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August 04, 2018

A Bat for Bobbie



By James McNamara Richmond

“How’s Bobbie?,” I replied to Eric Zillner when he asked to Friend me on Facebook the other day, surprised, thinking brother Bobbie was probably in prison or dead from a gang shooting.

I started working after school at age 13, taking three buses from all-boys De La Salle Academy to the Kansas City bottoms, where I worked for a wholesale frozen food company, three hours an evening and all-day Saturday.

Only about 5’1” and chubby, I was used to being mildly harassed and intimidated by other kids.

But Bobbie Zillner was our neighborhood bully, a terminator.

“Bobbie, he’s now farming a plot down by Cape Girardeau, “Eric said about his older brother.

Pauli.Tony.Sopranoes.jpgBobbie, at 15 about 1957, drove around the neighborhood with abandon-in a beat-up black Model A Ford, dressed in loud suspenders, jeans, boots and smoking a cigar.

Trolling slowly for younger kids he could rob of their lunch money or after school newspaper carrier pay.

(Reader: see where this is going? 

The last bus I took in the evening stopped in front of Bobbie’s house.

I couldn’t force myself to get off at an earlier or later stop.

Foolish pride before the fall.

“Oh, he won’t be out there tonight,” I tried to convince myself, and most evenings he wasn’t.

Bobbie seemed to have radar, and he often tracked me down walking home after serving morning Mass on Sunday.

I never carried more than a buck or two on me, but that was big pocket money for a young kid in the 50s.

After about six months of this harassment, I decided to confront Bobbie one night at the bus stop.

He beat the hell out of me.

Both of my eyes were almost swollen shut, and a big purple lump on the side of my face.

“What happened to you?” my mom pleaded that evening.

“Got in a fight at noon, on the playground,” l lied.

Snitches get stitches, and I had to live in the neighborhood.

“Hey Eric, can you give me Bobbie’s address on the farm?” I wrote back on Facebook. “I might swing south to visit him — one of these trips I drive from Michigan to Kansas City to visit relatives.

     Bobbie would be 75 to my 73.

“Your brother and I have a lot to chat about,” I laughed ...
Responding to Eric on Facebook, before deleting his Friend request.

Do I have that old souvenir team baseball bat from grade school in the basement?bobbie.jpg

I might stop and give Bobbie a present.

For old times’ sake.


(Voice to text, while walking at 6 am.)

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