A Major Breach in the Britches, Leap Year 1972

Today is February 29, Leap Year 2012. This is also the week that pro football wannabes are showing off their physical skills in the NFL Combine. Put the two together, and you come up with a traumatic, cringe-inducing, early childhood memory.

It was the spring of 1972, another Leap Year, and I was in Ms. Traylor’s 4th grade class at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia. We were on the playground finishing up the last event of our biannual physical fitness tests–the broad jump. I was on the line, waiting my turn.

“Go ahead, jump!” Ms. Traylor called out. I swung my arms in rhythm–one, two, three–and then crouched low, like a panther set to pounce…

The previous fall, I had failed every one of my physical fitness tests. I was short and fat, the “victim” of too many late night benders consisting of stacks of peanut butter crackers and fistfuls of Bugles corn snacks, which also happened to be excellent for dipping in the aforementioned peanut butter, washed down with tall, frosty glasses of Coca-Cola.

I was not used to failing anything, and with my shortcomings plainly exposed, I swore to do better. I started eating fruit instead, resisting the urge to dip my apple slices in the aforementioned peanut butter, and began running laps in my yard.

This wore down the grass until soon there was a perfect oval that the dogs and cats also used as they roamed hither and yon. My mother frowned, but my father smiled, not minding at all that his lawn had been converted into a 1/16th of a mile running track, so great was aversion to having a wimpy son.

Seeing that I was serious about training, he bought me a set of junior barbells for Christmas. I strained, grunted and groaned–the boys down at Gold’s Gym would have been proud. I learned to skip rope, gradually increasing the number of reps I could do without a miss. I even learned to throw in a few crossovers, just like Muhammad Ali.

By the spring, I was lean, mean and ready for action. I passed all my tests, including the much-dreaded 600-yard dash, leaving only the standing broad jump.

I crouched low in my skin-tight, Sears & Roebuck bell bottoms with the vertical gold and green stripes and let fly!


It was no tiny, barely-noticeable tear. It was a major breach in the britches, extending from my crotch to the belt line. My Kmart brand whitie-tighties saluted the spring air, as well as the gaggle of wide-eyed kindergartners gawking over by the merry-go-round.

The playground bullies, sensing blood in the water, descended on me in a pack. To fend off further humiliation, Ms. Traylor commandeered a classmate’s jacket, tied it around my waist, and began to lead me back toward the principal’s office so she could call my mother.

My mother brought me another pair of pants, but rather than take me home to nurse my psychological wounds, she made me stay the rest of the day. I’d like to tell you that I took it well and laughed it all off, but I didn’t. I cried.

Meanwhile, back at the playground, a quick-thinking teacher’s aide had measured the length of my standing broad jump. It was a good 2 inches over the minimum standards, not quite as far as Julio Jones’s 11 feet, 3 inches, but good enough.

It’s now Leap Year 2012 and nobody expects me to jump anymore, unless it’s to open my wallet. I don’t have to meet minimum physical standards either, but I still get out there and give it a go. I do pretty well for a guy my age.

I’ll no doubt face other tests this year, though, hurdles which stand in the way of some goal or desired outcome. Many, I’m sure, will require a leap of faith.

Thankfully, I won’t have to wear skin-tight bell bottoms. This time, I’ll be rocking “loose-fit” Dockers khakis–praise be to Jesus.

I’ve come a long way, baby.

  1. David U

    HA!   Great story, Eye-Guy!   Keep em coming!DU

  2. Sandy

    I have to chuckle and wipe a tear as I read these tales of your youth.  I see so much of the man I love in the boy you were….I’m keeping you.  (Just don’t test me with bell bottoms!)

  3. Michael Brown

    *Contented sigh*


  4. Susan

    I love this story!!! and Sandy’s comment …  :-)))

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