Bulls and Hippos

   by Andrea Baker

When my youngest son, Luke, was a freshman in high school, he came home one day with a story a speaker had told students about bulls and hippos. The story goes that the bulls go around all noisy and snorting to show who they are and getting all the attention, and the cows just follow them around. Hippos are content to just stand around in the water and let life go by them as they occupy themselves with doing absolutely nothing. My son had decided that he was most obviously a bull and his brother, Frank, was a hippo. He definitely had that right. My two sons are alike in some ways. Both are very intelligent, sweet, respectful, and funny; they even both have blue eyes and blond hair, but that is where the similarities end. Luke loves the spotlight. He is never hesitant to speak his opinion, and he can motivate even the most unmotivated, while Frank is content to just blend in and go with the flow. I have always worried about my youngest sonís being taken advantage of because he is so small in stature. I have realized as he has grown up that his outspoken and assertive nature will be his advantage over his brother.

First of all is the difference in my sons' preference in sports. Frank loves sports. He played baseball and football. Both of these are group sports, which allowed him to be part of the crowd and not be noticed. Once when he was about 12 years old, he decided that he wanted to be a pitcher on his baseball team. He practiced at home, studied the style and form of the Braves pitching staff, and read every book he could find about pitching. He had a natural talent for pitching, but when game day came and he took the mound, he only lasted two innings before he begged the coach to take him out. He would not even consider pitching again. It was many years later that he told me that he just did not like being the one person that everyone was looking at during the game. He would rather just be in the outfield, and that is where he played for his high school baseball career.

Luke, unlike his brother, thrives on being the center of attention; he also loves sports, but his choices are very different. His love of wrestling is proof. He practices and studies all the moves of the sport and is very talented. He even enjoys sharing his knowledge with all his teammates by assisting his coaches during practices. He seems to love the fact that during a match he is the only one that his team is cheering for; the louder the cheering, the better he performs. His theory is that in wrestling and life he is the one who makes the choices on the mat that lead to a win or a loss, and he can not blame anyone else for his choices, win or lose. Luke will not stand back in wrestling or life. He will step up and meet challenges head on

Frank's ability to avoid any type of confrontation is another difference between the two. He will not argue even the simplest point. When he is faced with a difficult situation that would require him to state his opinion, he will turn and walk away. Frank is not a shy person. He is very funny and outgoing, but he is very hesitant to voice his opinion. Frank and his father are always on opposite ends of an opinion, but, instead of discussing a point to let his father know how he feels, Frank will change the subject or simply leave the room. One afternoon while they were watching a very close Georgia game, there was an obviously bad call made by the referee. Frank agreed with the referee and was in the process of explaining how the referee had arrived at his decision, when his father stated the referee did not have any idea what he was doing. Frank stopped in mid-sentence and did not say a word for another thirty minutes. He just focused on the game, as if he was trying to avoid any conversation that might lead back to the call. His father brought up the terrible call again during the half-time show, and Frank acted as if he did not remember the call at all, got up, and left the room.

Luke, on the other hand, will spend many hours making his opinions known. Discussions with him are like being in the courtroom with a trial lawyer. I sat amazed once when Luke proceeded to let his father know just exactly how wrong he was. We were on our way to a movie one afternoon when we went through a yellow light without even slowing down. Luke told his father that he should have stopped. Then the battle began. Luke told him that yellow does not mean speed up before it turns red. It means slow down. He told his father that traffic laws were made for everyone, and he was not exempt. He went on to explain that he did not want an accident to happen because of his fatherís driving. He told his father he knew he was making him angry, but he was just concerned and wanted him to realize that. Luke has strong beliefs and will always state his opinion without regard to the resistance he will receive.

The biggest difference my sons have is their temperament; Frank is very quiet and reserved. He can be swayed by his friends very easily. He was a freshman in high school when I first noticed this quality about him. Frank's friends could suggest the most outrageous pranks, and he would go along with them. Nathan was one of his friends that kept him in trouble in school. They were horse playing one afternoon and fell into a window at school. Of course, the window broke, and they were sent to the office. The punishment was to be three weeks of after-school grass mowing duty to pay for replacing the window. Nathan's idea of mowing grass consisted of driving the mower around in circles to see who got dizzy and fell off first. Since Frank is a follower, he did the same. During their mowing session, they managed to drive over several newly planted trees and actually ran one mower into a small pond. Nathan decided that one of the mowers would run better if it were filled with Dr. Pepper instead of gasoline, only to find out that for some reason that will not work. By the end of the three weeks, it was a wonder that there was a mower left running. Frank did not learn any lesson from the punishment because by following Nathan, they just had a three-week party; he did not see any problem with that.

Luke is very opinionated and outspoken, however; his friends know exactly where he stands on any issue. He will not be swayed in his beliefs as easily as others. Luke believes that he must work hard to achieve what he wants. When he was a freshman, he decided he wanted to have wrestling practice on Sunday afternoons. He went to see his coach and argued his case. He told Coach Edwards that if he would let him practice on Sunday afternoon he would make sure that the majority of the team would come with him. I believe his coach was skeptical at first, but he could see how determined Luke was to make this extra practice happen, so he allowed Luke to call his own practice on Sunday. The first week he only had three others there with him. Every day he would ask the rest of his team members to come to practice on Sunday. He went every Sunday faithfully, and each time a few more would come with him. After they had been having Sunday practice for about four weeks, he had convinced ten out of the fifteen wrestlers on the team that they needed this extra practice too. Luke saw what he wanted to do and set out to accomplish a goal, which resulted in two trips to the Georgia State High School wrestling tournament.

I know that both my sons have very good qualities and they will both have successful lives, but the difference in how they deal with everyday life is very evident. Luke, however, I feel will be the more successful of the two. He is never afraid of the spotlight; he thrives on it. His opinions are always clear, and persuasive; he has a way of presenting his ideas that will make even the strongest opponent think twice. He is so motivated, almost to the point of obsession, in everything he decides to undertake that he will not allow for failure. Luke is definitely my bull in a china shop.

"Bulls and Hippos" is an essay written by Andrea Baker in Dr. Barbara Murrayís ENGL 1101 class in fall 2004 semester. At the time of this writing, Ms. Baker was a freshman.

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