Trading Licks Murdock Style

by David Flick (Click for Author's Home Page)

You'd have to know Lloyd Murdock Sr. to know the significance of what I got myself into. Lloyd Sr. married my Grandma Flick's little sister, making him my uncle by marriage. The marriage produced Johnny, Lloyd Jr. (Bub), and Linville Lee (Sissie) Murdock, who were my second cousins. I was forced to live in two worlds with Lloyd Murdock Sr. He was my FFA instructor and my uncle rolled into one person. At school, he was Mr. Murdock, or simply "Murdock," as the students called him. Away from school, he was "Uncle Lloyd" who happened to be married to my Aunt Nora. I suppose that wasn't as strange as it would been to call your teacher "Dad," which is what my cousin, Bub, did.

Murdock, the teacher, was a different sort of pedagogue than other faculty members at Hammon High School. He was a laid back sort of guy and had relatively few hard rules in class. Actually, he was an easy teacher and made class very interesting. Perhaps he was easy because I knew him better as "Uncle" than I did as teacher. He was an "institution" in HHS. He had taught agriculture at Hammon before I started school and was teaching it long after I graduated and left home to seek my fortune in the "real world."

One of the few strict rules Murdock had was a ban on chewing gum in class. He was death on gum in the classroom. The penalty for chewing gum in class was a lick from a paddle at the hands of a fellow student. Murdock had a system of paddle discipline which involved two students "trading licks" with a paddle he had stashed behind the desk in his office. If a rule was broken, the offending students had to go to the front of the class and trade licks with Murdock's paddle. They had to do it Murdock style.

Trading licks had a strict law attached to it. I sometimes called it Murdock's Law. The law was that licks had to be administered with considerable force upon the buttocks of the fellow student. None of this soft-touch stuff. If a couple of students secretly made a pact to go light on one another and Murdock suspected that such a pact had been made, he would take the paddle and do the walloping himself. And Murdock could deliver the most painful blow imaginable to one's sit-upon. It was far better for the student to give a good solid lick to the behind side of his fellow student than risk having Murdock do the job. I was lucky enough never to experience receiving a lick at Murdock's expense, but I did receive a few at the hands of fellow students. There was one I can remember vividly. It's almost as if I experienced it yesterday.

John Smith was a sly cuss once in a while. But he enjoyed playing a good joke on fellow students. One time, he and cousin Bub hatched a plan to put two students in front of the class trading licks. I was one of those chosen to be the butt of the joke. Freddie Thomas was the other.

The Ag classroom was up in a classroom shop building at the top of the hill to the south east of the main school building. To get to Ag classes, we would exit the main building on the south and climb the hill to the classroom building. The distance was about four hundred yards. We always enjoyed going to and from the Ag building because it afforded us a time of freedom to laugh and joke as we walked along.

On one occasion, John Smith took out a package of gum, giving Freddie Thomas and Bub a stick as we began our ascent to the classroom.. Whereupon entering the room, Smith and Bub promptly deposited their gum into the waste basket. Not thinking to remember the gum rule, Freddie entered the class without spitting his gum into the waste basket. I suppose there was still a lot of sweetness remaining in the gum and Freddie was enjoying his chew unconsciously.

It didn't take long for Smith to figure out a way to get Murdock to notice that Freddie was chewing gum. Murdock noticed and promptly put a mark by his name in the grade book. I made a mental note that I needed to watch this and not get trapped as Freddie had.

About a month later, we exited the south entrance of the main building and began our ascent to the Ag room. John took out a package of gum, took a stick for himself, passed it to Bub, and then handed me a stick. We all began chewing with delight. I think it must have been Doublement, because I was having a doubly delightful chew. Then John proceeded to tell a funny joke or something to detract my attention from the fact that I had a forbidden chew in my mouth. He was cutting up like crazy with Bub joining in. When we reached the Ag building, John courteously opened the door ahead of me, allowing me to walk in ahead of him and Bub. I had completely forgotten the fact that I had chewing gum in my mouth.

With John and Bub being to my rear, they quickly disposed of their gum while I went to take my usual seat. After roll call, Murdock noticed that I had gum in my mouth. He called my attention to this grim fact and searched his grade book, noticing that Freddie was waiting for another culprit with whom to exchange licks. Murdock went into his office, retrieved the paddle, and summoned us to the front of the room. I looked at Smith and Bub, realizing that I had been thoroughly trapped. They had set Freddie and myself up for this. We had both been gullible enough to fall into the trap. I saw wry smiles on both Bub and Smith's mouths. I had been the fool. So had Freddie.

Freddie and I were unforgiving in the trading of our licks. We both knew it had to be a hard swing of the paddle. If we went light, it meant that Murdock would do the job himself. And neither of us wanted that. I think I wised up to Smith's jokes thereafter. I know one thing,... I never was caught chewing gum in Murdock's class again. I was never again the butt of John's jokes from the standpoint of gum. I never wanted to receive a lick on the butt as the result of being the butt of John & Bub's jokes. Never...

More stories by David Flick