Dr. Rodney T. Hard


By:  Dr. Rodney T. Hard (with added recollections and story refinements from Sterling Hard and Dr. Robert Wright)

During my second grade through fourth grade of elementary school, I attended a very small school consisting of kids from about six or seven missionary families in Pusan, Korea.  Some of the wives of the missionaries taught us in a cinder block building on the outer area of land belonging to the Gospel Hospital and Koryu Theological Seminary complex.

My classmates were Merridee Harper and Judy Wright.  My older brother Sterling’s classmates were Robert Wright and Avril Legg.  Avril was the only one in our school that was not a missionary kid.  She was the daughter of a civilian contractor in Korea working for an oil company called Kosco.

Avril was a stuck up little rich kid who acted like she was too good for us.  None of us liked her, but she got under the skin of my big brother Sterling more than anyone else.   In fact she got him really aggravated once by spraying him full in the face with a shaken bottle of cold soda, in the dead of winter.

As she ran down the hall, squealing with devilish delight, he grabbed a hand splitting maul from the woodpile and threw it at her. 

Time....stood....still!!  From Sterling’s perspective, the short handled maul arched toward her in slow motion, flipping end over end.  It just cleared her shoulder, shattered a large office window....and landed at the feet of....the principal....his mother!

Sterling got a severe beating with a switch from the principal....his mother, and then got beaten again with a leather belt on the bare behind from Dad when he got home. 

As much as Avril acted like she was better than us all, eventually she needed some kind of validation from her classmates and decided she wanted to be included in some of the recess activities with us.

There was a large corrugated drainage pipe that funneled excess rainwater from our playground area to a ditch down the steep hill.  Sterling, Robert, and I used to climb down into the pipe, crouch down, duck walk to the downward drop off, and then hunker on a short board and clatter down the hill (almost 200 feet) inside the pipe to the ditch below where you could climb out of the pipe.

Avril wanted to play with us but we discouraged her every time in a particularly mean way.  Sterling told her that there was a lion in the drain pipe and it hated Catholics.  He would yell, "Catholics", down into the entrance to the drain and one of us hiding inside would roar like a lion.  The large pipe amplified the sound and Avril, out of fear, would give up trying to play with us.

One day, after a particularly bad rain, Sterling discovered that there was a bloated dead dog stuck half-way down, trapped in a tangle of sticks and detritus blocking the drain pipe.  There was no stopping, and he plowed into the mess full tilt.  We had to throw a rope down to haul him out.  There was no climbing out of the silt covered pipe....it was too steep and slick.

Later, during lunch break, blithely unaware of the situation, Avril asked if she could play with us and slide down the pipe like we did.  She was very happy when we finally acquiesced.  We pretended to reluctantly let her play with us. 

She gleefully got into the pipe and slid down the dark pipe.  Three long seconds later, we heard a 'splush' as she slid into the bloated dog.  Then came the most blood curdling screams we had ever heard.

We yelled down, “Oh did you find a dead dog?”  More screams reverberated up the drainage pipe.

“And I think there are some snakes and rats drowned in that mess too!”  The fearful wailing started in earnest. 

She was a shaking, scared, muddy, stinky mess, when we finally hauled her to the surface.

We three boys had the laugh of a lifetime.  Yes, we all got whipped.  Yes, she hated us even more after that.  But, it was worth it.

Robert Wright with his baby brother and sister Judy behind him.  His younger sister Jill in the foreground with Jocko their pet monkey on her back. 

Rodney, Sterling, and little Gwendolyn having devotions as Rev. Theodore hard reads from the Holy Bible.  Now, how could such angelic little kids like this conceivably get into so much mischief?

2013 - Sterling Hard’s comments on this story:
We were kids....she was an unmitigated brat and the "Catholic" thing was not theological harassment....it was a child-like way of taking pot-shots at somebody "riding way too high in the saddle", with a pronounced air of entitlement and unearned exceptionalism; refusing to be part of a small community of children...I feel absolutely no guilt.

2013 - Robert Wright’s comments on this story:
If I remember correctly, we wore GI caps with a firm bill.  We needed to have a miner's light, so we stuck lighted candles onto the bills of the caps and wore these into the tunnel.  I remember that following this incident, her parents came to our house and shamed me about my treatment of Avril.  I have often wondered about her and have wished that I could apologize to her.

My older brother, Sterling Hard, close to the age he would have been when this incident happened in approximately 1957.

Though I don't have any pictures of the actual school house, this block building and the surrounding terrain is very much what the school in this story looked like.  The steep almost cliff like drop-off that you see in the middle of the picture is what the hill with the corrugated drainage pipe looked like.