Friday, February 27, 2009

The Farmhouse, Part 13

So many of the young men who sought refuge and recreation at the farmhouse in those few years are not around to remember it. Several members of the Skull House died young. One collapsed and died while jogging; one took his own life; one was killed in a bar fight, and all within a few years of graduation.

Two fraternity brothers are missing. Maher returned to the Middle East just before the Yom Kippur war and was never heard from again. Abbas Bayat was believed to have been back in Iran at the time of the revolution in 1979.

Warren Dodge, Abbas’ happy-go-lucky roommate, went on to become a flight attendant, the perfect occupation for his buoyant personality. Warren was aboard TWA Flight 800 when it took off from New York bound for Paris on July 17, 1996. He was one of the 230 souls to perish when the plane exploded and fell into the Atlantic off Long Island.

Izzy, Maher’s heavy-smoking and unlikely roommate, died of natural causes not too long ago. At about the same time, Big Bob killed himself.

Richard, who had tempted Death by screaming at the sky from the top of the silo in the middle of a thunderstorm, became a stone mason and fathered three daughters. A fall from scaffolding seriously injured him and left him in constant pain. He ended his own life more than 20 years ago.

Most surprisingly, Ted survives. He started on heroin while still in college and battled the addiction for many years.

After our wild college days, many of us settled down to be productive citizens and fathers. Chas finally replaced that silver tooth with a white one, married, and formed his own manufacturing company. He has sailed his boat several times from New York to Bermuda, but sticks close to home these days so that he and his wife can care for their daughter, who was paralyzed in a swimming accident while away at college.

About five years ago, when Chas returned to this area for a funeral, he drove out toward Marianna to see the old farmhouse. He told me he wasn’t sure that he saw it, though, and that he couldn’t find the driveway up which we had hauled so many armloads of wood during hell week so long ago.

I took a drive there a few weeks ago and had no better luck. If there is still a barn, silo, and house on the hill, it is too obscured by vegetation to see it now. Perhaps the whole place burned down many years ago. Regardless, it is as inaccessible to us today as are Maher and Richard and Warren and Abbas.
Houses, no matter how old they may be, are temporary. Just like the lives inside them.



Anonymous said...

Park, what an excellent story. I really enjoyed reading every segment. What a sad ending for so many of your friends - I'm glad you've escaped so much heartache and have survived to tell this tale.

Ellipses said...

That was fantastic... thanks

Anonymous said...

Park, this was really great stuff. Thanks for writing and sharing it.

PS: the "word verification" graphic required for me to leave this comment is "tragic." Weird.

Park Burroughs said...

Thanks for the response. My wife, Alice, , said I should have been clearer that the type of physical hazing described in the story is no longer common. It began falling out of fashion while I was a student, and in fact, our fraternity banned the physical stuff while I was still there, and vice president.
Several deaths of fraternity pledges in the 1960s and 1970s called attention to the abominable practice, and although it's likely that some of that stuff still goes on, hazing nowadays is mostly of the humorous humiliation variety.
My days in a fraternity soured my on the whole system. I think colleges would be better off without them. There will always be exclusionary cliques, but colleges and universities probably shouldn't be sanctioning them.

Anonymous said...

I thought hazing went out of fashion at Darrow. I guess maybe not for everyone. I know I'd never put up with it or join anything that promoted it.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your blog last month and enjoyed reading about the farmhouse. I was part of the pledge crew that prepped it for moving out. My most vivid memory was a late night visit from some unsatisfied customers.