Did ya ever think you understood something about your child's world, and then many moons later found out you totally missed the row boat by a mile and a half? It was like that about my kids while they attended kindergarten. Ms. Caperton and Ms. Ferring's room had an area called the "heart" area. I imagined it was a very happy place filled with bean bag chairs and picture books with sparkly stars and a smiley-faced moon painted on the ceiling. At least that was my thought for like 10 or 12 years. I know, there are indications of a vivid mommy imagination at work here. It wasn't until Ricky was in high school and kinder-reminiscing that I learned it was the spot kids were sent when they were naughty. Actually, it was called the "hard" area. Let's just say Ricky, and rightly so, spent his fair share of quality moments flattening out the firm carpet with his tush in that "hard" area. How did I miss that? Maybe it is selective hearing, or perhaps, this mom needs a hearing aid. Well, Ricky did it to me again this week. Since the lad has been attending Virginia Military Institute, he's talked about being on the "Gimp." At least, that is what I thought he called it. I imagined it was similar to major-league baseball's disabled list for boo-boos such as a quadricep strain or a nerve irritation to the right elbow. Sounded like no big whoop to me. You are hurt, or sick, and when you are better, then you can do push-ups and march yourself silly around the parade ground with the other boys and girls. Seems there is more to it than that, especially depending on whether a student is a Rat (what they call incoming freshman), or an upperclassman. Ricky explained the finer nuances of riding the Gimp one recent evening during an Internet instant messaging rant. "When you are a Rat and on the Gim, you have to wear a tag which says what you can and cannot do. A lot of people who can't take the ratline in the beginning end up riding the Gim through the first few weeks, or couple months, with questionable injuries, and they get a lot of heat for being wimps," Ricky typed at warp speed. "Wait a second, I thought it was the "Gimp." What's this Gim stuff? That doesn't compute," I suggested. Ricky's roommate, Dan, provided me the history lesson. He Googled historical evidence from the Lexington, Virginia, 1870 Census in the VMI archives. It seems right after the Civil War, a Dr. H. T. Barton, came to be a surgeon at VMI. According to the census, the good doctor also had a horse, and its name was Gimlet. My guess is, cadets being cadets, applied the name of the horse to the surgeon. You gotta admit, "riding the Gim" does sound better than "riding the Barton." Ricky's own experience included riding the Gim twice while a Rat. Once when he fell on some rocks and bruised his knee during training in the woods. It only lasted a few days, and yes, he got some major heat from the cadre, or upperclassman, training the Rats. "They just don't want anyone trying to wuss out of the ratline, so they make sure you have a legit injury," Ricky typed. Of course, he was currently "riding the Gim" as a sophomore, but this time enjoying the whole experience, which was a puzzlement to his mother. "Once I got mono, I was actually really happy. I made the comment to Dan that VMI is the only college in the nation where getting mono is a beautiful thing. When the nurse broke it to me that I had mono, I didn"t want to look too happy, but was just kind of like 'oh, well dang, that's too bad." I still get heck from people in my class about being on the Gim, but it's for different reasons than being in the ratline. Now they're just jealous they aren't on the Gim and wish they were the ones with mono," typed Ricky. My advice was simple to all those cadets that were jealous, let 'em take a bite off one of your used forks, Ricky, and they may just get their wish. Dixie Frantz is a Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist for the past decade. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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