One time, after I returned from the upstairs toilet, Bobby told me that he knew I was delaying in the kitchen before returning to the basement so that I could check out, up-close, his father’s strop hanging on the kitchen wall.
I felt I was caught red-handed…I fumbled for an answer…but finally admitted that I liked getting an close-up look (and feel!) of his father’s strop and that I couldn’t help it because my dad was probably the only dad in town who didn’t have a strop and I admitted to Bobby that I was not only very curious about the strop, but that when I heard him or his brothers getting a licking I wished it was happening to me.
Bobby smiled and seemed to be nodding “yes”. He then admitted that his younger (Ricky) and older (Ernie) brothers had said to Bobby a number of times that they thought Bobby actually liked deliberately provoking his father by doing stuff that would result in a licking. Then he laughed and looked at me eye-to-eye and said very frankly, “Guess what…they’re right.”
While I believe we were both only 11 at that time, it appeared that Bobby and I were sort of on the same page about lickings with the strop: I missed getting them and envied his lickings, and he liked anticipating a licking and the “afterglow”, and maybe a little less the actual licking. Two weird 11 year olds.
Bobby and I continued to connect for the many reasons kids our age (11 to 14) who didn’t take to the usual activities of other kids the same age did. While others played baseball and other sporting stuff, we spent our summers at a local pond studying pond life, collecting and cataloging rocks, butterflies and beetles. We spent a lot of time walking to and from our city library…perhaps a couple of miles on the other end of town…I read biographies and about art, he read science and sci-fi. These were long walks which were loaded with talk about loads of topics…and for sure sometimes there was “strap talk”.
It was on our way home from one of these walks from the library, when we were perhaps in the last 3-4 blocks from home…both running late for supper…that we spotted Bobby’s father walking towards us, on the opposite side of the street, with his razor strap hanging full length from his right hand. For Bobby running late for supper was a punishable offense. Bobby said nothing and ran to cross the street to meet his father…for better or for worse. I followed about a couple of blocks behind…still across the street. Bobby walked a few steps ahead of his father, head hung low. They both turned into their driveway…next door to ours…and disappeared into the house. No punishment activity took place on the street, though it was clear to me and neighbors and kids along the way, as well as the many folks who drove down our street…what Bobby was in for after he got in the house. Not sure why, but I didn’t hear Bobby get a licking that time.
The next day he reported that he did get licking…”a really good one”…just before bed that night. As we made our way to the pond that afternoon, in a wooded area that lead to the pond, he stopped abruptly, turned his back to me and dropped his jeans and undershorts to show me the handiwork of his father’s strop on his butt. His butt was criss-crossed by wide, bright red strop markings, the ends of which showed the black and blue “bite” marks from the square-cut business ends of the doubled-thonged strop. My silence was telling. He chuckled and told me to try and count the licks I could see. I couldn’t, pointing out that there were too many overlapping licks. “That’s what you get when you provoke the ‘old man’ into give you a licking. It’ll hurt for a few days but it’ll clear up. Still want a licking?”
He pulled up his pants and we headed for our afternoon at the pond. That was the closest I’d come to witnessing the effects of his lickings first-hand. I guess I was maybe shocked…if that’s the word. I think a better word might be “thrilled” about having seen his strap-marked butt.
Sometime during our 7th or 8th grade primary school years, our “strap talks” took a new, but short-lived, turn. One rainy August afternoon as we headed into our 7th grade year, Bobby and I spent the time trying to build a couple of birdhouses from scraps of wood. We listened to a local AM “Rock” station in town on my transistor radio.
At one point Bobby darted up the stairs to the kitchen area and I thought I heard him go over to the area of the kitchen where his father’s razor strap was hanging. Sure enough, Bobby returned to the basement, razor strap in-hand. He walked towards me and handed it to me saying “Have a good look at it. Maybe sometime we can put it to use.”
I’m sure my eyes were bulging from my skull. I remember thinking that the strap was heavy. It was actually made of two leather straps held together at the top by a dull brass clip or buckle which was used to hang it on the nail in the kitchen wall. It made for a pretty thick strap. The top strap was nearly black, shiny and thicker than the bottom strap which was lighter brown colored.
Bobby then took the strap from me and holding it with a hand positioned at each end of the strap he brought his hands slowly together causing the two straps to separate, then drew his hands apart suddenly and hard causing the two straps to snap together loudly. I startled. “Sound familiar?” "Oh man..." I muttered to myself. Bobby laughed.
I was a bit taken aback by Bobby’s actions that time but without saying as much, I actually got a thrill out of it. Bobby returned the strap upstairs on the kitchen wall. When he returned he added, “Think about it and if you want to we’ll mess around with the strap some more another time.” My heart was pounding. "Uh...sure...I guess. I’ve got to go”, I added, and left.