Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Ode to Robert W. Cole

According to the memoirs (see And God Said ‘Let There Be Friends’… and It Was Weird [April, 2012]) Adling commented to me way after the fact upon the choice of Robert Cole as the fourth member of the M-4: “… you chose Cole, whom I did not even know — but he turned out to be an excellent choice. We four had rather extensive planning sessions and kept the project an absolute secret among the four of us.”

If any of the four names is forgotten temporarily, it is probably Cole’s, usually upon the pretense that he was the one member of the quartet with the least “Cisco history,” having moved to Cisco our HS sophomore year (1961-1962) from Texas City. Some people find that surprising.

I do not find that surprising at all.

And not because he is forgettable; he is as unforgettable as any of us. It is because of the reasons he was in my mind a “no-brainer” choice for the fourth. Recall what I think are about the only two accurate descriptions of the M-4? (see The M-4… And the “M” Stands for… [May, 2012]) There were a lot of things we were not, but two things we definitely were and are: 1) sneaky, and 2) non-exemplary. Cole may very well be the most covert and least likely to be copied of us all! (Good rule of thumb for all you young minds out there — don’t copy any of us!)

Cole befriended Joe Woodard (If we had needed a fifth, Joe would have been my choice.) early on, and one of the first things I concluded about Cole was that he was like a super hero with a secret identity; he led two lives; by day he was a quite, calm, unpretentious student who was also a band member; by night, usually with Joe Woodard, he was a stealthy “birddogger” of parked couples and depositor of empty Dad’s root beer bottles on the porches of unsuspecting “victims.” By day he was the good-looking new comer the girls swooned over, and, he always seemed to try to cater to his mother’s wishes; by night he was the shadowy, “natural” prankster, with the movements and demeanor of an assassin.

How was I one of the few (outside Joe Woodard, Chuck Cleveland, and Marlin Marcum) to know this “double life” of Cole? I was in Mrs. Pirtle’s biology class our sophomore year in a section not with Lee, Berry, or Adling — I took Agriculture for two years in high school instead of Spanish. Around a four-person lab table making up the class seats were mild-mannered fellow Ag student Truman Bacon, sitting beside me, and, across the table, anything-but-mild-mannered Jeanette Shirley sitting beside a Truman-Bacon-like someone who soon would be called just “Cole.”

There is one of those “what-if” or “might-have-been” moments again! (see odes to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012] and Bob B. Berry [May, 2012]) What if Mrs. Pirtle had not seated us as she did? Then the rest of this ode would not be NEAR as interesting!

Cole and I discovered that the entire lab table top (made of thick, black, composite material like all public school science lab and counter tops — perhaps hexagonal in shape?) could be moved off its wooden cabinet pedestal. It was not bolted down or glued, maybe because someone before us had unbolted or unglued it. Sitting across from each other, we developed an eye signal to each other that meant we place all four of our forearms beneath the table top, lift it slightly to tilt or wobble it around — all to piss off Jeanette! Jeanette-made-angry was very entertaining! And the cool part about it, she would not squeal on us (maybe she thought new-kid-in-school Cole was cute, or something) — at least not to the point we got into real trouble. I remember being called down in class for disturbance when we moved the table top (Our favorite time to do “our thing” was when Jeanette was about to write or draw something; we could turn her penmanship into an illegible scrawl.), but I don’t remember getting kicked out or sent to the office. Truman stoically tolerated it all; I think he was entertained too.

In between sessions of making Jeanette mad at us, Cole and I began to talk, and, I guess, because he saw me as the “natural prankster” he was, Cole began to reveal things he thought about to me both in the class and in private conversations outside the class, and, as a result, I discovered his “other life.” As part of the “honor code” of pranksters, we did not talk of each other’s secrets to others, even to our best friends. Thus, Adling did not know Cole very well by our Senior year, Berry knew him through double-dating (Berry was our #1 ladies man in the M-4; Cole was a definite #2.), and I knew him, compared to the others in the M-4 by that time, very well.

Only in retrospect have I discovered that in many ways Cole reminded me of Adling; he was a dynamic spirit trapped in the teenaged angst of suppressed self-expression (see Ode the William L. (Bill) Adling). Their main difference was that Adling was overt in his struggle for self-expression, and Cole was very covert about it. Adling seemed always at cross purposes with the teachers and the administrators; Cole seemed never to be, but I knew, inside him he was just like Adling. I think about this, even today, when those two get together, and I am lucky enough to be there when they do — watching two rebellious kindred spirits like that interact is a joy to behold! With those two is the way I have experienced M-4 reunions in recent years (For example, our 3-way reunion at Durty Nellie’s in San Antonio mentioned in The M-4… And the “M” Stands for…) (Remember, Berry is usually working in Whereveristan overseas — see Ode to Bob B. Berry), and one of the few things I can tell you about the get-togethers of Adling, Cole, and Hastings is that the joy of which I speak is always there with our trio. Imagine what it will be like when we can get to be a quartet again!

Cole seemed to me to be a band member who wanted to be something else; he seemed to be motivated in his “day-life” by others’ wishes; like a vampire or werewolf, he seemed only self-motivated at night. I’m not sure which way it was — either I introduced Dad’s to Cole, Joe Woodard, Chuck Cleveland, and Marlin Marcum, or they introduced it to me; I am sure all of us kept the Dad’s shelves at the A&P grocery where my dad worked empty. I’m pretty sure I was the one who introduced it to Adling, Berry, and Lee. Again, in retrospect, Cole should have taken Ag as I did, for the two of us have come to be landowners of farmland and ranches the same way — we today own the land of our fathers (and in my case, of my grandfathers) — the same land we camped out upon as high schoolers and college students.

Cole was and is quiet and tough, like a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood character. One day back in high school I went to his house (probably to see if we could play a war game that afternoon or night), and he turned away from his car he was working on to face me with a huge knot on his forehead right above his nose. (No, no! I know what you are thinking; I hit him in the head with a rock, like I did John Shelton and Berry — see Ode to Bob B. Berry! By the size of this knot, I couldn’t throw a rock that hard; a rock making that knot I know would have killed him, and this was way after the eighth grade, when I swore off rock throwing, thanks to Berry.)

“What happened to you, man?” I asked.

“Aw, a calf kicked me, one I was working on my dad’s place.”

“A calf? How big was it?’

“Oh, probably about 400 lbs.”

“400 lbs?!? Does it hurt?” The swelling looked like it could affect his opening his eyes.

“Nah… not much…”

I was impressed.

He “saved my ass” big time when we were juniors. I had taken my Adolf Hitler impersonation routine too far for typing teacher Mrs. Page’s (Shirley’s mom) patience (And she was and is a very tolerate person and teacher!). She planned to follow-up sending me to the office with a visit with my mom, who worked downtown at the First National Bank. Cole, who was taking shorthand with her (He had already had typing at Texas City.), talked her out of visiting my mom, convincing her there was nothing to be concerned about when it came to my antics as a “class clown.”

He saved, in my way of thinking, much of the west end of the town of Cisco, when he knew what to do when a customer at the gas station where he was working ran over a gas pump and it caught fire! The customer was panicking as Cole went over and unplugged the power to the pump (These were the days when there were not mandatory emergency shut-off switches seen nowadays at all stations.). Then he called the fire department and reached for the fire extinguisher. I recently found out he had not been briefed by the boss on what to do about such a calamity; he figured it out “during the moment.”

Mike Burzenski, a guy with whom Adling got along like the Jews and Arabs, was probably the most fanatical war gamer in our high school days, along with me. But Cole was right there also, on into the college years. (His picture in my memoirs dressed like an SS officer is downright sinister! See Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [April, 2012]) One of my favorite war game memories was he and I playing in the little basement of the Coles’ house for hours and hours, occasionally interrupted by Cole’s mom spraying our game site with the water hose through the vent window at ground level as she watered her flower beds. I sometimes wonder if she didn’t do that on purpose, as she probably blamed the two of us for getting her younger son, Cole’s brother Charlie, also interested in war games, to become, in the process, a fanatic war gamer also. For the record, Cole was true to his “sneakiness” in the war games, being the best trap setter I ever saw; if you fell into his traps, most likely you were in for a defeat.

As Student Council President needing lots of help, few members on the Council were as reliable to help as Cole. If I needed help on some project or some dance preparation or whatever, he would make the time to “be there.” I expected him to use me the same way. He marshalled people, materials, and schedules for me in both my campaigns in the Student Council; for Vice-President our junior year as sophomores, and for President our senior year as juniors. Through him I befriended many who became my supporters. Cole was my “stage manager” and “special effects” person for the play “Analysis in Black” I wrote as a substitute for the Senior play we were not allowed to have our senior year; at least they let the Drama class, which Adling and Berry had quit, do something!

When we were guarding the bonfire all night our senior year in HS (see Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee and Ode to Bob B. Berry), Cole was the perfect sentry; he was working at night! True to our rural roots, he and I were among those who had guns on site, for “insurance” against college raiders; we did not have to use them, thankfully. He was a major reason the pyromaniacs from CJC (Cisco College) did not get to set the wood on fire prematurely. When I barely avoided being burned alive (see Ode to Bob B. Berry), I was picked up out of the naptha-soaked wood by Berry on one side, and Cole on the other. His loyalty to the Council and to the Senior class was unexcelled.

Yet, interestingly enough, Cole never joined our high school study sessions in the evenings; his academic development grew independent of the “homework machine” that was Lee, Clark Odom, Adling, Berry, and Hastings. (Ode to Bob B. Berry) He was a “natural fit,” in my prejudiced mind, for Texas A&M, eventually planning on majoring in mechanical engineering. I like to think I was instrumental in getting him to transfer from CJC (now Cisco College) before he got his Associates’s degree, for, given his major, he, after three semesters, was a semester behind in the math requirements for engineering at A&M. We went on to room together as juniors at Aggieland (what a blast!) during which time he tried to get me to switch from physics to engineering. During his first semester there (2nd semester, Soph. year), I saw him dripping wet in his bathing suit amidst a multi-dorm “Old Army” water fight with the near-by Corps dorms, featuring hurled giant plastic garbage cans (“shit cans” we called them) full of water. I asked him if he was glad he came to A&M; he gave me that patented grin of his, this time dripping wet, and said, “Hell, yeah!” and went to get his shit can refilled for the next round.

Alongside his wife Lois and his daughter Laura, Cole sat at our dining table in Cisco not long ago and patiently endured the good-natured “ribbing” these two important women in his life were giving him about how quiet he always was and how words had to be “pulled out” of his mouth. The conversation agenda had also included the formation of the M-4, discussing the question of “Why Robert?” It was a perfect set-up for me to look at him and say for the rest of the audience at the table, “Man, Adling, Berry, and I did not want you in the M-4 to keep your mouth shut, although your strong back was certainly crucial; we needed you to help plan; we were successful in part because of what you did and what you said.” Lois and Laura seemed astonished. It occurred to me that the covert behavior of Cole’s “other life” was the model through which Adling said we “…kept the project an absolute secret among the four of us.” We did not share M-4 stuff with our loved ones. For the M-4, such “comes with the territory.”

As he was to be at the service station fire later, Cole was probably the coolest customer of the M-4 during whatever we were doing. At the beginning of the chair/desk escapade evening of February 11, 1964, our timing was off and he could not make a scheduled connection with the rest of us; he coolly decided to “lay low” by going home and waiting to hear what had happened to the timing — a decision that ultimately kept us “on track,” as a less steady person probably would have mouthed off something to blow our cover. He drove the “let off” and “pick up” car (his Chevy — He was a Chevy guy and Joe Woodard was a Ford guy, over which they “feuded” in the daytime as part of their “cover-up” for their night-time “secret identities.”) that night during the chair escapade; he was the one that calmed Adling down the only time Adling ever “lost it” (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling and Ode to Bob B. Berry); it was Cole who shimmied up the flag pole at the “high school” where we had done the “chair thing” earlier to rip down the flag the sophomores had planted one school night; Cole and I (along with Mark Kurklin and Macon Strother) avoided being seen that night by the principal, Mr. Midkiff, who had driven up upon the flag removal — Adling (along with Joe Woodard, Billy Wilson, and David Waters) did not escape, unfortunately. (Luckily, no one caught that night got in real trouble.) Atop the dam the night before we graduated, Cole and Joe Woodard were the only ones sober enough to man the ropes for the three painters Berry, Adling, and Hastings (see Ode to Bob B. Berry); in Phase I of the “flag escapade” after we had graduated, he saw to it that we got into the vacated high school building through the basement, while Mike Burzenski and I were still trying to figure out how we could possibly continue; in Phase II of the “flag escapade” it was upon Cole’s shoulders that Adling stood, to reach the top of the flagpole, which was, in turn, atop the Cisco City Hall (I was the “let-off”-“pick-up” driver that night.); in other “sub-phases” of raising flags, Cole was there with me at the flag pole in all the “raising ceremonies;” all flags, in all phases, were kept, after being painted, secretly in the trunk of Cole’s car.

During college as roommates Cole and I climbed over the Brazos River below College Station on the framework of a burned-out bridge (dangerous, on-the-sly, non-exemplary) and after we had graduated from college, he and I climbed to the highest point in Texas (waterless Guadalupe Peak, east of El Paso) (We had to carry our water on our backs.) when its setting was a non-park — after being a State park and before becoming the National Park it is today (dangerous, unceremonious, non-exemplary). We like giving credit for these feats to the legacy of the M-4.

I recently finished building a wrap-around porch at the remodeled house in Cisco where I grew up on West 6th Street. Four porch columns holding up the roof stand out from the structure and on each of them I put a name of a M-4 member on a plaque. Facing the street, the names are in the order we “joined.” Left to right, Bill Adling, Ronnie Hastings, and Bob Berry. The fourth, on the far right, is Robert Cole.

Like Lee, Adling, and Berry, Cole is the best friend one could ever have.

To ask what is my favorite M-4 story is like asking what is my favorite Beatles song or favorite Stones song. I always have to tell more than one story, just to be fair. But, if there is one that always has to be included, like the last song of an encore set at a rock concert, it probably has to be this one, which is appropriate to this particular ode:

Adling, Berry, and I had just finished, after several hours, it seemed, painting the huge “SENIORS 1964″ on the Lake Cisco dam spillway, each suspended by long ropes manned by a rope crew managed by Cole and Joe Woodard. (For solidarity we stayed at the bottom of the spillway looking up at the painter when we were not painting.) It was the night before high school graduation for all of us. The three of us had broken our oaths to not do what we had just done! (i.e. — Leave the Lees’ house down the road toward town and our job guarding wedding presents for Lee’s sister Camille and come get involved in the dam painting, possibly risking our graduations, given the “thin ice” the M-4 had been “skating on” since February.) (see Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee and Ode to Bob B. Berry) But we were too tired and too tense to think about that at this moment, for word from above had come that car lights had appeared at the south end of the dam top, over which ran an old route of the highway between Cisco and Albany. We had to assume it was the cops, as we had gone most of the night without their appearance — an anomaly, to say the least, given our “intelligence information.”

The trio of painters waded through the swimming pool water at the base of the dam to the north side of the huge concrete pool, soaking our jeans to the max, and then we grabbed our waiting pocket valuables and slipped our waiting shoes onto our wet feet as quickly as possible. We moved up toward the huge scree of rocks and boulders on the north end of the hollow concrete dam, not knowing what all the sounds from above meant. For all we knew, the whole crew had been arrested, but, from the sounds of cars starting up and doors slamming, that might not be the case at all; quick glances over our shoulders as we began to scramble up on all fours on the scree did not reveal any flashing police lights. As we topped the scree and scooted on our slippery shoe bottoms down to the edge of the highway, we saw nothing at all but darkness. It looked as if we were stranded, far away from our cars.

Then we heard a car engine idling, then the car lights of Cole’s blue and white Chevy came on; the next moment Cole roared up even with us with both right doors open, headed north, away from the dam! He had been waiting for us! About the only thing I remember the three of us exclaiming, as we literally dove through the open doors, were things like “All Right!” “It’s Cole!” “Teddy Boy!” (That last one is a period saying, referring to the leather-jacketed group of English “hoodlums,” also called “Rockers,” counterparts to the other flare-legged pant wearing group, “The Mods,” both to whom we were being introduced by the English “British invasion” rock group, The Who.)

It was one of those many moments we will never forget. The M-4 rides again! Once more, Cole came through! (I want to think he even had gathered the dam painting equipment — ropes, etc. — and had it ready to return to Berry, who had been the equipment’s source [see Ode to Bob B. Berry]!)

We three began giving Cole suggestions as to how to get us circled back around to our cars as we sped up the highway now north of the dam. But, we forgot to whom we were speaking. Without listening to anything we said, he slowed down and took a U-turn turn-around used by dam visitors, and then proceeded to drive south back along the entire length of the dam!

“Cole what are you doing!” “What if the cops come?”

Cole did not say a word. He turned momentarily and gave us his patented smile, this time with his famous hissing laugh. We could barely make it out in the darkness of the wee hours of the morning. All we could do is laugh and shake our heads in amazement.

Guess who was the “hero” of the evening back at the Lees’ house, which was all safe and sound, where all four of us soon rendezvoused, three of us to dry our pants, all of us to celebrate the successful painting of the dam? (Hint: the porch column on the far right as you face 6th Street…)


Ode to Bob B. Berry

On the 900 block of West 6th St in Cisco, Texas, circa 1950-1951, the street was a crossfire, as noted by a comment in the local paper, The Cisco Press. The paper warned that two pre-schooler boys were firing across the street at each other with their toy rifles and pistols. You see, when we were four or five, Bob Berry and I lived across the street from each other. Our mothers cooperated with our getting to cross the street in one of the directions and play with each other quite often, as if they wanted us to grow up and become good friends.

We did not exactly do that; we did much better than that — we became great friends, the best of friends.

Outside my cousin Dwayne Scarlett, Berry is the closest thing I’ve had to a brother; he was and is an only child also, and we were born within two months of each other. On the first day of school, I walked into Mrs. Clements first grade room at West Ward (Almost no one went to kindergarten.) in much apprehension, clinging to my mother’s hand. Then I saw Berry in the room. I let go of my mother’s hand, looked up at her, and said, “It’s OK, Mommy, you can go now!”

I grew up thinking they put all the flags out on June 14th because it was Berry’s birthday! They never put out flags on my birthday! By the time I figured that one out, Berry and I seemed destined to drift apart, as we did not share a classroom until the fifth grade and because he had long before moved from the house on 6th street. He was part of two groups, the group of guys who were Cub Scouts (Lee, Clark Odom, Robert Mitchell, Ronnie Rider, David Taylor, etc.), and the crowd of “Humbletown” kids, children of the oil patch who lived on the East Ward side of town but who attended West Ward. Though Berry did not live on the east side in Humbletown, he was part of what he always called “oil trash,” families associated with the oil industry. I, on the other hand, was in no particular crowd, except for that pesky little group of rock throwers, which included Lee, John Shelton, Buddy Nelms, and me. Come to think of it, I also was in the Confederate Club — the “general” of the damn thing, in fact! Consequently, I guess, Berry was not an early canyon visitor, a Confederate Club member, nor was he like the readers Lee and I became (see Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee).

But, for whatever reason, Berry was a member of those of us in Mrs. Bisbee’s fifth grade class who got to entertain the class with whatever we wanted to do every Friday morning. I remember him helping me be future “USO” entertainers by marching around the classroom desks and singing the US Marine Hymn; then, on Halloween, Berry and I stood up in front of the class and sang the cult classic, “You Better Not Laugh When the Hearse Goes By.” Berry is listed as an official attendee at my birthday party during the fifth grade year, but, mysteriously, he is a no-show in the party picture in my memoirs (a portend of things to come!). He and I were on the Braves Little League team together, bench-warming together as “minor” team members. The two with whom I remember walking to Little League practice after school from West Ward to the practice field, across the Katy RR tracks and through the mesquite brush and trees, were Billy Pence (a LL Cardinal) and Berry.

Fate seemed to keep us somewhat apart during the 6th and 7th grades, but by the time the 8th grade rolled around with Mrs. Schaefer’s upper academic classroom and the Mean Corner (see odes to Dr. Bill R. Lee and William L. (Bill) Adling), Berry was part of all the rest of us, even though he was not physically in the Mean Corner. He was a contributor to the jokes, gags, and laughter our imaginations seemed to spawn (the imaginations of Lee, Adling, and Hastings, that is, as Clark Odom seemed to just tolerate us, in a good-natured way). But, again, when we wanted to take a picture after 8th grade graduation of the Mean Corner + 1, Berry could not be found (another sinister clue!).

During the 8th grade, I turned one of my many personal corners, thanks to Berry. During recess Lee and I got our buddies in a rock fight on the play ground, for good old Confederate Club memories’ sake — John Shelton had moved from Cisco by this time. I sorta side-armed a David-like stone Berry’s way and it struck him on his forehead before he could duck out of the way; he went down, just like John Shelton did back in West Ward days; and, like John, I thought I had killed him! He had my fate in his hands as we went back inside, he now sporting a big knot on one side of his forehead. He spent the rest of the day hiding the knot as best he could by doing his work with head-propped-in-hand, and, when he had to speak of the injury, he made vague references to an innocent accident. Berry covered my ass; he made sure I did not get into trouble! Two things happened for me then — I “grew up” and vowed never to rock fight anymore, and, more importantly, I realized I had no better friend than Berry, even though he wasn’t in the Mean Corner.

Berry was “major” in getting me started for high school. He stopped by my house early in the summer before high school and talked me into joining him and the rest of “our group” in taking driver’s education, the “thing” to do socially and developmentally at the time. He also said he thought that I could still be with all the fellows who were athletes (I was not going to play sports, nor was I going to be in the band.) by becoming a football manager/trainer. I wound up taking his advice on both counts, and, again, as they say, the rest is history! It reminded me of that important visit Adling had at my house the summer before the 7th grade (see Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling). What if Berry had not come by that day, or, on that day, I had not been at home?

Both Berry and I went on to become class leaders in high school (and, of course, we were not the only ones) and, at first glance, one might guess that the strengthening of our friendship over the high school years was the result of all our cooperative “leading,” in most aspects of the Student Council and class offices. But that guess would be wrong.

Berry’s football career was short-lived. I witnessed the events that terminated it — concussive blows; I was the manager that “brought him around” either on the field or on the side line with Am-caps, small glass vials of strong ammonia wrapped in a tight mesh, which were crushed between the finger and thumb to be administered near the nose of the “victim” — it was so bad with Berry I remember placing the mesh of crushed ammonia vial up one of his nostrils! He began having migraine headaches. (Not germane to the termination of his football career, I think, was the time he received a big gash between his middle and ring finger on one hand, to which I applied a “Nitrotan compress,” without stitches. Nitrotan burned like hell and stained like it too, much like Mercurochrome or Methiolate, only with a dirty brownish-green color. Berry’s mother thought his hand was ruined when he allowed her to inspect the wound at home. Berry was insistent they follow the instructions of “Dr.” Hastings! With or without the help of a “real MD,” Dr. Addy, Berry’s hand did heal, though it took a while, and took an even longer time for that hideous stain to disappear.)

Not wanting to be away from his friends outside classes because he did not play anymore, Berry asked to become and was allowed to be a manager, as was I, to my delight. Though I eventually had tenure over all other managers, and I was going to be the “head” manager for over two years, I never pulled rank on Berry. From the outset, we were a team, an equal partnership, a precursor to how the “leadership thing” was to work for the M-4, and, I like to think, a model for the cooperative work the M-4 did. This relationship as managers working together was the “glue” that strengthened the bond between Berry and me, stretching back to the days we played together as neighbors on West 6th Street.

Berry was the “field guy,” tending to all matters of the practice; I was the “field house” guy, tending to all matters domestic, from cleaning up the place, tending to medical cases Berry referred to me from the field, and washing, always washing the towels, T-shirts, socks, practice pants, and jock straps. (As Coach James Couch referred to me one time, I was “Cisco’s answer to the Washer Woman.”) I preferred the field house, as during practice as I was waiting for the next washer load to dry, I would work on my homework, so, mainly at my house after practice and supper, when around my parents’ dining room table gathered usually Lee, Adling, Berry, Clark Odom, and Hastings, I had my homework done as a “help” for the rest, and, in return, they helped finish the homework I had not completed.

Berry and I were joined by other managers, including Clark Odom, but nobody, and I mean nobody, interfered with the two of us “running the show.” The two of us removed the practice blocking dummies (the blow-up kind, not the players) from the field after each practice, we packed all essential and non-essential gear for road games, we would sacrifice our Saturday mornings to come up to the field house to wash everything but the game jerseys and pants (which were sent to Cisco Steam Laundry, owned by Lee’s dad), we prepared the press-box/sideline phone communications before each home and away game, we would measure off and cut the hash marks on the football field at the beginning of each season, and we took turns unstopping clogged toilets and refilling athlete’s foot spray dispensers in the showers. We had two “unofficial specialties” 1) putting each other in a coffin-like track uniform trunk (One afternoon I had nothing better to do while Berry was down on the field and he locked me in for “meditation” before leaving for the field; practice ended early, and before Berry could get back to the field house to rescue me, I was “treated” to sweaty football pants sitting on the trunk, with my nose pressed against the wooden lid of the trunk just below; before they let Berry unlock me from my “coffin,” several of the players, led by Earl Carson, as I recall, poured water through the cracks of the lid in a wierd form of “water-boarding;” I almost drowned, as I could barely turn my head from side to side.) and 2) climbing up to the top of the stadium lights in the wee hours of Saturday morning, as we eschewed sleep on certain game nights so we could get the washing done, in order that we did not have to come back Saturday morning, meaning we had to wait for the dryer to finish its work; we sat there, probably drinking a Coke, popping dextrose pills normally given to the players, swaying in the breeze, looking out over the city cemetery in the dead of night, listening and watching the night trains go by on the other side of the graveyard. It was a true “graveyard” shift, as we sat and talked, and laughed, and joked!

I have mentioned that Lee was the Walrus in the Coronation our junior year (see Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee). Adling was either Tweedledum or Tweedledee (My money’s on the former!), and Berry was the Mad Hatter, counterpart to my March Hare. Berry’s essay was about the fascination of the stuff a boy collects while growing up. He was a great camper. In addition to the night he, Adling, and I went on a “walk-about,” leaving a sleeping Lee in camp (something about Lee having to work the next morning) (see Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling), Berry and I would walk down the hill where we were camping, carrying our jugs of Dad’s root beer, and sit on the entrance gate top and talk, laugh, and joke, just like we were atop the stadium lights. Our camping together continued well into the college years.

Adling had his interesting cars, as did Lee and I, but Berry was the driver with the reputation. He had more than one car, I remember, including the family’s golden brown Oldsmobile, but the one I remember was the blue and white ’55 Ford. Some would say he drove carelessly, some would say he drove like a maniac, and I would say riding with him was never leisurely. I remember one day at lunch (we got an hour off for lunch at school) piling into Berry’s ’55 blue and white with some others and his taking us to Thrill Hill, southwest of Cisco, a dirt road plunge off a hill crest notorious for automobile crashes and rider injuries. He flew off the thing at a maximum speed he appeared to have figured out long before that would not ruin the car and we spun on the gravel of the road at the bottom into the bordering pasture fence strung with hog wire, entangling the back bumper. We had just enough time to untangle the wire from the car and speed back to the campus for our 1:00 PM class. No sweat… for Berry.

Berry was the “ladies man” of the “group” or “gang,” as we began to call ourselves. Maybe it was the gang never talked about girls when I was around, but I never remember talking about girls among ourselves when we talked, laughed, and joked, even when we all began dating; our “dating” or “love” lives were considered our own personal “thing,” and always respected as such. We never seemed to think of each other in terms of the girls with whom we dated. Never did any of us try to “go” after another’s girl, nor did we allow any girl to “play” with the gang one against the other. In my opinion, we were transcendent of petty jealously concerning the opposite sex. Nonetheless, if any us needed a date, or needed dating advice, Berry was our man to set us up or tell us what we needed to know. Many of us double-dated with Berry and whoever he was going with at the time. Needless to say, Berry was NOT over in the corner playing ping-pong with Adling and me at the school dances! (see Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling) And I must admit, along with Adling and Cole, that we would love to know what happened that night when Berry and his date were out all night and there were lots of people out looking for them (especially the parents), until the “parking” couple was found sleeping on a dirt road near Lake Cisco; to this day, Berry claims it was “one of the best night’s sleep he ever got,” and that’s all we can get out of him; we need to talk to his date from that night! She lives in Cisco.

One New Year’s when we were still underclassmen, Adling’s dad, Harold Adling, took Berry, Adling, and me to see a Cotton Bowl in Dallas. While we were watching the parade in downtown Dallas, once more, Berry turned up missing. It was a while before Adling and I spotted him, leaning on a lightpole, checking out things, as if he owned the place. From that day on, we nicknamed him Al — Al Caberry.

Berry and I took the leadership responsibility of organizing the guarding of the bonfire for homecoming our senior year in HS following the stacking; it needed to be guarded, for it was traditional for the local Cisco College (then it was called Cisco Junior College) students to prematurely burn it. Berry, Lee, Cole, Joe Woodard, and I were among those staying up all night (We did not do shifts as most guards did), studying for a test along the way (Adling could not be there, as he was on the football team.). We were at the vanguard of warding off attacks trying to throw naptha on the bonfire and flick lighted matches on the wetted wood. When a dawn raid finally penetrated the perimeter understaffed due to overconfidence provided by the coming of the day’s light, the only five standing between the college vandals and our precious pile of wood were Berry, Cole, Ronnie Rider, Buford Green, and I. When I got soaked with naptha and somehow avoided being set on fire by lighted matches, Berry, Cole, and Buford were there to give me assistance. The five of us put out any successfullly set fires on the perimeter of the pile before they could do any damage; the arrival of a fire truck was in the end unnecessary. Berry, Cole, and I, despite the arrival of many reinforcements of the guard, were the only ones to go to school without first going home, so paranoid were we that the fire still might occur prematurely.

Already enough has been said, I bet, about Berry that it is obvious he was the first person Adling and I thought of to be let in on the plan for the chair/desks-on-the-roof. But to fully understand all the issues concerning Berry and the M-4, it must also be pointed out that Berry was the driving force for the formation of the Senior Club, an organization dedicated to seeing that the student body of CHS, especially the seniors, got to do some of the things denied us by the school the senior year of the Seniors 1964. (see The M-4… And the “M” Stands for…) The Club mostly sponsored non-school sponsored dances, an act putting the Club, and, therefore, Berry, at odds with the school administration and the coaching staff, complicated by the fact Berry was the President of the Senior class. (The Club’s dances were seen as “corrupting” the training discipline of the football players.) The Club was told they could not do the things they went ahead and did anyway. Both the administration and Coach Bates put pressure on Berry, similar to the way I was being pressured as President of the Student Council by the administration and the sponsor of the Student Council, Roy Hathaway (I never bought the pressure put on me to see the Club’s dances as antithetical to the Student Council’s dances, which, in turn, were being pressured to be restricted to being “Victory Dances,” held only when we won the game.). It was as if the Berry/Hastings “machine” of cooperation was being tinkered with toward a school year in which we seniors were to be marginalized; neither of us could be part of inadvertently making our class’ school year forgetfully dysfunctional, just as neither of us could be put off from the “scheme” we had come up with to “run” the field house. To have “given in” to all this would have been like a betrayal to our friendship.

The afternoon I met with Berry in my light green ’54 Ford (named Liberty, after the movie villain Liberty Valance) parked at the community gym, the site of the “transplanted” field house our senior year, he first thought it was going to be about all the “political” pressure he and I were experiencing from the new administration and coaching staff. Imagine his shock when I asked him to join Adling and me! First, he laughed, and then he said “Yeah.” It was a no-brainer for him to accept. We were now three.

The choice of Cole as a fourth by we three is for another ode. Berry was responsible for seeing that Adling’s car was out of town, as we awaited darkness; the car was supposed to be making a trip to Hamilton. He was the one in the plan to get food to Adling the night of February 11, 1964, as Adling had “found himself locked in at the end of school.” Berry was mostly a “roof man” reaching down from the roof and transporting the desks to their appointed rows and columns. The moment Adling “lost it” (see Ode to Willaim L. (Bill) Adling) revealed the cooperative chemistry Berry and I seemed to have, and, I hope, still have. When Cole took Adling with him to the other end of the building, Berry and I looked at each other, and I think I said, “Do you want to go, or should I?” Somehow, and I’m still “fuzzy” on this, we both knew about how to get back into the building “without keys” through a particular boys’ restroom roof, and I don’t recall a word about this knowledge exchanged between us; of course, I could be a victim of a “brain fart.” Berry grinned and shrugged his shoulders, saying, “It doesn’t matter to me.” “Going” did not mean using the bathroom, of course, and soon I, who went because I felt responsible for the door locking behind us and setting Adling off, had let Berry back inside, and we were met by Adling and Cole from the other end of the main hall, who had discovered a door there had been left inadvertently ajar.

Berry and I had the odd job just before we graduated from HS of cleaning up the First Baptist Church in Cisco. We pushed dust mops in front of us while walking precariously on the edge of the balcony, just to make it interesting.

The paint we painted the dam with for the Seniors 1964 was paid for by funds from the Senior Club and kept in the trunk of Adling’s car; the paint was provided by Berry. Berry’s connections with persons working for companies with certain equipment made possible the ropes used to dangle the three unintentional painters (Adling, Berry, and Hastings). The rope crew above was led and coordinated by Cole. (The paint, once purchased, rode in the trunk of Adling’s car for months, for our original date for painting was between Christmas and New Year’s, before the birth of the M-4, but cold weather nixed that plan. The three painters swore they would not risk being denied graduating the next night by being caught this night painting the dam, or even being involved. When we got to the dam to check out the situation, Cole and Joe Woodard were the only ones “steady enough” to paint, and neither of the duo was too keen to have ropes manned by the rest of the crew in their “condition.” We three were drunk on Dad’s and too confident to believe we might get caught, so used were we at risk-taking by that time; Berry was first to volunteer to paint; after a while and Berry getting tired, Adling could not stand it, so he volunteered; after a while, I could not stand it, and Adling agreed to let me paint.) In the end, it was Cole who made sure the three of us made a clean getaway from the dam site — it was a damn sight! The night of the dam painting was another night the M-4 struck, though pretty spur-of-the-moment, by M-4 standards! And all made possible through the financing and connections of Berry.

I always thought Berry would attend Texas A&M; what I did not know was what a struggle it was to be for him — a struggle he did not deserve. In the end, after campuses other than A&M, he emerged with his degree in petroleum engineering. True to his mysterious ways (Remember those no-shows for pictures?) he works on drilling projects overseas in countries where there seems to be an international crisis soon following his departure. I’ll let the reader draw his/her own conclusions about that.

He was instrumental in our holiday and summer reunions in Cisco during the college years, though after graduation in HS, he never got in the trouble Adling, Cole, and I did (He was there with us in spirit, I like to think.). Nonetheless, he and I were hiking to a campout site when we first heard “Satisfaction” by the Stones. Adling and I helped him elope in the summer of 1966; it took us a while to get back in good graces with Berry’s parents, Bill and Bonnie. Neither Adling nor I could act counter to our best friend’s wishes, once he convinced us that is what he wanted to do — just like we could not turn down coming to Berry’s rescue one night back in high school when he had been on too big a tear at a Senior Club dance and was down with one of his migraines. We went out to help clean up the post-dance mess at the local armory until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

He was way out of pocket for my wedding, but I told my bride that if Berry walked in that church (the same one he and I cleaned up more than four years earlier) even after services started, he had a free ticket to grab a good-looking woman to be his counterpart on his way up to the altar to join us; Berry was a “must” best man, even though, again, he was a no-show.

Like Lee and Adling, Berry is the best friend one could ever have. He is loyal to his friends, and he compels that loyalty in return. He may not show up to the high school reunions like we all would like, but we all look for him to show up and be our President once again. He just loves being a no-show too much!

Two pure-Berry events, I & II:

I. Back when he had the ’55 blue and white, he was driving it hell-bent-for-leather east on west 9th street, toward town. I was holding on for dear life in the passenger’s seat, white-knuckled, and trying to pretend I was casually listening to the rock ‘n’ roll coming over the car radio from station KLIF in Dallas. About two blocks from the First Baptist Church (There’s that church again!) and the one Berry attended (The First Christian Church), he suddenly slowed down to just below the speed limit, without saying a word; I could see no other moving vehicles in the vicinity. After a few seconds a Cisco police car came into sight, driving perpendicular to our path; I could not see any way Berry could have seen him. I looked at the cop car in astonishment, and then back to Berry. “Hey, man,” I asked, “how did you know?”

Berry looked over at me, smiled that wry smile of his, and put a finger tip to his nose. “I can smell ‘em! I can smell ‘em a mile off!” I believe he can — he’s Al Caberry!

II. When the M-4 had been found out, and we were receiving our punishment in the HS office, we had to request the “sermon” be hurried up, as Berry was scheduled to give a devotional on the local radio station that very morning! Adling, Cole, and I made our way to my house (Both my parents were away at work.) to listen to Berry’s devotion, which was very well delivered. We waited for Berry to join us at my house, from whence we went as a quartet to begin our rounds to our mothers scattered over town to tell them what had happened. We visited Berry’s mother, Mrs. Bonnie Berry, first, who had already been receiving calls of congratulations from those who had heard Berry on the airways. A proud mother turned into an astonished mother when she saw the four of us arrive in the middle of school hours “en masse.” She asked us what we were doing there during school.

Only she knew what kind of mother she became when Berry led us in “breaking the news” to her.


Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling

On a brisk, cloudy, cool, and gloomy school day at Cisco Jr. High in March, 1958, Mrs. Jones’ 6th grade home room was interrupted by the appearance of the principal, Mr. Glass, holding a 6th grader’s allotment of issued textbooks. Behind him was a new arrival at CJHS, a guy struggling under the weight of the school desk he was to use in his new classroom, for we had no empty spares. He was introduced to us as Bill Adling, recently moved to Cisco from Ballinger.

Teachers of different subjects rotated to different home rooms (There were three home rooms of sixth graders then.) back in those days, and the teacher at this interrupting moment was Mrs. Bledsoe, our 6th grade social studies teacher. After Mr. Glass had left, she asked me to show Bill Adling my social studies notebook to give him an idea of what we had been doing in this class (a real honor). With Bill A. standing over my desk, looking intently, I rummaged around my disorganized assembly of school accoutrements, only to discover to my dismay and embarrassment this was probably the only day the entire school year when I had left my illustrated notebook at home! Bill A. remembers being particularly unimpressed with me, especially with my cowboy work boots and my cowboy-style shirt (probably with shirt-tail untucked), thinking to himself something like, “Boy, what a bunch of hicks!”

Bill A. (He would become just “Adling” when he befriended Bill Lee, and the rest of us, to avoid ambiguity.) had been associated with the “rough crowd” of Ballinger, and he began to seek that group in Cisco; he was not prepared for what he found; the “hick” Hastings was just the tip of the iceberg! He misinterpreted the “fight” he saw on the playground between Earl Carson and J.V. Plumlee as real and started slugging at J.V. in earnest, until it was explained to him that “friendly fighting” was the basis of their friendship — that they had been doing that since the first grade back in West Ward. My observation of Bill A. the rest of the sixth grade (We seldom seemed to talk to each other at that time.) was that he was not afraid of, in fact, was very enthusiastic about, getting into trouble with either the teachers or the administration — he was always saying something he shouldn’t (but I wish I had the guts to say), and he was always, after being moved to the deskmate of Billy Cozart, cheating on spelling tests. Bill A. found himself adapting to a bunch that was not a group of hoods or delinquents or hicks, but, rather, a group like which he had not seen — weirdos, perhaps?

Only he knows why by the time the sixth grade was over, he was making overtures of befriending those of us who drew elaborate pictures of war scenes, or designed elaborate hot air balloons with rulers and compasses — Clark Odom, Bill Lee, John Shelton, and me. In essence, Adling became Cisco’s covert social “rehab” project, which was “detoxifying” him of the bad tendencies that had tempted him in Ballinger.

All in all, it was, when it came to the two of us, an inauspicious start to our friendship, which did not “take off” until the summer between the sixth and seventh grades. One afternoon, Adling, who was looking for someone to “hook up” with, could not get in touch with Clark Odom, Lee, Berry, or Earl Carson. As perhaps a final resort he called my house, to which he was immediately invited, and that was all it took. He was not put off by huge coon hounds in my back yard, and that summer there was seldom a day went by in which we did not get together (We lived only about three blocks from each other.) to form the foundation of our friendship. We played games (mostly baseball scrub in our backyards, touchpass, and firing BB guns at toy soldiers), we played games of our own invention (his most famous was a game of indoor marble team elimination, complete with playoffs and State championships), we challenged each other to see if the other could meet a dare — I had the advantage when I took him out on the farms and ranches. (He suffered a fall and nasty side scrap trying to walk the 2 x 4 top railing of my Grandad McKinney’s cattle lots with which I challenged him.) But, mostly, we talked, making up stuff to make each other laugh.

I know Melville in “Billy Budd, Sailor” states: “But the ‘might-have-been’ is but boggy ground to build on.” However, it is fun to think, what would have happened, what might have been, if Adling had not been so desperate that day to play with someone and never called me? Only our hairdressers know for sure!

As it was, that was the key once we did start sharing time together — we both had vivid imaginations we had no inclination to restrict. We made up characters, based upon school experiences, based upon sporting events, based upon our mutual Little League experiences, etc. — a “habit” that lasted well into high school (Characters named Stupid B. Stupid — the “B” stood for “Stupid” –, Herman, Coach, Bewah, etc.). The characters reminded me of those I had made up back in West Ward to entertain (bore?) my classmates. I realized the energy I saw early on as a tendency to get with the “wrong crowd” in Adling was really the crying out of an irrepressible imagination bursting for expression. My version of part of my personal imagination was to urge his on and on for mutual, endless laughs. We lampooned almost everyone we knew, except our family members, but we included ourselves, so it was free of mean-spiritedness and belittlement. We pulled small pranks on each other every chance we got, which became an increasing challenge, as, with every prank, the less gullible we became.

One example will suffice: One cold, snowy day (probably a school snow day when we were free from classes) I telephoned him to see what he was doing, using a funny voice just for the hell of it. He thought I was someone he had met on a family trip up north or northeast:

“Is this” So-in-so? asked Adling, when I was reluctant to identify myself with the funny voice.

“Uh..why, yes, this is” So-in-so!

“The one I met at” Such-and-such place “back during” Such-and-such “time?”

“Yeah, that’s me!”

“I can’t believe it! What are you doing in Cisco?”

“Uh…just passing through…. we had to stop for gas…remembered you are from Cisco, so looked you up in the phonebook..”

So it went until he had convinced himself I was indeed his friend from vacation and I had convinced him my family had no time to stop but that we would be passing by his house (Adling lived on the main highway (US 80) through town.) so he could wave to us from his house! Thus it was that Adling, wanting to get a distant look to the east from whence he expected “his friend” to come, climbed up into a cold, leafless mesquite tree in his front yard hoping for a good long look at every west-bound car that passed. I let him freeze a while and then made my way over to his house. Finding him “up a tree,” I asked him from his front porch what he was doing, and he said he needed to stay in the cold to see if he could see his friend from vacation who miraculously showed up in Cisco! I could not keep from laughing out loud and “spilling the beans” to Adling, who could not believe his credulity.

That is just a taste, and does not hint at the many times he “got” me!

Let me wax and wane back and forth in time concerning Adling:

Lee naturally joined in with our increasingly twisted senses of humor, to be joined by Berry. By the time the eighth grade rolled around, we were fully developed self-made “class clowns” whose only audience that mattered was ourselves. Clark Odom was not a “natural” class clown like the rest of us, but, it was probably best he was the “sober” one of the Mean Corner (See Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee), for, if it had been Berry sitting beside Adling, it would be obvious the Mean Corner could not exist that way with four “clowns” — Adling, Lee, Berry, and Hastings.

It is definitely misleading to imply that Adling (and, indeed, Berry also) was not “country” compared to Lee, Cole, and myself. (See Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee). He was as enthusiastic as anyone in plunging into the joy and adventure of camping out in the pastures of my parents’ land. For his essay our Junior year in Mrs. Lee’s class, he wrote about the logistics of planning for the staples of a campout. Once the strange sounds of the night out in the uninhabited countryside were interpreted for him, he blended into the darkness of the night as well as any of us. For example, he adjusted readily to the sounds of my show sow Prunelly feeding during the night within earshot of the pick-up bedding we were using during an early camp-out. Adling was as enthusiastic as Berry and I to go walking on a multi-mile trek across the country side past scary cemeteries and the ghostly Leon River in the wee hours of the morning, while we left Lee sleeping at our campsite beside the slowly dying embers of our campfire.

High school gave us greater opportunities to expand our friendships, based upon humor and imagination. Each in our own way never stopped imagining. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the circumstances of our senior year (see The M-4, and the “M” Stands for…) ushered in the M-4, the original idea was Adling’s. Wild ideas, always conjured to get each other to laugh, were the order of the day. That the idea was linked to Adling’s perpetual struggle with authority of any type is also not surprising. Elsewhere, I have described Adling as the John Lennon of the M-4, not that he or any of us was a “leader” of the M-4 in any traditional sense of the word, but in that the purpose of so much of his imaginings included the means to struggle against the enemies of his teenaged angst, a la John Lennon.

What happened sometime late in 1963, I later found out about 37 years after the fact, Adling decided to reveal his idea to me, his imagination “buddy.” He probably thought we would both have a great laugh and talk about the scenarios growing in our heads from talking about it; apparently, he had no thoughts about actually doing it, because he did not know for sure if it could be done, so, he claimed, after all those years, that if I had said it was just a silly, imaginative idea, and only that, we would have soon gone on thinking of something else to laugh over, as usual. But — and here is another of those “might-have-been” moments — I started imagining, along with the laughing, how it could be done, and, soon, came up with the idea of how to actually do it. What if I had laughed it off, just as Adling was willing to do? Would the M-4 have ever come about? It goes to show you — be careful of whom you ask.

Adling taught me over the years to never stop dreaming, never stop imagining; I like to think I taught him what dreams are worth keeping and pursuing, and which ones should be thrown away. He taught me never to back down from the powers that be, and I hope I taught him that there is good in being different for its own sake. In addition to becoming a great architect, Adling is a gifted artist, his medium being watercolor. None of us who know him should be surprised. I would like to own an original Adling watercolor one day. You can see his work all over the campus of Texas Tech University in the form of many of its buildings he designed and around the city of that campus, Lubbock, Texas. The artist Adling and the artist C.W. Block (See Things I’ve Learned at the College Street Pub, Waxahachie, Texas) both have inspired me to artistic endeavors (Rusty barbed wire is one of my mediums.).

Robert Cole and I agree that the only time we ever saw Adling “lose it” was during the M-4’s chair escape the night of February 11, 1964. During a breather from the chair lifting “machine” we formed lifting desks from the front entrance door to the flat roof of the school building, I failed to make sure the front door out of which the chair/desks were moved outside was properly jammed so it would not close and lock us out; the door slammed shut, with all four of us apparently locked outside!

Adling began to rage at me as loud as he dared, “Hastings! It ain’t gonna be too hard to figure out who did this when they find Berry’s and my books and jackets in the teachers’ lounge in the morning!” (Adling and Berry, the first two inside the building before being joined by Cole and me, had worked on their homework in the teachers’ lounge — a ‘sort of rebellious act’ as Adling recalled — waiting for darkness and the appearance of Cole and Hastings.) For one brief moment I thought he was going to start swinging at me like he did at J.V. back in the sixth grade (The irony is that the building where we were pulling off our prank was a faux HS building, and actually the very same in which we had attended Jr. High and in which Adling had made his first appearance in Mrs. Jones’ room back in 1958.), but I could not help but laugh at the comedy of the situation, an infection that soon spread to Berry and Cole, and was caught by Adling last. Cole took Adling with him to see if the door at the other end of the building had been left open (which it had, so there was no reason to panic) and to calm Adling down. Berry and I stayed near the locked door, both of us recognizing the locked door was no barrier to getting back in; we both knew entrance was possible over one of the stalls of the boys’ bathroom between the gymnasium and the office area. By the time I climbed down through the bathroom and let Berry back in, and by the time Adling and Cole had come through the door left ajar at the other end of the building, Adling had calmed down and we three began laughing again at his panic, soon joined by Adling himself.

Adling and I were always talking each other into doing stuff together no sane person would do alone, or with others more sane than we. I was always getting him to help me work on the farms for my dad (hauling hay, mostly at night, battling snakes inside bales of hay), and he would talk me into things like helping paint the dock at the Odoms’ lake house from the water level or having high pressure water fights with the car washing equipment at Westfall’s service station where he worked. As a duo, we were social outcasts; we double-dated a total of once or twice, tops; whenever I could get him to attend a school dance to help me do the set up (I was on the Student Council most of high school helping with the dance committees.), which was rare, we usually spent the actual dance time playing ping-pong over in a dimly lit corner, never paying attention to the row of ladies lined up waiting to be asked to dance; neither of us could dance, and I dated Sylvia, a good Baptist young lady who did not dance and did not attend any dances.

When Adling got his first car and proudly drove it to school for the first time, he was so focused in successfully negotiating the frantic trip of several blocks from the 3-story HS building to the athletic field house after classes that afternoon (It was nothing short of a mad dash, reminiscent of the auto-chase scenes from the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World;” students without cars would randomly, it seemed, pile into whatever car would accept them, and the car would roar off amidst a frantic traffic jam that over the years had to claim its share of road victims — stray dogs, alley cats, small children, elderly with walkers, etc.; there must have been some bad, bad punishment threatened by the coaches to anyone who was late!), he forgot he had a car of his own at school! He bummed a ride as usual and got another to get him home at the end of the day; his parents, surprised at not seeing his car, asked him where it was! He had to walk back to the high school to get his car.

He simply could not and cannot help himself saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. One time during HS, the late Shirley (Page) Strother, obviously interested in him, told him he smelled good, and Adling said, “It all depends where you smell.” She walked away, having lost interest. In making a professional pitch for the architectural firm in Lubbock he owns (Adling Associates) to a brace of Texas Tech officials about how good was the air conditioning he would install, he said it would blow off your toupee, not knowing one of the top officials in the brace wore a toupee the official thought was a secret only he knew.

Equally impossible for Adling was keeping away from a mysterious light left on inside an abandoned house on Mr. Hittson’s land north of Cisco during our college years in the summer of 1965. He had to appear before a grand jury at the county court house in Eastland, submitting a statement as to why he had investigated the light and left a sarcastic note that Mr. Hittson did not appreciate. Mr. Hittson’s admonition of Adling to “go straight!” fell on deaf ears. It was amazing Adling’s grand jury took no action, considering his “legal counsel” took the form of Prince Altom and yours truly!

To this day, he never uses a map when driving somewhere new or making a trip not undertaken in a long while, which drives me crazy! During one of our college day summers we spent in Cisco, I posed as his gardener accompanying him to a girl’s house in order to impress her; it did not work. He and I crashed a Cisco community beauty contest so well one July evening at the old swimming pool below the Lake Cisco dam spillway we had painted as Seniors, that many in the audience thought it was a planned part of the program.  (The Lake Cisco dam spillway is the “canvas” upon which Adling, Berry, and I painted “Seniors 1964″ the night before we graduated high school, each of us individually was held dangling precariously aloft by ropes gripped by a gang of classmates managed by [who else?] the remaining member of the M-4, Cole.)

He designed the M-4 symbol for the four of us; he made each of us an M-4 “business card.” He kept a diary of a lot of his high school days and college days at Texas Tech, parts of which he let me use as a major resource when I wrote the memoirs in which he was one of the major “stars” (See And God Said ‘Let There Be Friends’..….). He suggested I add the words “And It Was Weird!” to the title of my memoirs.

Adling became famous for quitting the sports program he happened to be in (football, track, etc.) in HS at least once a week, declaring, usually after everyone had left the field house (except we managers), “I quit!” Then he would empty his locker and throw all his issued stuff on the floor for me, the manager/trainer, to pick up. Then he would storm out as if there was a large audience watching him. Doing my impression of a minimalist manager, learned from Clark’s older brother, Olin Odom, I would do most of what I was supposed to do before I left and locked up, always forgetting to pick up Adling’s stuff. The next school day he would have a change of heart and ask me to get his stuff back to him, having the fear of what the coaches would do to him if they knew he quit for no good reason. I said I thought the stuff was still on the floor, and that he better get to the field house before the coaches get there and see his stuff in the floor, or both of us would be in trouble. About the only time he was early to the field house was on these days, when he usually scooped up his stuff and put it back in his locker before either the coaches or I got there.

He played the “monster” line backer on the strong side of the defense in football near the end of his playing days in HS. During one home game he received a concussion, apparently, that was undetected until he disappeared after the game going over to Bobby Smith’s house across town. He “woke up” on Hwy 80 near Baird, some 30 or so miles west of Cisco, not remembering how he got there. We had “whipped up” a pretty good “search posse” looking for him all over Cisco by the time he got word to us where he was and we met him on the highway between Cisco and Putnam. When he lost his memory from too many White Russian mixed drinks sitting at a slot machine in Las Vegas during a 2007 trip wherein he and Pamela met Sylvia and me at “Sin City,” he thought that was the first time he had “blacked out.” I should have remembered his unscheduled trip to Baird.

He, Berry, and I have declared ourselves the first Beatle fans in Cisco (See Hail, Hail, Rock ‘n’ Roll; Hell, Hell, Heavy Metal), and we are sticking to that story. He and I dreamed, in 1964, of skipping the whole college scene and stow-awaying on a boat to Liverpool; Adling knows the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll — how he is not a metal fan as am I is beyond my comprehension. He is a true, blue Stones’ fan, if there ever was one. He and I developed a stack of 45’s and LP’s during HS and college by which we studied, we partied, and we laughed still more. During the summer of 1967, while he was working a summer job near Ft. Worth, I drove to his apartment and we played and played and played the just released Sgt. Pepper’s album.

We made weird home movies together when we bivouacked in the summers (and Christmas holidays) at Cisco. He and I were asked not to plan further class reunions when he and I showed those movies for our class on stage of the new Cisco High School building. The only one who probably drank more Dad’s root beer than Adling or I was Cole. Adling talked me into buying a Nehru jacket when he worked at a downtown Cisco clothing store (Heidenheimer’s). He had a ’52 or ’53 Ford with a hole in the floorboard back in HS between the brake and clutch, such that, after a rain, when he drove it over the speed limit through the flooded dip on far west 9th street, a column of water would shoot straight up through the hole and drench the driver’s face and upper chest thoroughly! Adling would drive thusly to do that on purpose — just to get you to laugh!

He was my best man for Sylvia’s and my wedding, or, better, he was the one closest to me during the ceremony; all of the guys in my wedding party were best men; I was and am sorry I had to make a designation. Adling and Jim Burns were the only ones with enough strength and stamina to throw me an all-night bachelor party the night before the wedding.

Because of Adling I am probably one of the few Aggies that enjoyed attending the Texas A&M-Texas Tech football game every two years in Lubbock, for the football games were only the facade of an excuse for us to get together to reminiscence over old times and create new laughs. The two teams will not play each other regularly from now on, but I am determined to keep the tradition of our visits going; it was never about the game any way. Our friendship transcends university rivalries and on-field competition.

Adling is the best friend one could ever have; you can confide in him, and he will not betray you; when you need him, he is there. Little did I know that day I spotted the “new kid” behind Mr. Glass trying to hold on to his school desk how our lives were to become intertwined…

Not long ago on Facebook, someone in the group “Hey, I Lived in Cisco, Texas” (probably me) asked about the mid 60’s and who did this and who did that. Sheri (Heyser) Malone piped up immediately and said “Adling and you! It was always you two… you and Adling!” You know… I think she’s right…


The M-4 — and the “M” stands for…

The remaining four of the quintet (see And God Said, “Let There Be Friends”… And It Was Weird!) form a group christened the M-4, the “M” originally designated for “Malicious,” done tongue-in-cheek by Lee Wallace when he was a fish at A&M. “Tongue-in-cheek” because he knew our group came into existence via a harmless school prank. There was nothing truly malicious about us.

In a nutshell, the four, Adling, Berry, Cole, and Hastings, on Tuesday, February 11, 1964, found themselves inside the school building that night (no breaking and entering) and carried out a long-conceived plan to put all the school chair/desks we could reach in the classrooms atop the flat roof of the old Jr. High Building that was supposed to be the High School for that one school year. (The CHS class of 1964 is the only Senior class I know that did not graduate in a real high school building.) We lifted between 250-300 desks up and upon that flat roof, and got to bed that night before midnight. The rest, as they say, is history, as so many remember that next school day of February 12. It took the school a week to figure out who had done it, the plan worked so well; in hindsight, which is always 20/20, it seems, we were found out by the process of elimination applied to a student body just small enough for that approach to work. In a way, our resounding success backfired, in that only a handful of students were thought capable of pulling something like that off, not vandalizing a thing, and never caught in the act.

If the “M” doesn’t stand for “Malicious,” what else could it more accurately stand for? It could mean “Misnomer” or “Misnamed” or “Misunderstood.” At the reunion in 2010 Sylvia overheard someone talking about the “chair escapade,” saying they thought it was done by out-of-town vandals that did a lot of damage, like had been done to the football field in the past by vandalous rivals. Needless to say, Sylvia was able to correct them! At one of the reunions, Alice Ann (Webb) Holliday commented that, upon reading of our entire “body” of work — the M-4 went on to pull off many “plans” other than the chairs on the roof for years after (not always as a quartet, but as a trio, or duo), never getting caught, but usually found out in the same way we were found out in high school, she was “shocked” we were so “criminal” in our acts. If one looks at the way we were punished, we paid the price as if we were vandals and criminals, and, sometimes, that is all people remember, so, in their minds, we must have been “bad” — the “M” could have stood for “Maligned.”

We do not believe to this day that our “punishments fit the deeds;” we were judged as vandals for non-vandalous acts. Alice Ann used selected parts of our work to judge the whole body of our work, and I think a more inclusive read of my memoirs would argue the case that never were we malicious, barbarous, spiteful, deceitful, hateful, vengeful, or threatening. We defied, in my opinion, any classification; we were not gangsters, gang members, or juvenile delinquents.

We were, however, admittedly sneaky and non-exemplary. Of these two adjectives we are worthy, even though it must be pointed out, we, as a group, were not considered drinkers (except Dad’s root beer), smokers, users of foul or profane language, or chasers of girls. None of us “batted for the other team” nor was any of us a social pariah. Moreover, we never thought we should be given a “free pass” for any reason; if we were caught, we understood something had to be done to us. Our teenage oversight was that we thought the administration, the “powers that be,” and most of society around us would exercise the principle of “the punishment should reflect the deed.” Once we were found out after February 11, 1964, our oversight was obvious. In the beginning, our oversight made us the self-“Misguided”-4.

So, why did we behave in such non-conventional ways? A lot of misunderstanding of the M-4 comes from removing us from our context; from forgetting the times in which we functioned. Unique events such as the exploits of the M-4 are functions of unique times, times that are not only special, but times that cannot be duplicated or expected to return. I like to think the M-4 came into being because of a “perfect storm” of circumstances that will never occur again.

First, the community of Cisco, Texas, circa 1963-1964 was a divided community; half the tax payers wanted to pass a bond to build a new high school to replace the old three-story high school building between west 6th and 7th streets, and half did not believe the building was unsafe, despite the cracks in the foundation pillars, and did not think such a bond was necessary. Paying for a new high school was not a unifying issue in the town. Second, new administrators and coaches had arrived upon the scene to usher in what they thought were necessary changes at a time suited for change — a time when the old was to be vacated for a move into the new, whatever form the “new” might be.

The entire student body for the school year 1963-1964 was put under unusual pressure to pretend a building which we knew as a junior high was actually a high school. Those of us in leadership positions, including those who would become the M-4 (Berry was Senior class President, Adling was Vice-President of the National Honor Society, Cole was Senior class representative on the Student Council, and I was Student Council President.), found ourselves walking a tightrope between making the year one deserved by our class and one envisioned by the adult leadership in the form of the faculty, coaching staff, and administration. The Seniors of 1964 were not only asked to finish up high school in a junior high building (unprecedented humiliation for any graduating class of Cisco High School), we could not, for whatever reasons dictated by the administration, have a traditional Senior trip, nor could we have a traditional Senior play.

In this vacuum of tradition, so many in the Senior class saw the school year of 1963-1964 as one being overlooked by an adult leadership anxious to get such an “awkward” year, in which campuses were “reshuffled” all over the city, behind them as soon as possible, in anticipation of a new campus whose bond was eventually passed. It is clear now, in retrospect, that the student leadership, trying to fill the vacuum in good faith, grew in realization that all student leaders were seen as mere “rubber-stampers” carrying out the directions and suggestions of the student organizational sponsors; we had no power or say in school policy; we only had “tickets” to get our pictures in the yearbook more often than others. Students had little or no meaningful representation.

Over the years there has grown a sense that the M-4 acted in defiance for the whole student body, especially for the tradition-deprived class of 1964. A harmless prank was something truly “ours,” something we completely controlled and by which we exercised what we felt was our stunted freedom of expression. Putting the chairs on the roof was, in a way, a student expression analogous to the Boston Tea Party. Bob Dylan was already singing “The Times They Are a’Changin'” about the future, with its campus riots and protests, but it probably was applicable to the microcosm that was the community of Cisco High School in 1964. From the perspective of the Seniors ’64, the school year was so “topsy-turvy” the graduating class itself had become secondary, even tertiary, to the goal of “getting the school year behind” the administration, so that the district could begin moving into the new school buildings being built for the next year. It was a bad oversight trying to mold us “old school” students into “new school” students symbolized by the new in-the-making facilities and new administration and coaching staff, as if we were some kind of afterthought in the “grand scheme of things.” Maybe the “M” could stand for “Marginalized.”

Though we certainly did not think about it at the time, I like to think that subconsciously we “did it” for our “brushed-aside” class, the graduating class of the “temporary fix” of an unenviable year moving toward a state of mediocrity, a school year best forgotten — all due to causes not of our doing. But there was nothing mediocre about the CHS class of 1964. To this day our class is at or near the top in percentage of honor graduates and at the top of overall grade average; the number of college degrees our graduating class of 54 earned after graduation has to be some kind of record for CHS. And the M-4 went above and beyond the call of duty while we were still in school to make sure there was nothing forgetful about the school year 1963-1964 in Cisco, Texas; we like to think we reminded the world, as well as Cisco, that our graduating class was nothing to be brushed aside, taken for granted, or seen in any way as ordinary. Perhaps, in terms of classes, we were “Meteoric” or “Magnificent’ — anything but “Mediocre.”

Of course there were personal reasons for “doing it,” four sets of them, in fact. Each set was unique to each personality and each person’s experience. It is safe to say the personal motivations were “front and center” at the time, and have, since then, trumped our collective motivation of “taking one for the class.” In the upcoming odes to Adling, Berry, and Cole, I will give my interpretations of why each of the other three became part of the M-4.

Lest the foregoing touching on the collective and personal reasons the M-4 came into existence seem high-minded, serious, and sober, it must be pointed out that the spirit pervading these reasons are anything but. Spiritually, we did it because it was a challenge to see if we could do it, to see if we could put into action our collective “brain child” of an idea, but, most of all, we did it, I think, because it was fun to pull off; it was a concrete expression of the happy-go-lucky personalities our mutual friendships had taken on over the years; it was a celebration of friends at a special time in our lives. We were seventeen and full of confidence, testosterone, and Dad’s root beer. As Joe Torres has said, we had huevos to attempt to do such a prank midst the circumstances to which we were subjugated. We were “Macho” and “Mischievous.” It was a hell of a ride!

After we had served our three days of school suspension (Our report card grades were reduced by nine points each class that six weeks for those three days; this was the reason, I found out, looking at the numbers at the end of school, I was not valedictorian; a few years after our experience a court ruling on another high school prank found that grades can no longer be reduced for school expulsion.), or, as we called it, our 3-day “vacation,” guys at school would come up to us and ask why we had done it, and, instead of answering the question, we would ask them if they would have come in with us to be a part of the prank had we asked, and they all seemed to answer in the affirmative; after that, they did not ask us why again — they had their answer. During this time we were the “Magnetic”-4.

No prom and no coronation honoring a certain quartet of seniors that year! (Three of us had our candidacies for King Lobo stripped, a “punishment” that hurt our mothers more than it hurt us.) We were a quartet for a while possessing “Malcontent-Mothers.” On the other hand, our fathers seemed to understand, but could not side with us because of their wives, our mothers. Years later my father related to me how men would come up to him and shake his hand, as if he was the father of a “celebrity.” In certain circumstances, for a while, we were the “Movie-star”-4.

In the end, our list of punishments all but backfired on the administration. As Adling said in his assessment of the aftermath, “They showed less class than we.” Many in the town, including not a few on the faculty, felt we had gotten a “raw deal;” the real judgement was that the punishment had not fit the deed; as I said in the beginning, we had done nothing vandalous or criminal, yet punished as if we had. The administration had admirably not made it a police matter (what evidence would have made it a police matter?), but, beyond that, it had gone pretty much “downhill,” in trying to make us an “example,” trying to make our case a deterrent to “copy cat” pranksters in the future. This was an administration that could catch harmless pranksters, but could not catch tire slashers; they could throw the book at the M-4, but they could not win the respect of the student body. As graduation approached, we four had an opportunity to lead the student body in protests or boycotts of all sorts; as I was told by a faculty member whose contract was not renewed (Coach Jack Cromartie), when I was allowed in the spring to distribute all over the school copies of short stories I’d written and copied on school equipment, we had the whole school “eating out of the palms of our hands.” To our credit, we did not abuse that opportunity, but merely appreciated having such a moment that comes to so few; we took advantage of the “slack” so many in the community and in the school offered us in sympathy for our receiving such unfair treatment. We never felt “out of the loop,” un-informed, or “left out” of anything our senior year; come graduation we had confirmed to ourselves we had no regrets. We were beyond kings — we were the “Monarch”-4 or the “Mogul”- 4.

The M-4 (having not gotten caught unintentionally leading the painting of the dam at Lake Cisco right before graduation) actually were allowed to graduate, despite all the threats we might not, and, in addition, graduated with a “second” education from the school of “reality,” from the school of how not to be an adult. We were a lot less naive high school graduates than most, thanks to the birth of the M-4 on February 11, 1964. We became “Multi-Matriculators,” or “Mega-Matriculants.”

Today, two of us are professional engineers, Berry (petroleum engineer), and Cole (mechanical engineer), one is a practicing architect (Adling) with his own firm, and one is a Ph.D. physicist and teacher (Hastings).

Seldom, if ever, did all four of us “work” together after high school; when one, two, or three of us did something “worthy” of the M-4, the quartet as a whole, in our minds, received the “glory.” Consequently, between high school graduation and our “settling down” into marriage (& thereafter), we were probably turned into the FBI (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013]), threatened with several different misdemeanor charges, we crashed a public beauty pageant (Crashing The Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]), we displayed unauthorized but unthreatening symbols, we were summoned before a grand jury, we crossed a condemned bridge across a major river, we entered a proto-national park, we marched in illegal demonstrations, and we raided golf driving ranges. This is an incomplete list, for I have listed only those things for which the statutes of limitations have expired. Out of all this we have emerged as professionals, for, remember, we are Misunderstood, and Misaccused, not Malicious.

At the Cisco High All-class reunion of 2005, I was one of a few of our class distributing flyers in windows downtown for the dance we were sponsoring at the Country Club at  Lake Cisco that Saturday night. I went into the Cisco Police Department (now next to the bank) to ask them if I could display one in their window. They were happy to let me do so, but as I put it up, they asked me my name and my class. Their demeanor changed drastically with recognition of the answer. “Were you one of those who put the school desks upon…? ” Yes, I was,” I answered. “Oh…” was about as far as the conversation went on that subject. The Cisco Police Department, after 41 years at that time, knows the M-4 and the CHS class of 1964. I’d love to be able to see the file they have on us there, if it hasn’t been deleted or shredded for more space.

One of the preparations I did before undergoing major surgery in 2002 was to see the M-4, in case I did not make it (The other preps on the list were to walk the pastures, ranches, and farms on which I grew up — which I now own, to see the Rolling Stones in concert, and to arrange that the last recognizable faces I saw before “going under” were those of the Hart twins, Sylvia and Sandra.). Berry could not make it to San Antonio, as he was in God-knows-where overseas on the job, but SA is Cole’s home, and Adling had come from Lubbock also for the Stones’ concert there. In Durty Nellie’s pub on the River Walk (where I belted out a rendition of the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women,” accompanied by the pub’s pianist) was the first time Adling’s second wife, Pamela, saw more than two of the M-4 together. She watched the three of us interact as if we had been together just the day before; she listened to the chemistry we had among us; she felt the bond. “Something special,” she called it, and has since never wondered about what it was and is that made and makes the M-4 the M-4.

I wonder what she thinks the “M” stands for?


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