect students from a wide area. That means we’re well used to early rising.
On the day in question, a Wednesday, we met up real early. Some of the older students had their own cars and someone had managed to borrow a small bus, so we all had some means of travelling. Back then I was barely five-foot one inch tall and just under one hundred pounds, so small and petite-ish. Even so, I was crammed in the back of an old Camaro, and found it less than comfortable. Of course, no one told their parents what we were doing, otherwise we’d all have been stopped.
The rally itself was both fun and scary. I especially felt intimidated by the large number of police officers controlling our procession through the city, many of them wearing full riot gear, and mostly big guys that towered over me.
We got home around 8.00 pm and of course my parents were furious. It seems the school had contacted all the parents to ask where we were, and a big panic set in when no one knew. I was immediately grounded for four weeks, the harshest grounding I’d ever had.
Next day in school, we all knew we’d be in big trouble, but no one made much comment about our absence the previous day. I think we expected for us all to get a grilling from the principal, and we expected to be punished. Two Saturday detentions seemed the likely result. Most of us had left all of next Saturday clear so we could serve our detentions. It was really only at lunch break that anyone raised the possibility of us being paddled, but that idea soon got dismissed. By then, paddling had become fairly rare and was only used for stuff like fighting, cheating and other serious offenses. Even then, I wasn’t the only one to begin to feel uneasy.
We were not long into our afternoon classes when the secretaries started going round calling us out from our lessons and directing us to the gymnasium. When I arrived there, the school principal, three female teachers and two male teachers were waiting for us. Within a few minutes, we had all been rounded up.
The principal gave us a long lecture about why we shouldn’t go off like we did. It wasn’t safe, it meant the school had a load of phoning round to do, everyone was worried, and it was only a couple of students who knew what we had planned yet didn’t want to get involved themselves telling on us that things calmed down a bit. I reckon the lecture lasted all of ten minutes and probably more.
Then came the bit we didn’t want to hear. Our punishment. When the principal announced we were all to be paddled, five swats each, there was a simultaneous gasp from all us students, boys included. Only those with a medical certificate or provable reason for being absent would be excused.
The rumors at lunch break weren’t just guys trying to frighten us after all.
The twenty-one boys were told to leave the gymnasium with the two male teachers, which left thirty-seven girls remaining with three female teachers who I will call Mrs A, Mrs B and Mrs C. They immediately set about hauling an old-style gym horse over towards us. It was a heavy old thing and they really struggled. No one felt like helping them. Of course, everyone knew what it was for!
Once it had been positioned about twenty feet in front of the group of students, whose ages ranged from maybe fourteen right through to eighteen, the three teachers set about lowering the height of the gym horse by adjusting the feet. They got it down a bit, but it still seemed high to me. Then Mrs A left the gymnasium. There was very little talking, just a few murmurings between friends. Mrs B and Mrs C were speaking to each other, but otherwise ignoring us.
When Mrs A returned, she was carrying a paddle. It had a blade maybe fifteen inches long and was quite narrow, three and a half to four inches wide at most. It was close to three quarters of an inch thick, and had a rounded off handle eight or nine inches long. It was made from maple, which I knew because we have flooring also made of maple wood. Mrs A handed the paddle to Mrs B, a teacher in her mid to late forties, a rather sombre woman who never said more than she had to.
Mrs A then asked if anyone wanted to go first. About then, my heart started missing a few beats. No one spoke, no one moved forward, and I for sure was not volunteering. As Mrs A looked around, everyone including me suddenly found an interest in the ceiling, the walls, anywhere but engage the teacher in eye contact.
Then Mrs A, never a lady known for her patience, selected a tall girl wearing bright blue pants who was, I think, in twelfth grade. This girl stepped forward pretty promptly and had a little conversation with Mrs B and Mrs C. Then she bent over the gym horse and Mrs B spanked her butt five times with the paddle, and they were five mean swats! The girl stood upright, rubbed her butt and left the room. I just couldn’t see me taking those hefty swats anywhere near as good as that girl!
Mrs A asked for a volunteer to go next, but didn’t wait long before she called the name of another girl, also from twelfth grade. This girl was a whole lot more reticent, but really she had no choice but to step up to the gym horse. Being a mite shorter, she struggled to get across the horse and had to stand on tippy-toes to make it. She got her five swats and kind of squeaked as each one hit the seat of her white pants. When she got back onto her feet, she really rubbed her backside and then she also headed for the door.
Next up was a girl younger than me, maybe from seventh grade? She also had to stand on tippy-toe to collect her swats. Mrs B laid into her just as hard, though, which got her rubbing her butt furiously.
Somewhere around halfway, Mrs B handed the paddle over to Mrs C, who then continued the paddlings with Mrs A still doing the selecting. The thing I noted was that every girl, once selected, went across and got over the gym horse with very little hesitation. I just hoped I would be as brave.
With just seven of us left, I saw Mrs A look quickly round until her eyes settled on me. I tried to look away, as though that would affect her selection one little jot, but she called my name out anyway. My heart was sure pounding and my legs felt very weak as I pushed myself to cross over to the gym horse.
My first thought was that it looked high for me to get across it easily. I was going to have to take a little jump to get up on it. Just as I dipped at the knee in preparation, Mrs B, standing by the side of the horse, said she needed to check there was nothing in my back pockets. I was wearing blue jeans that day that I’d washed over and over to lighten them to a near white shade. I inserted fingers into both back pockets and held them open as far as I could. She just looked down and told Mrs C they were clear. Mrs B also took hold of my bag and held it for me.
Mrs C responded by telling me to get myself across the horse. I smoothed my back pockets down and kind of gave my butt a final rub before assessing the jump up onto the horse. I pretty much managed it in one hop, but had to wriggle about a bit to get far enough forward that I wouldn’t fall back off. I kind of worried whether this left my butt at a good enough angle for Mrs C to work with. Why did, right at that moment, that worry me? I’m sure she’d have told me if I needed to reposition. I felt I needed to do something with my hands, but there was nothing in easy reach to hang on to, so I let my arms dangle vertically down towards the floor as I waited. I held my breath.
Mrs C had been my home room teacher two grades previously and I’d found her warm and friendly, and I suppose I hoped her knowing me would somehow mean she would go easy on me now.
Wow! She hammered those five swats into my butt like she was late for an appointment. I suppose the good thing was that it was over very quickly. The bad thing was, it really set my butt on fire. I wriggled back down and landed on my feet. I rubbed my butt with both hands because it really, really hurt. I kind of found it hard to think, just at that moment, and it was only Mrs B telling me I could get back to classes and holding my bag out for me that brought me to my senses.
Outside the gym, I met up with several other girls who had been paddled shortly before me. We all agreed that was one heck of a paddling. Of course, I got teased when I finally got back to my class, just as I’d teased others. I knew everyone would be watching as I sat down, and I tried not to show the level of discomfort I felt, but the reality was my butt was plenty sore.
When I got home from school, my mom was waiting for me with a worried look on her face. I didn’t really say much, just went to my room on the pretext of getting changed.
Having stripped down to my underwear, though, I lay face down on my bed and just felt sorry for myself. I didn’t hear mom come up the stairs until she knocked on my door and pushed it open. Normally, she waits for me to say for her to come in, but this time she came and sat next to me on my bed. She very gently, thank heavens, pulled my panties back so she could see the state of my butt, and then commented it was really sore looking, before replacing my panties even more softly.
I asked if the school had contacted her when they noticed a number of us were absent, and she confirmed they had, several times. They didn’t take long to work out where we had all gone, and that reassured mom to some degree that I hadn’t been kidnapped or fallen prey to some other misfortune.
My butt was still mighty sore, but by then my brain was beginning to function, so I asked if someone from the school had discussed with her what penalties might be awarded. It seems the principal himself had phoned in the afternoon and he said he was thinking about paddling everyone who was absent, and what did mom think about that? From what I could make out, she took no more than three seconds to think about and then heartily agreed, certainly as far as I was concerned!
I never admitted it to mom, but had we been offered the choice between detention and a paddling, most of us, including me, would have actually asked for the paddling.