Nov 09 2012

Forever Young

Published by at 1:56 AM under Comm 300

There were times when your parents through parties and you couldn’t come. At certain times you could stay, but not to late, it’d be bedtime for you soon. The phrase “adult time” caught on and you knew your fate was sealed. But what if you had no parental supervision and it seemed no one cared. What is you were being picked on and teased about being fat? Were you?

Chris Payne recalls his high school years saying, “People made fun of me because of my teeth.  I beat a lot of people up when I was mad.”

Even today as he smiles the first thing you notice is the absence of his front two. He was overweight as a child but didn’t get bullied. They knew better. Unfortunately for other kids, they’re not a bulky and strong as Chris was. One only has to view a scene from Dennis the Menace to realize all children are not created equal.

“If I only knew back then, what I know now. “ Admittedly everyone has said this at least once in his or her life. But what if you were only twelve. What if life, as you now know it, hadn’t even begun yet?

Everyone has wished to go back and do it differently at some point in time. Would you have gotten better grades? Perhaps, been nicer to certain people. More importantly would you still get picked on, laughed at and bullied? One day Lakota Pickels will perhaps look back and wish he had done it differently. Fortunately that day isn’t coming anytime soon.

I first met Lakota at a Halloween party this year in Holstein. He caught my eye, not because of his stature (at 5’4 – 149lbs. he’s about average for his age) but rather because I had never seen a twelve year-old chase mandarin Jell-O shots with a Budweiser before. He was big for his age, so I’m not sure if the alcohol had hit him yet. Then again, he said it wasn’t his first time and that him and his friends had snuck his dad’s beer before. Not being from Iowa and recalling other Iowans’ story, he seemed a bit young even for this area, but I had seen and heard worse before. The sight of a two-year old black child passed out after a huge bong hit still angers me.

So being older, and hopefully wiser, I wanted to intervene and offer guidance. His apparent self-destructive behavior was alarming to me, though no one else (including his parents) seemed to mind. Though in all fairness, I don’t think anyone was wise to his sneaky tactics of intoxication. Rather they thought he was just having a good time being silly.

We departed to an upstairs balcony to get acquainted.  Jeff, another party-goer, followed us upstairs. He needed to tell his Budweiser label story again. It was good the first time, but he was drunk now so we sent him back down for more beer. He returned shortly and the three of us starting discussing the pros and cons of beer. The conversation quickly changed to Lakota and he listened as Jeff (a fellow Iowan) compared his story of drinking at such a young age. By now, I was freezing. I didn’t start drinking till after high school so I headed inside. More importantly Lakota and I agreed to speak again for the purpose of this assignment.  Below is a brief transcript of that Q&A session:

KG:  So let’s get the easy ones out of the way. Where are you from? What do you like to do? Favorite color maybe?

L:  Jefferson, IA and I like video games – DUH! Football’s okay, I’m fat though so I always have to play lineman. Hot pink’s my favorite color.

KG: You like Holstein? Wait – hot pink?!

L: No. All my friends are in Ida Grove now. We move a lot and yeah hot pink. It calms me.

KG: Calms you?

L: Yeah. I have ADHD. I take Adderall and Clonidine to sleep at night for bed.  

KG: What makes you think you’re fat? You seem pretty average to me?

L:  Because I love cheeseballs and ranch. They’re my favorite. Plus kids always make fun of my boobs. I’ve been made fun of my whole life. I have a learning disability and I’m fat, but everyone says I just don’t try hard enough.

KG: What kind of grades do you get?

L:  A’s & B’s. I want to be a heart surgeon when I grow up so I can make enough money to take care of my parents. We don’t have TV. I haven’t watched anything in a year. I’d like to buy them cable – no wait Dish network so my dad can watch Nascar. He loves it.

Plus I flipped a golf cart last summer and got blacked out. When I got to the hospital I liked the doctor. He said heart surgeons make a lot of money!

KG: Heart surgeon eh? Sounds cool. What about your little sister? Aren’t you going to share any of that wealth with her?

L: No. I’ll give her a $50 loan though.

KG: Let’s get back to the kids making fun of you. You’re a big guy. Bigger than most seventh graders why don’t you just beat them up?  

L: I don’t like to fight and I don’t want to get into trouble.

KG: Won’t any of the older kids stick up for you?

L: The only older kids I know are the ones who pick on me. I’ve learned not to cry though because my face gets all red and they call me “little red.” Plus my dad will laugh at me.

KG: That sucks. Trust me though it does get better.

L: I sure hope so.


We talked for a while longer. Afterwards I beat him down in Mortal Kombat five times and he left with a smile. While reading this keep in mind how you felt about life at his age. What advice would you offer Lakota, if any at all?

He is the product of a low-income family and often wears the same clothes out of necessity not desire. His parents encourage him to hang out at my house as often as he can. Lakota says, “They think you guys are a good influence on me.”

His parents are nice people. They try to be polite as best they can. Traci got paid in pizza once to watch Lakota and his sister. The mother works at Pizza Hut. I’m not sure if the father works when he can or when he wants to. He spends a lot of time on his racecar in the garage and the landlord says they’re behind in rent. Who knows where the parents had gone all day and night. I felt sorry Traci. She’s motherly and cares for her kids so many of the neighborhood kids seem to latch on to her quickly. The parents had left the back door open for Lakota and his sister all day. Traci even recalled the girl saying, “I’m hungry for Mac & Cheese” after devouring six Kool-Aids, chips and a meal. She had seen Traci’s stash and enjoyed her home cooking and wanted more. I don’t have children or a problem saying no or goodbye. So I’m fairly certain they knew not to be there when I got home. The empty Mac & Cheese pan was still drying in the sink rack.

“Don’t give him a drink,” is all she would comment at the party. He’s not my child and it wasn’t a special moment between a father and son so he was on his own.

Nowadays, he goes to the resource room everyday for help with his schoolwork and his parents obviously have no desire to improve their situation anytime soon. Would you have picked on him too? Keep in mind a few days ago he and two buddies popped a classmates bike tires. They broke the chain and took it on several “ghost rides.” His parents saw him do it and grounded him for two-weeks. A few hours later he was at my back door just saying “hi.” Wonder if Lakota’s parents will pay some of the damage?


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