Herbie Round was the biggest bully our town ever saw. Most blamed it on his red hair. “ Never saw a redhead yet without a temper,” Miss Clay, his third grade, teacher said. Most concurred. Herbie fit the stereotype of the short-tempered redhead perfectly. He wasn’t much to look at either, big and bony with a long nose, Herbie stood out in any crowd. Some of the smaller (weaker) kids looked up to him. He became their protector even if it cost them a dessert at lunchtime or chocolate milk. He was challenged by a few of the older boys but they soon learned Herbie would not give up in a fight and it was impossible to make him quit, especially when it looked like he’d met his match. So an unsigned truce was declared between Herbie and the other bullies. One of the clever girls wrote a jump rope song about our bully.
“Herbie Round is just an ugly clown
Don’t tell him so or he’ll smack you around
How many smacks will you get?”
They proceeded to count the number of smacks with giggles when Herbie was just out of earshot.
. After high school, Herbie tried college. Big mistake. His political science professor went on about the positive aspects of communism and Herbie disagreed. When the professor brought up the names of Stalin and Marx, Herbie said they were losers and didn’t care how many they killed. Herbie didn’t have many actual specifics to offer and the teacher kicked him out of class. Later in the parking lot, Herbie met up with the professor and they got in a pushing match. Herbie, pushed too hard, of course, and the professor fell, breaking his collarbone. That was Herbie’s college career.
The service was next and the army made him an MP. Herbie browbeat any suspected of bending regulations and went totally by the book. Many fights ensued. He did finish out his time but as a cook’s assistant. His boss said Herbie was the best helper he ever had--no one ever complained about the food.
When he came home from the army, he worked with his father for a while as a carpenter. Herbie still got in trouble, especially when he went on a drinking binge. His mother prayed for her only child and his father reminded him that there was nothing wrong with the color red. It was not the color but the flapping cloak that made the bull angry. Herbie didn’t listen but he did like working and that summer he went to do repairs on the Joslyn estate. Old grandfather Joslyn had invented a carburetor refinement that made him and his ancestors rich. Herbie met Ada Joslyn and they fell in love. She was beautiful, refined, and brilliant of mind and ten years older than Herbie. She was a great reader, loved to paint, and attend church. She made sure Herbie was a Christian (if a little on the shaky side) before she agreed to marry him. Her father laughed, saying he didn’t dare refuse Herbie but he knew his daughter would be well protected.
Ada bought an old restaurant in town and Herbie fixed it up and honed his cooking skills. The Red Rose diner was a big success. Ada thought of it as a kind of missionary outreach. She served dinners for the poor and made it available to her church. She was well known for her good works. Herbie grumbled a bit but loved Ada so fumed in silence. They had a baby girl who didn’t have red hair.
Years later Ada passed away at the age of seventy. Herbie was surprised at the turnout for her funeral. Rev. Wright spoke of her goodness, saying the more we love Christ, the more good we do and the more Christ like we become. Soon Herbie became a regular at church. He taught a Sunday school class, telling the kids about types of bullies. Herbie said, “People could be bullies if they were smarter, stronger, wealthier, more talented or simply had real good looks.” He told Rev. Wright “good works” was on the list too but Ada made him realize her good works came from the heart. It was a kind of testimony. She couldn’t help doing good.
Herbie soon became bald but some still didn’t quite trust him because they noticed tuffs of red hair springing out behind his ears. They were wrong.
Word count: 742
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