Stick ’em up

This is something I’ve seldom talked about, but I was mugged once.

I don’t want to overdramatize this because I was not hurt and lost the most minimal amount of money. More than anything, I was embarrassed.

It was May of my junior year in high school. A handful of us competed in the state Explorer Olympics at Fort Hood, Texas. The competitions were completed Saturday and our crew spent the night sleeping on the floors of the base’s squash ball courts. Another guy and I were awake well before breakfast was to be served on Sunday morning and decided to go bowling.

Leaving the small bowling alley to walk to the mess hall, we encountered two or three guys on the almost deserted streets of what was then billed as the largest military base in the free world. They blocked our path and said they wanted a quarter. Twenty-five cents!

Somehow, they focused on me and, it seemed, my buddy faded to the back a couple of steps. One of the bad guys had what I’d call a homemade blackjack that he kept slapping into the palm of his hand. The fellow who did the talking made sure I understood how much damage that would do to someone’s head.

Here’s where I became a rebel. They wanted a quarter and I reached into my pocket, where I felt a quarter and a dime. I removed the dime and told him that was all I had. He took it.

The embarrassment came from my lack of action at a specific time.

While we were standing on the sidewalk, I saw a Jeep carrying a couple of MPs. Should I yell for help? They were almost passing us before I saw them; what if they didn’t stop? What if the bad guy grabbed me as a hostage or just slapped me up beside the head? After all, we were at the point where they already seemed content with my dime.

In that fraction of a second, I chose to not act.

Does that mean anything? What does it mean that I still recall it 40-plus years later?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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