My elementary school had the usual schoolyard bullies who made sure everyone did as they commanded. They paraded around in various mini-gangs, each claiming their territory in the yard. While each mini gang was frightening as a group, it was amazing how un-scary many of the individual members became if they accidentally got separated from their pack.
One winter day after it had snowed all morning, I really wanted to make a snowman during lunch recess. I couldn't do it alone, not with roving snowball-smashing gangs all over the yard. So I enlisted my own Gang of Wimpy Friends to help. But unfortunately, our gang was about ten levels below the tough guy gangs.
My friends didn't want to have anything to do with my venture because they knew a freshly-formed snowman would instantly attract the attention of one of the goon squads. So they went to slide on the parking lot ice instead.
But I was determined, so I set out to find a patch of untrodden snow. Other kids were building snowmen too, but none of the poor snow creatures survived more than a few minutes before they got attacked.
I needed a plan.
I started rolling a giant fluffy ball and purposely steered it toward Bully Gang #1, which was the toughest of the tough. They had a guy named Tracy in their pack, who was almost a whole gang by himself. They saw my tempting snowball and bared their fangs. But before they could do anything, I announced that I'd made the giant snowball just for them to squash. Then I turned and walked away.
And they promptly did just that—left my snowball a flattened mess, and went in search of another victim.
I did the same thing two more times—gave them a nice snowball, let them smash it, then walked away. I was then ready for step two of my plan. This time, I walked far away from the bullies, to the other side of the Jungle Gym near the giant tires. There I proceeded to make a snowman, hoping Bully Gang #1 would be happy with the three snowballs I'd already given them, and that they'd leave me alone.
Unfortunately, before I even finished the bottom ball, Tracy wandered over. He was the only bully tough enough to leave his gang and head out on private hunts—and he was headed straight toward me.
But rather than instantly smash my snowball, he sat down on the tires and watched. Attacking the snowballs I'd already given him must have made him hungry for more. I knew he was waiting for me to finish.
But he didn't; he just sat there watching me.
Bully Gang #1 had gone to another corner of the yard to terrorize new victims. This left the Jungle Gym territory open to Bully Gang #3 (#2 was knocking down my friends on the ice). As soon as they saw my snowman, which was almost finished by then, they immediately charged.
Just before they reached me, Tracy stood up and placed himself between me and all of Bully Gang #3.
He glared at them. "Don't touch his snowman."
That's all it took. They skidded to a stop, sized Tracy up, and realized that even as a group, they were no match for him.
So they walked away, commenting on how my snowman wasn't worth smashing anyway. My new hired gun sat back down and continued guarding me until recess was over.
My plan had worked, but not like I'd expected. And of course, the next day Tracy was back with his gang, I was off with the wimpy guys, and proper order was once again restored. And neither of us ever spoke of the incident again, all the way up through high school. To do so would have broken a sacred trust.