Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 2 (Dramatis Personae)

To this day it is not clear that the Cisco schools had an accurate idea with whom they were dealing when it came to the CHS Class of 1964. I have observed in my teaching career almost 40 high school graduating classes both in Waxahachie, TX, and in DeSoto, TX, and only three of them compare academically with our Cisco class. We graduated as a class of 54 in number, 18 of which (1 in 3) graduating as honor students. Our class average has remained at or near the top well into the 21st century. The college degrees we went on to garner include two M.D.’s (Lee and Clark Odom) and one Ph.D. (myself). We became a graduating class replete with professionals of many types. Consequently, it is not surprising that not only were the M-4 class leaders, they were part of the class’s academic strength; besides my degrees, Berry and Cole hold bachelor’s degrees in petroleum engineering and mechanical engineering, respectively, both successful engineers in their respective fields; Adling’s architecture degree vaulted him to form his own architecture firm in Lubbock, one of many places worldwide identified by structures and buildings he has designed and had built (He is also an excellent watercolor artist.).

What IS clear to this day is that we were no ordinary high school class. Too many people were behaving back in the mid-1960’s in Cisco, Texas, as if extraordinary circumstances (Chapter 1) were engulfing ordinary high school students; in reality, extraordinary circumstances were encountering extraordinary students. The “perfect storm” of circumstances mixing with really “different” young minds made the chair/desk escapade explode into the history of Cisco and Cisco High School.

Part of my goals in writing the “odes” to the other three (Adling, Berry, and Cole), referenced in the Introduction, was to demonstrate those “really ‘different’ young minds.” Instead of repeating myself from the “odes” here, I hope to supplement this demonstration as it related to the chair/desk escapade, and all the other M-4 escapades that followed.

By the time we reached our last two years of high school Adling, Berry, Lee, Clark Odom, and I had formed a study group that usually met over at my house in the weekday evenings. But we just didn’t study; we would work for ten minutes and then joke and laugh for fifteen, starting this cycle all over again. All contributed to the joking and laughing except Clark; he merely tolerated the whole situation and good-naturedly took his share of being the brunt of jokes. We made fun of everyone, including ourselves; everyone took his turn of being the brunt before each evening was over. We discovered and developed extremely useful study techniques which went on to contribute in no small way to our later successes in college; we seldom dated during the week, and not often on the week-ends; we never talked much about girls or about who of us was dating whom; in later decades, we undoubtedly would have been called “nerds,” or some similar term. Out of this habit of studying and doing homework together, we had emerged as four jesters our junior year (all but Clark) when our class sponsored the annual Cisco High School King Lobo Coronation, for our routine for tryout for jester was a repeat of what we did at our study table at my house one weeknight when Adling decided to quit studying for a while and try to interrupt my concentration (He went so far as to crack a raw egg over my head!).

This marvelous, creative crucible masquerading as a study group is indicative of the friendships we had established over many years (The absence of Cole indicates that Cole had only been in Cisco since the beginning of our sophomore year 1961-1962, and that our friendships not involving Cole had needed a long time “cooking.”). Our secrets? Three that come to mind are that 1) we accepted each other as each was (“warts” and all), not trying to change each other, 2) we did not maliciously compete with each other over grades, girls, possessions, or popularity, and 3) we were not a “gang” for many reasons, principle among which was that there was no “leader of the pack,” no “alpha male.”

This egalitarianism was very significant, in my opinion, and explained a lot of things, such as Berry’s and my successes being elected to class offices (Berry) and being elected to both class and student body (Student Council) offices (me). The egalitarianism Berry and I used to be successful politically was duplicated by Adling, as all three of us had a very broad range of friends, some of which we shared with the other two, and some of which we didn’t (For example, up until our senior year, Cole and I were friends, but he was not closely acquainted with either Adling or Berry.). The unfair reason Adling did not achieve the political success fostered by friendly egalitarianism, in my opinion, was that he was a “Johnny-come-lately” to Cisco, arriving in our sixth grade in junior high. Compare this with the fact Berry and I were “Cisco originals,” having known and played with each other as pre-schoolers. As for Lee and Odom, perhaps it is generous and fair to say only that their egalitarianism was not as broad as that of we three of the M-4.

I tried to describe the friendship that was so strong among the M-4 as best I could in And God Said ‘Let There Be Friends’….And It Was Weird! [April, 2012], and the best definition I’ve found for those kinds of friends has to quote the “f-bomb” (which offended minister Buddy Surles of Cisco schools (who was with us in CHS in the 1960’s) so much he unfriended me (!) (What Did I Say or Write? WTF?!! (For Adults Only) [January, 2013])) — indicating that what we have as a quartet can only be described in the strongest, most forceful terms of our lexicon. The birth and further adventures of the M-4 served to only strengthen traits and qualities that were already in place by the time our senior year rolled around.

In addition to what I said about Adling in his “ode” I can only reiterate how important our imaginations were between the two of us. He helped me in rekindling all the imaginary stories, characters, and places in which I reveled when I was a pre-schooler through about the third grade or so, when I played mostly with my cousin Dwayne Scarlett. He (Adling) was a social outcast who literally and figuratively couldn’t dance, and, in many ways, so was I, as I pointed out the scene at Student Council dances (which I helped to set up, along with help from people like Cole) of the two of us playing ping-pong over in a dimly-lighted corner of the gym where the dance was held, while lines of good-looking girls were waiting to be asked to dance. We made up stories just to tell each other; we talked UFO’s and weird phenomena in general; we challenged each other to do really, really stupid tricks and stunts. When the two of us, along with Berry, became the first Beatle fans in Cisco (That’s our story, and we are sticking to it!), Adling and I talked of making our way to New York City and stowing away aboard a freighter across the Atlantic to Liverpool. We competed with each other in games, not with each other’s ego. Adling had brought a “chip on his shoulder” regarding any kind of authority with him from Ballinger, and, though we who befriended him tempered that teen-aged angst of his somewhat, his “courage under fire” rubbed off on us in return, making things like Berry and I handling the intimidating pressures of our offices as senior class leaders (Chapter 1) lots easier. As I’ve said elsewhere, Adling was the “John Lennon” of the M-4, perhaps the coolest of us, but with smoldering rage beneath. He was our perpetual dreamer…….a dreamer full of fun.

I’ve already indicated in Chapter 1 that the unusual circumstances of our senior year potentially could have been used to drive a wedge between the “ancient” friendship Berry and I had. Nothing, in my opinion, had a chance to do that! Like with all my close friends, competitions gradewise had no effect on the two of us, though I think he and I used each other to “goad” the other to do better and better. Like all the others, he was not “put off” by my climbing to the “top of the heap” academically (Had I not been expelled as part of the M-4, I would have been valedictorian of our class, as the reader will find out later.), and, like all the others, he could do other things better than I (He was the socialite, the “ladies’ man;” Adling was the athlete, the anti-authoritarian; Lee was the moral compass and the most avid reader; Cole was the clandestine “assassin” and the “tall, dark, silent type” for the ladies; Clark Odom was the dedicated, hard-working scholar; I think I tried to be all of these, playing war games in addition {still another “world” of imagination; see The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013]}, so I probably was not the best at too many of them.). Berry and I discovered that, as a team, we were an unbeatable duo, as shown by our management of the Lobo football team our last two years of high school as trainer/managers; we taught each other skills and mannerisms to use around the coaches and players; we “had each others’ backs” if help was needed in the moment; we relished preparing for and “striking” at the end of both home and away games; the feedback we were getting from both players and coaches was that things were working because we were working — I think that was true. Our friendship grew on the basis of this working relationship to heights that surprised even us. (See Berry’s “ode”)  As Adling and I imagined and laughed, Berry and I conversed and laughed; no limits to Adling’s imagination and no limits to Berry’s topics of conversation! What Berry brought to the M-4 was a incredible work ethic exemplified by our duo-as-managers on the field and in the field house; no job was to be left undone, and every job had to be done right. Berry was a leading worker, not a supervisor; he showed “how it was done” by example, and he would finish it alone, if he had to. Once committed to the task, Berry was our participatory taskmaster…….a taskmaster full of fun.

What fact about late-arrival Cole would tell you the most about his qualifications that made him an obvious addition to our long-term friendships? In my opinion, given the words just above, it is the fact that in less than two years’ time after he moved to Cisco, he had ingratiated himself as part of the strongest of CHS friendships, friendships as old as Berry/me, Adling/me, and Berry/Adling. The chair/desk escapade was like a “super-glue” that bonded “new-comer” Cole to the three “veteran friends,” as if he had been there with us from the days of junior high or elementary school. That does not happen often among teen-aged relationships, and speaks well for all four involved, especially for Cole. Berry and Adling, showing a compliment to me, took a chance that I had read Cole correctly since Cole and I had befriended each other across the biology class table when we were sophomores (See Cole’s “ode”). Cole and I talked and played war games, shared experiences working cattle with our dads, and discussed plans to set up our own chemistry lab inside a shed in his back yard; he would keep me in stitches pretending how much he detested Joe Woodard one minute and in the next relating how he and Woodard had been out bird-dogging parked couples and leaving empty Dad’s root beer half-gallon bottles on “victims'” porches well into the wee hours of weekend nights; I refused to take sides in his (Chevy) and Woodard’s (Ford) “car wars” — it was more fun to listen to the two of them “go at” each other. But, then, on the other hand, Berry knew what I was saying about Cole’s qualities to be true first-hand, having double-dated with Cole and having seen his CHS patriotism the night we protected the bonfire from the college arsonists (The 1963 Cisco High School Homecoming Bonfire — No Sleep and Almost Torched into Martyrdom [August, 2013]). Once Cole was one of us, the friendship “super-glue” between Adling, who claimed he hardly knew Cole before, and Cole worked fast! No better example of the egalitarianism that exemplified all four of our friendships was there than this “rapid bond.” Cole brought to the M-4 ranch-work toughness (as I tried to do) and an un-matched “coolness under fire” (The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013] and Cole’s “ode”); he was fearless, and intimidated by nothing. He was our “silent executioner”…….and executioner full of fun.

These, then, were the extraordinary friendships that met the imposed extraordinary circumstances of the Cisco school year of 1963-1964. The meeting fostered the dynamic, organic, and social “perfect storm” of conditions making the chair/desk escapade possible.

Nothing, no school work, no demands by teachers and coaches, no pressures from family, no romances, and no topsy-turvy school year could “bring down” the spirit of our friendships described above, which metamorphosed after the escapade into the spirit of the M-4; no matter what came our way, we were going to keep our fun going. What we had among us was beyond ordinary friendships; it was beyond brotherhood. Members of championship athletic teams know what I am saying; soldiers of a coherant, efficient, and successful unit know what I am saying.


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