First off, let me apologize to long-time readers of this blog. Ever since I stumbled over that high school website that enabled me to get in touch with my old classmates about six weeks ago, I’ve found myself sort of fixated on those olden days - “before microwave ovens, when a girl could still cook and still would,‘’ is the way Merle Haggard put it. Recent blogs certainly have reflected my mild obsession with all things Tupelo High School circa 1975-77.
I cannot imagine that there is anything more tedious than reading about somebody else’s experiences in high school. But when you consider the unpleasant turn my life has taken in the past few years, I suspect you will be inclined to understand my temptation to occupy my thoughts with the soothing recollections of my days of blissful ignorance rather than contemplate the ambivalent ignorance of my current situation.
I suspect that someday I will emerge from this nostalgic fog and take up more contemporary subject matter.
But today is not that day. Sorry.
During my correspondence with my old classmates, I have found that many of them refer to me as “Tim.’’ The reason they do that is because that is my name: Tim Smith. Of course, if you have known me fewer than 30 years, you know me by my nickname, “Stud.’’
OK. So nobody calls me “Stud.’’ Well, that’s not entirely true. One woman about five years ago, gave me that pet name. I wound up buying a set of encyclopedias from her, so I’m not sure she was entirely sincere.
Most people know me as Slim, though.
When I got into my 40s, it used to sort of offend me when, upon introducing myself to someone, the person would often ask me why people called me “Slim.’’ Well, it used to be a descriptive nickname. Back when I got it, no one ever wondered why. It was obvious. Even though I lost a fair amount of weight a few years back, I still get that question.
So, here’s the answer:
In 1975, I was a sophomore in high school and “Gopher’’ Williams, one of the upperclassmen on the football team - not knowing my name - began to call me “Slim.’’ People with nicknames are entitled to give other people nicknames, I suppose.
To be honest, I rather liked the nickname and will confess that I sort of promoted the use of it. I find now that most of the old classmates who refer to me as “Slim’’ were on the football team.
There were a couple of reasons I favored “Slim’’ over “Tim’’ or - gasp - “Timmy,’’ as my mama called me.
First, I rather liked the alliterative qualities of being “Slim Smith.’’ By that time, I had already determined that I would be a writer, most likely a sports columnist at the New York Times if not the latest manifestation of the great, brooding Southern novelists of that era.
I felt “Slim Smith’’ was the sort of distinctive, memorable name that you associate with great literary figures.
The other, more practical reason, that I preferred “Slim'' to “Tim’’ is that my class at THS already had a “Tim Smith.’’ Somehow, being another “Tim Smith’’ made me feel sort of redundant.
Now, my name is “Timothy Lane Smith.’’ The other guy was “Timothy Lynn Smith.’’ I know this because all through high school I was regularly required to straighten this out.
Beyond the redundancy, I was a little worried about being identified with the other Tim Smith for another reason.
Now at this juncture, the subject of Timothy Lynn Smith is a delicate matter for me to discuss. You see, Timothy Lynn Smith was considered to be, in the vernacular of the day, a “hood.’’
I don’t know what the high school counter-culture of today is called. But in my day, those who rejected the accepted culture of the high school were called hoods. Upon reflection, I do not recall that hoods were really all that rebellious, though. Oh sure, they were somewhat more inclined to smoke cigarettes, cut classes, reject the latest fashions and be enrolled in "Vo-Tech'' classes. But primarily, the hoods were set apart in terms of attitude.
In every high school, you have a small cadre of really popular kids and a great mass of other kids aspiring to affiliate themselves with the popular group. The hoods didn't bother. They were pretty cool, now that I think about it.
I didn't think they were all that cool then, though.
So, being confused with Timothy Lynn Smith, at least in my mind, threatened any misguided ambition I might entertain about being accepted by the popular kids.
Now, I am not flat-out saying that Timothy Lynn Smith was a hood. As has been proven in previous blogs, my recollections are far from perfect.
NOTE TO TIM: If you were a hood, I’m not saying that was a bad thing. So don't come to Arizona and beat me up, OK? If you were not a hood, then you probably aren't inclined to come to Arizona and beat me up. Even so, I apologize if my memory was faulty on this point.
All I remember is that “Tim Smith’’ was routinely being called to the principal’s office. More often than not, they weren’t looking for me. That’s all I'm saying.
I do wonder what Timothy Lynn Smith is up to these days. Sometimes I imagine that he is a minister or teacher or something along those lines. Ironic, then, that it is Timothy Lane Smith who has a prison record, huh?
I’m thinking Timothy Lynn Smith may want to consider acquiring a nickname to spare him from such an unflattering case of mistaken identity.
He should look up Gopher Williams.