Copyright© 2015 by Bill Offutt
All through his elementary school years Bud had pretty much the same problem. Teachers remembered his brother and sister, both of whom had been above average students, very diligent and well behaved, and they expected the same from the younger brother. But Bud found school a place filled with problems even though the playground was almost always a pleasure, especially the dodgeball and kickball games.
When he was in the fourth grade his teacher asked Polly, Bud's mother, to come to school and talk about his progress and his problems. "I think," the young teacher said, "he has a condition called dyslexia. We studied about it some when I was in school."
"Never heard of it," Polly said.
"Well he mixes things up, get numbers backwards, reads 'saw' for "was, ' and that sort of thing. He has a lot of problems reading. Sometimes he tells me his eyes hurt so you should have his vision checked I think. I'm sure you've seen that he writes some numbers and letters backwards once in a while."
"I will get his eyes tested, and I know he doesn't like to read. Janie and Phil devour books, wear out their library cards, but Bud doesn't even like picture books very much." Polly's forehead creased with worry. "About all he reads is the comics. What can we do for him?"
"I'm going to talk to the reading specialist when she visits next week, and we will get him tested. I assume that's all right with you."
"Of course," Bud's mother said, and the teacher gave her a permission form to sign.
"What were you and Miss Addison talking about?" Bud asked as he sat beside his mother on the front seat of the family Dodge.
"Reading," his mother said, "and why you seem to have trouble. We are going to get your eyes tested."
"I spell good," Bud said. "And I can see OK."
"Yes, you do. And I'm proud of you. But you've been having some trouble with math too, haven't you?"
The boy nodded. "Fractions," he said with exasperation.
"Well, pretty soon they are going to give you some tests to see if we can figure out how to help you. That all right?"
Bud nodded. "If I put my finger on the page, I can read OK when I'm called on, but if I loose my place." He sniffed. "Sometimes people laugh, kids I mean. Like one time I said 'lime" when the word was 'mile' and another time I read 'tar line' when the story was about a rat's tail."
"I guess you need to practice," his mother said.
"I'd sure like to practice my hitting too. Think Phil will have time to pitch me some?"
"It's his day to work in the store. Janie can throw to you."
"Aw," Bud said, "she throws like a girl."
His mother laughed and then Bud laughed too.
Bud's vision was 20/20 the eye doctor said, no problems there. After the testing by the specialist and some small changes by the teacher, his schoolwork improved. He became better organized and in the habit of writing down his assignments carefully and checking that he got them done and done right.
When the teacher wrote on the blackboard, she used colored chalk to underline important words or new words. And the teacher stopped having Bud read aloud to the whole class and only had him read to her one-on-one or in a small group with other children who had reading difficulties.
But the math problems seem to get worse with the introduction of long division. And then decimals were the next topic, and Bud was often mystified about where the decimal point was or where it should be or which way it should be moved. The teacher made the decimal points very large and dark on the blackboard and in the work sheets that Bud turned in, she pointed out when he went the wrong way in placing or moving a decimal point. Bud's frustration increased as the complexity kept piling up.
But on the playground, Bud was a star, almost as good as his cousin Mike according to adults who had seen them both. He had a strong and accurate arm and was by far the best hitter in his elementary school by the time he was in the fourth grade. He was chosen captain of his Cub Scout team and led them to a County championship in the 10 and under league. He came home with blue ribbons from the school system's field days year after year.
In junior high school, Bud began to shed some of his soft baby fat and build muscle onto his heavy-boned frame. At thirteen he was five-foot-nine and about a hundred and sixty pounds and played center on the 8th grade basketball team. Players tended to get out of his way when he grabbed the ball and swung his elbows. By the time he entered high school in September 1942 he was almost six feet tall and still weighed about 160.