Friday, February 6, 2009

The Farmhouse, Part 3

My pledge brothers and I grew close in our semester-long ordeal. Ted, who lived down the hall from me during our freshman year, had come to W&J with the intention of going on to medical school. At first, he was a serious student who spent most of his time at the library or in his room. He wore neat slacks and V-neck cashmere sweaters and listened to Johnny Mathias records. By the end of the year, however, he had changed. I think marijuana had a lot to do with that. And by the fall of 1968, his hair was long and stringy, his eyes bleary, and he was always saying, “Far out, man.”

Chas was gregarious and never in a bad mood. His laugh was infectious. A combination of natural athletic talent and the privileges of being raised in a well-to-do New England family and attending the best schools made him an excellent skier, swimmer and sailor, none of which he took seriously. Like me, he did not take his studies seriously enough. He disdained pretentiousness and embraced the proletariat. When a front tooth went bad, he replaced it with a silver one because it was cheaper than gold or a false white one and just as functional. Rather than buy a new belt when his only one broke, he held up us pants with a length or rope or an old extension cord.

From what we had heard, the worst things about hell week were the deprivations of sleep and food. We couldn’t prepare much for lack of sleep, but food was another story. One night during finals, when all members of the fraternity were holding their monthly meeting, we were excused to go to the library but instead drove to the farmhouse. The doors were locked, but standing on Chas' shoulders, Ted was able to open and climb into a window. We raced through the house, hiding candy bars, bags of nuts and pepperoni sticks in the corners of closets, under sinks, in the floor joists in the basement ceiling, in flower pots and taped behind the headboards of beds.
We felt good. We knew that we might be tortured, but we would not starve.

How were we to know that every pledge class before us had tried the same trick?

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