Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the category “The M-4”

Fun Read

As I have introduced during the summer of 2014 my self-published book, there seems to be (perhaps understandably) a “knee-jerk” reaction — oh, no! Not another stupid, nostalgic writing of high school memoirs!

Its title is long and twisted, but the book is “just right” in length, yet also twisted. I named it Some X-Y Type Members of the Cisco High School Class of 1964, The M-4, (Or, Funny Things Happened On Our Way to HS Graduation & Matriculation Beyond — Such As Expulsion & Impish Pranks Galore,) and More, or SXYMCHSC1964M4M, “for short.”  It may be one of the few books whose shortened title on the spine is unpronounceable!  Unpronounceable, after all, as it is an acronym.

Self-publishing is a path which very well may be one of those where “wise men and women fear to tread.”  The risk I took in self-publishing was mitigated by having it made print-ready and printed at a local company, College Street Printing, here in Waxahachie, Texas.  Despite knee-jerk reactions and despite unpronounceable titles, early responses hint the risk might turn out worth it.  Physically, the book is an easy read, 8.5 x 11 inch in format, around 240 double-spaced pages in length and paper-backed in “perfect binding.”  Whatever the risks, however, I was compelled to write this book, just as I was compelled to write my memoirs back in the early 1970’s.

So many years ago, strangers from my generation urged me to write down the high school stories of my friends and me before I forgot all the details.  In the second decade of the 21st century, I was urged by self-compulsion to pay tribute to the three “stars” of those stories — 3 of the 4 pictured on the book’s cover, Bill Adling, Bob Berry, and Robert Cole.  Those three made for me not only a self-made world of youthful, exuberant pranks by the time we were 18, together as a quartet (The M-4) we bonded beyond the normal levels of brotherhood; we became friends of a “higher order;” as I said in Facebook, think of a Ferris Bueller-type high school student academically near the top of his class and a student body leader, and then multiply that by 4!  We became class clowns transcendent of the genre of those who make the class disruptively snicker.  We forged a legacy shown in our college years to be unequaled in uniqueness; the legacy of the M-4 gave us an unfair advantage over others’ high school experiences; in the game of “what-did-you-do-in-high-school” the legacy of the M-4 gave us multiple “aces-up-the-sleeve” to play when the cards were laid down on the table.  That alone was justification of my compulsion to write this book, in my opinion, but that is just the “tip of the iceberg.”

I was also compelled to document the “perfect storm” of circumstances that gave birth to the M-4.  Our unbelievably strong friendships were cast within a maelstrom of community disagreement, school administrative and faculty personality confrontations, and school district facility crisis.  This maelstrom was local, yet reflective of the social revolutionary years in the United States defined by the 1960’s.  This maelstrom refocused the school and community of Cisco, Texas, away from the fact that one of the most outstanding classes ever was about to graduate in 1964.  Fatally, our class was not considered as part of the solutions dealing with the disagreements, confrontations, and crisis.  These circumstances are the reason I dedicate the book to the Cisco High School Class of 1964; we did not deserve to be marginalized.

Our four special friendships midst the “perfect storm” of potentially unpleasant and condescending circumstances for our Class of 1964 sparked the defining prank that spawned the M-4.  That defining prank is a major portion of the book, revealing “blow-by-blow” detail much beyond what I had documented in my memoirs.  The book covers all our “career,” a prank-filled history that extended into our college years, when we returned to Cisco for the summers from campuses of higher learning.

Among the many ironies of the M-4 is the fact we were never caught during our “acts,” yet we were always, almost, found out.  The reader is invited to see the other ironies of our “career.”  The book lays out the evidence that divided the community and surrounding area over which opinion was divided concerning the M-4.  Were we treated fairly?  Were our “punishments fitting” for what we had done?  What were our motives?  Why did we behave the way we did?  The reader is invited to answer these questions for his/herself.

I believe the story of the M-4 is transcendent of most high school memoirs.  Nostalgia is part of this book, for sure, but only as a background, in my opinion.  Issues that are considered at one time or another by anyone who attends or attended high school are laid bare by these stories of four class clowns in a small high school in a small west-central town in Texas:  What is the preferred relationship between a community and its public school system?  What is the preferred relationship between the faculty and the administration of a public school district?  What is the ideal relationship between the administration and the community?  Between the faculty and the community?  How should authority of all types be presented to students?  What should students do, if anything, when the foibles of those in authority are exposed?  Are academic and social success for students commensurate with questionable student behavior?  What price do students pay for pulling school pranks?  Is that price worth it?  Some might ask “What does the ‘M’ stand for in M-4?”  Who did we “protect” by our silence; who were non-M-4 and compliant with our pranks?  Or, as the M-4 would ask in the wake of taking physics when they were Juniors, what is matter here?  What is Archimedes Principle do?


SXYTMCHSC1964M4M at first glance appears to be a compilation of posts from my website as constructed by WordPress.  Some readers might be tempted to read just those posts on the site and think they have read the book for free.  That would be a mistake.  Here is a list of reasons to supplement any reading of my site with the purchase of my book:

The book….

>>>>    is a compilation of edited posts from my site.

>>>>    places the posts in “proper” order, so that the stories flow somewhat chronologically.

>>>>    contains a dedication to, a chronology of, and a listing of the Cisco High School Class of 1964.

>>>>    features a name index in the back, whereby any name of interest can be followed on the appropriate pages; find your name, and see what I said about you!

>>>>    includes an author’s page in the back; some of you who think you know me might be surprised!

>>>>    also includes in the back a handy mail order form to obtain additional copies.

>>>>    features an exclusive map of the prank site of the night of February, 11, 1964 — the site in Cisco today bears little or no resemblance to the way it was back then.

>>>>    has a front cover of an unprecedented set of photos.

>>>>    has a back cover of unprecedented endorsements, both from the living and the dead!

>>>>    has a front and back cover displaying either the most famous, or the most infamous, example of Bill Adling’s extensive and excellent portfolio of artwork.


SXYTMCHSC1964M4M is presently on sale in two Texas cities, Cisco and Waxahachie, at $20 per copy, tax included.  In downtown Cisco, it can be found at Waverly’s Coffee Shop, Log Cabin Collectibles and Custom Framing, or The Cisco Chamber of Commerce.  In Waxahachie, copies may be purchased at The Ellis County Museum, The College Street Pub, or the newspaper offices of The Waxahachie Daily Light.  A nice write-up on the book was done by the editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Neal White, in a “Behind The Pages” article in the 7.20.2014 edition entitled “‘Doc’ Hastings and high school bonds.”  The article can be read on my Facebook site or by going to and looking up back articles.  Any additional selling sites will be added to the lists in this post.

For those wanting to order by mail, postage has to be included.  Send your mailing address, along with a check or money order made out to Ronnie J. Hastings to:

Ronnie J. Hastings

114 San Jacinto Ct.

Waxahachie, TX  75165

Additional postage to the copy price of $20 is $5 for the first copy and $3/copy for the second, third, etc.  (For all you math-philes out there, an easy way to get the amount correct for the check or money order for x copies is the formula 23x + 2  — $25 for 1 copy, $48 for 2 copies, $71 for 3 copies, $94 for 4, etc.)  Books shipped promptly for money orders; as soon as check clears for checks.


More than once a purchaser of SXYTMCHSC1964M4M has thumbed through his/her purchase and asked, “Why are there no photos inside like on the cover or on the author’s biography page?”  Those who read at least half-way never ask that question again, for they suddenly understand my answer — “Think of the incriminating evidence!”  This book is NOT my memoirs!

My experience writing this book hints at the best reason to purchase and read it; it is a fun read!  When I need a good laugh, or when, after a tough day, I need a “pick-me-up” mental smile, I remember penning the words of this book, or, now, actually reread whatever section appeals to me at the moment.  This book never lets me down; these are stories of those who for most of my life have compelled my mind to smile.  I both believe and think they will make most minds smile.  This is no book of inspiration, documentation, or high-minded lessons of life.  This is no book of boring, meaningless tales of “how we used to be.”  It is not a police novel or who-done-it mystery.  It is a true-life farce; it is a never-told-before-in-its-completeness comedy of youthful, raucous adventures; it is funny, unusual, and, for many, unbelievable.

Join in on this fun read!




Epilogue to SXYTMCHSC1964M4M

As pointed out in And God Said “Let There Be Friends”……..And It Was Weird! [April, 2012], the M-4, following graduation from Cisco High School, got together and “carried on the M-4 legacy” in two’s or three’s: The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013], The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013], The Summer of 1965 — The Motley Mix [March, 2014], and Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]. We’ve got together in two’s and three’s many times since those days at class reunions and college football games, without executing any of our pranks, even for “old time’s sake.”  Most often, nowadays, Cole and I get together on our respective ranches and exchange free labor (Well, almost free — I work for him for beer.) But, since the dam painting (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]), we have never been together as a quartet to carry on our legacy.

We have been together as a quartet only 2 times since the damn dam painting.  The first was cited at the end of The Summer of 1965 — The Motley Mix [March, 2014].  The second was in the second semester of college, 1966, months before the crashing of the beauty pageant and during Cole’s first semester at A&M as a mechanical engineering major.  Deep in scholastic struggles, Berry had transferred temporarily from Texas A&M to McMurry in Abilene, as had a “buddy” of his he met at A&M, Andy Sikes.  One weekend a campout at Baptist Hollow on the shores of Lake Cisco was planned, with all of the M-4 attending, along with our high school classmates Robert Mitchell and Billy Wilson (both attending CJC as Cole had been) — and, oh yes, Andy Sikes.

Berry had warned Adling, Cole, and me about Andy, who apparently was so “full of himself” and so obnoxious, he was worse than Mike Burzenski (The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013]).  Robert and Billy went to sleep early, but as the night wore on upon the shores of Baptist Hollow, the M-4 could not sleep over the “excitement” of the four of us together again.  As we tried to create our own reunion in the darkness punctuated by dying campfires, Andy, instead of listening and joining in, tried to dominate the conversation and talk about himself.  The three of us looked at Berry, and he gave us a “I told you so!” glance back in the firelight.  It wasn’t long until Adling, with easily the “shortest fuse” of our four temperaments, and  with the “gift” of saying exactly what he wanted without thinking it through, lost his patience with Andy.   Adling gave him a diatribe “cut-down” none of the four can remember nowadays, but I feel safe in assuming that the word “asshole” was probably used more than once; it was so effective Andy shut up and walked away, probably fearing the four of us were going to throw him into the very cold water of the lake.  Our silence at that moment was our approval of what Adling had done.

We decided to get away from Andy Sikes so we could have our “reunion,” so we started to walk back into town from the lake, leaving Andy with the sleeping Robert and Billy.  Making sure it was alright for Berry to desert his “buddy” Andy (It was.), we hiked across the dam of our fame (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]), past the country club on onto the highway past Lee’s house.  Our path took us up and over the hill forming CJC’s setting.  Our last experience as a quartet found Adling, Berry, and me in the night shadows of mesquite trees on the west side of campus in the “wee hours” reminiscing while we “had the back” of Cole, who was busy waking up and seeing his sweetheart, Lois Anne Miller, in the girls’ dormitory; the three of us were hoping we could warn Cole in time before he was caught and arrested as a pervert.  True to M-4 form, Cole was not detected by authorities that night; we trekked on into town, laughing, joking, and just being ourselves.  As indicated in Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013], Berry was married early in the summer of that year, Adling late in the same summer, Cole married Lois Anne in 1967, and I married Sylvia in 1968.


I’d like to again acknowledge the Cisco High School Class of 1964, whose names are listed in the dedication near the beginning.  As we are reminded every class reunion, the people worth remembering in life are those who made our school days worth remembering.  None of the content of this work would have been possible without the year-by-year school-day flux of our class.  This graduating class led the student body after the chair/desk escapade in expressing their support and understanding of what we did and why we did it.  Many other Loboes from other graduating classes, underclassmen to us at the time, made us feel that a broad spectrum of the student body “had our backs.”  We understand that that time was prior to the times of campus student revolts.  Thanks to you all!  A special list of teachers needs to be cited — teachers who seemed to be with the four of us “in heart,” yet were able to do little, if anything, to express their views:  Mrs. Edward Lee, Mrs. Evelyn Bailey, Mrs. Carolyn (Page),  Mr. James Hughes, and Coach Cromartie.

Before I close, I’d like to make a small, special list of XY-type names — names who, if scale, time, and place can be overlooked, would have been perfect additions to the M-4; it is my opinion that if we could or would have added anyone from these pages, only one from our graduating class would be on this list — Joe Woodard.  Other “perfect” additions, in my view, would be Larry Johnson, Prince Altom, Darrell Holt, and Jerry Akers.  These five seem to me to embody the spirit and legacy of the M-4; they would have “fit.”  To award them with the M-4 “seal of acceptance” is the highest praise we can give anyone.  Thanks to this quintet for being supporting “highlights” of these pages!  Perhaps the readers might want to make such a list of their own.

I want to include a personal feeling of thankfulness for the times of these pages.  The summer of 1964 was called the Summer of Freedom, and, as Bob Dylan sang, “The Times, They Are ‘a Changing.”  We finished high school and entered college as the great social revolutions of the 1960’s were coming to a boil, with their three heads:  Civil Rights, Women’s Movement, and anti-War/Gov’t.  The stars of these pages were not revolutionaries, but the fearlessness-facing-change shown in these pages resonates with the spirit of the nation’s young people at that time.  Cisco, Texas, may not have been a microcosm of what was going on in the world then, but the M-4 and those who could be added to the M-4 understood and resonated with the news our generation was creating, striving to change the world for the better.  Not only was it “the best of times and the worst of times,” (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 4 (Coming Together and Planning) [Oct, 2013]), it was a heady time to be alive and young, even in a small, west-central Texas town.

Finally, thanks to the M-4, or, should I say, the other three “in the jail cell with me, saying, ‘Damn, we fucked up!’.” (And God Said, “Let There Be Friends”…And It Was Weird! [April, 2012]) In other words, thanks to the three greatest friends I’ve had — three fellow outliers.  In Preface to SXYTMCHS1964M4M [March, 2014] I asked “what had we done?” to cause these pages to be, hopefully, much, much more than nostalgic, innocent penning of high school memories, as if merely thumbing through yearbooks over fifty years old.  We did the almost unthinkable — we “pushed the envelope” of teen-aged freedom of expression by tenaciously clinging to our silly childhood imaginations borne of our grade school years; no matter what maturity brought our way, we had to make it funny — we had to make jokes of almost everything, including ourselves; we not only shattered “glass ceilings,” we shattered “glass walls” and “glass floors.”  We acted out our dreams and our joyous mental constructs, pushing the “art and science” of pranking to the limits of acceptability, legality, and propriety; for many, we “crossed the line” — more than once.  As a result, we inadvertently exposed the foibles and hypocrisy of authority of all types, and of many social mores.  Yet, in that “rarified air” of executing our “brain children,” our planned pranks, we felt most strongly why we were fast, true friends; we felt most vividly the joy of being young; we felt as if our youth could last forever…



Preface to SXYTMCHSC1964M4M

Writings on high school days conjure the descriptor “nostalgia,” and these writings are no exception, but with a very important qualification. These are stories of high school days out-of-the-box — nostalgia “with a twist,” if you please.

Typical of high school and college memoirs are books such as No Other Time Like This One, by Ed Jackson, (2005, Hannibal Books, ISBN 0-929292-63-4) which, incidentally, is also about high school days in Cisco High School, Cisco, Texas. Jackson’s book is set in the late 1940’s and chronicles friendships made while during high school — memorable friendships. It is filled with stories of normal school activity, dating stories, and how graduates went on to business success and service to their country. By contrast, this chronicles friendships molded in the context of school that were so abnormal, different, and unusual, they transcended beyond “normal” memories to include what can only be called unbelievable. In college, what I thought were typical high school experiences of mine turned out to be outrageous and atypical compared to experiences most high school students lived. As I approach 40 years of teaching high school, I am astonished and amazed that has not changed!

What had we done?  What had the four pictured on the cover wrought?  What was the “twist” we unconsciously put on the high school experience in the 1960’s?  Could this have happened at another time and/or in another place?  Rather than a nostalgia book such as Ed Jackson’s, this is a departure from the “usual” into the attempt to answer these questions.  Whatever it was we did, without it, our days in high school would have been normal and mundane in comparison.  Given what we did, those days were anything but!  And, surprisingly, the four of us, in my opinion, can be reasonably defined, which is attempted near the end of these pages.  But, as I try to “spell out,” I don’t recommend our being seen as examples to emulate.

Yet, our transcendent friendships were and still are based upon something priceless:  fun.  That is worth emulating in any circumstances, though our levels of silliness and extreme forms of fun are certainly not for everyone.  Many readers will resonate with the spirit described in these pages, but I suspect not as many as we would like.  What the world needs now is not only love, but also a whole lot more fun.  We were convinced we had brought extraordinary fun into our own lives, but, as the reader will see, whether the world saw our offerings as fun is quite another matter!

Other words usually conjured in writings on high school days are “innocence” or “we were just kids.”  In our case, I do not think you could describe us as innocent, given all we went through.  Therefore, readers might find a few words I’ve used to describe our adventures as far-from-innocent, coarse, harsh, and definitely inappropriate.  I don’t apologize for this at all, because I don’t feel the need to do so; part of our “extended education” in public schools was so strong and atypical, only strong, harsh examples of our lexicon can do our “beyond-the-diploma curriculum” justice; part of our atypical, unusual education was the development of our own sense of propriety.  But, again, the foundation of our special propriety was and is fun, laughter, humor, and the joys of making each other laugh.

Any other conclusions, lessons, or insights gleaned from these pages must be the responsibility of the reader’s interpretations.  Each “chapter” or posting can be read on its own, resulting in repeated references to important events, which I hope gives the appearance of “flow” and unity throughout the entire work.  (The only exceptions not “on their own” are the Introduction and Chapters 1-10 of the chair/desk escapade.)  Though, I must admit, I do hope every reader is, at the very least, entertained; may every reader of these pages apply to them the Lennon/McCartney lyric from “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite,” off the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all!”


This work is a compilation of posts on my website, entitled Beyond Good and Evil, made possible by WordPress.  This website, in turn, was brought into existence by my site manager, good friend, and former student Jim McDonald.  (Jim was one of the high school student researchers that highlighted my teaching career. (Hard to Believe!  High School Student Researchers?  Say What? [August, 2012])  The work is cross-referenced throughout, using the links within the website; the “chapter” titles are the titles of the posts, and the date on each link refers to the month the post was published on the site with WordPress.   Any reference mentioned not included in this work (like the post about Jim above) can be found easily on Beyond Good and Evil,, using the month/year date.

Jim will be my first acknowledgement and only one of the preface; breaking protocol of most publications; I shall save the rest for the epilogue, for reasons I hope the reader will see by the end of this work.  So, thanks, Jim!  Without your insight and skills, I would not have been motivated toward fulfilling on cyberspace a life-long dream of disseminating tribute to my friends from our school days in the public schools of Cisco, Texas — friends who made those days unusual and unbelievable.



The Summer of 1965 — The Motley Mix

[As a sort-of prelude to the Summer of 1965, Cole and Joe Woodard made sure memories of the M-4 would not fade in Cisco while Adling, Berry, and Hastings were out-of-town in their first year of college. During the Christmas holidays of 1964, these two, to honor The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013], climbed to the top of the City Hall and wired a used Christmas tree to the flagpole. Joe wrote me an account of the incident and sent it to me after I returned to A&M. Like the M-4 flag wired at the same site by Adling and Cole, it stayed atop the building much longer than expected. Also, on the first anniversary of the chair/desk escapade in February, 1965, Cole and Woodard, with the help of Earl Carson, commemorated the birth of the M-4 by working hard to move an abandoned outhouse from some remote place outside town to the little driveway circle of the new high school, the school finished too late to do the Class of 1964 any good. The outhouse barely fit in the back of the pick-up they used.]

Of the three summers in Cisco following our graduation from Cisco High School in 1964, the Summers of 1964, 1965, and 1966, the middle one had a distinct variation. Just briefly listing that variation is very revealing of the latter years of the M-4 and our accompanying friends; its distinction lies in that not just one or two events characterize the summer, different from the cases of summer 1964 (The Flag Escapade — Phase I [Aug, 2013] & The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]) and summer 1966 (Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]).

Berry (Ode to Bob B. Berry [May, 2012]) and I had survived the “fish year” as cadets in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets — he in the Air Force R.O.T.C. and I in the Army R.O.T.C. We both looked forward to the “freedom” of a summer back in Cisco and planned on a camp-out together before we left Aggieland after semester finals. But Berry’s “freedom” was qualified and confined to the beginning of the summer, as he was facing academic probation at A&M, because, in my opinion, he majored more in the “campus-ology” than in his courses; he was learning too late that he could not go through A&M the same way he went through Cisco High School — making good grades easily. He, therefore, was going to have to return to A&M for summer school. In our window of opportunity, we planned on walking out of Cisco some thirteen miles to my parents’ place near Long Branch, after we had “stocked” the campsite with our “stuff” the day before the walk.

For different and diverse reasons, Adling (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012]), Lee (Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [May, 2012]), and Cole (Ode to Robert W. Cole [May, 2012]) could not join us at such short notice before Berry had to go back, so the two of us “carried on” anyway. Walking south out-of-town along US Hwy 183, we were met by my Uncle Joe McKinney, who reminded us in “personal exercise” state that Kennedy was dead. Kay (Wallace) Morris said “Hi” to us on her way to Rising Star and met us on her way back to refresh us with fresh berries she had just obtained.

Two musical events highlighted this hike out. The first came at “Six-Mile Hollow” bridge, about four miles down the highway, the hollow forming the natural geological boundary on either side of which my sets of grandparents lived. North of the hollow is gravel-and-mesquite; south is sand-and-post oak. On the transistor radio we were carrying, the KLIF (Dallas) D.J. said, “Turn up your sets! Here’s the new one from the Rolling Stones!” That was the first time Berry and I heard “Satisfaction,” with that distinctive guitar riff literally dreamed up by Keith Richards. The second came as we were cutting across country off-road through the post oak and blackjack brush. The hit Adling had introduced to us on the car radio a day or two before, “Gloria” by Them, blasted out.

We had made the mistake of letting Earl Carson and Keith Starr know about our camping plans, thinking they did not know our location. We were wrong. The first night of our campout, after we had completed our hike, those two scared the hell out of us by firing their 22 rifles in the air suddenly. The next day, for some unexplained reason, back in Cisco, they tell my mother at the bank what they had done, I suppose not thinking that guns and goofing off do not mix well in the minds of mothers everywhere. After she was off work, she came out to take us back in and not spend our second night. Berry and I had just about had her convinced to let us stay, when, who should show up again with their rifles but Earl and Keith! Berry and I, without a word, began packing to go back in with my mom; we knew this camping trip was prematurely aborted by our “buddies.”

How Adling found time to get into trouble this summer is beyond belief, but get into trouble he did! You see, he basically was holding down four jobs, at Westfall’s service station, at West Texas Produce, at Heidenheimer’s clothing store, and at Cisco Steam Laundry, “juggling” the work shifts among all four. Because of his jobs and because we thought of each other as “most gullible” of our friends, I got to be a “temp” at West Texas Produce unloading trees of bananas off railroad boxcars and watching out for hidden Central American tarantulas, and he talked me into buying a “Prince Jac,” a Nehru jacket at Heidenheimer’s. Because I had lots of different jobs hauling bales of hay that summer, mostly for my dad, Adling crammed in hay-hauling sessions in addition to his four “town” jobs with me, featuring hauling hay throughout the night to avoid the searing heat of the day, and finding a beheaded snake inside a hay bale we at first could not see in the darkness.

With Berry gone to summer school and Lee not a close friend of Cole’s, just Adling and I from our class got to join Cole at the Cole ranch for overnight camping out at the ranch trailer house, where Adling got acquainted with Chuck Cleveland and Marlin Marcum (a year younger than we). Adling also got to know well Prince Altom, a life-long Ciscoan known for driving a hearse when he attended Cisco High School (He was three years ahead of us in school.) (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]). Our freshman year in high school, 1960-1961, would have seen him the President of the Student Council instead of Ken Keltner, had his family not moved just before his Senior year. Also a life-long Baptist, Prince was in seminary, but not the “orthodox” Southern Baptist one in Ft. Worth, a “progressive one” in Switzerland in-between summers. This summer of 1965, he was the music director at First Baptist Church in Cisco, the church which he attended when a boy. He was a favorite of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s, and I got to know him well through them. Berry joined into our times with Prince when home on weekends from summer school, he having known Prince from the days when Prince drove school kids living in southeast Cisco to West Ward elementary, “piling” them in the back of his hearse. The future minister was known for making “beer runs” to Strawn or Mingus for various under-aged Cisco drinkers. I’ve always characterized Prince by one of his “famous” quips: “If you are going to preach about sin, you gotta go out and know what you are talking about!”

In addition to all this (I did not even mention Adling moving on the girl-friend-scale from Cherrie to Suzy to Pam), Adling and I had fun waking each other up “too early” in the mornings — we lived only blocks from each other — he would scratch on the screens of my bedroom to wake me, and when it was my turn, I would sneak into the house and into his bedroom to put on a record and turn the player up “full-blast” as an alarm clock (“Gloria” was my favorite to use for this (see above)). If he and I wanted to wake up Cole for some “Teddy boy” action during the night when Cole was on break from the ranch, we would throw pebbles against the window of his upstairs bedroom; when we wanted to wake him up in the mornings, we would have to get into the house and climb up the stairs to his bedroom, all encouraged by his mom.

One would think that piling on demands of Adling’s time, such as a “burying of the hatchet” incident with the City of Cisco, would assure there would be no M-4 incidents the entire summer. It almost worked for me and my time! One day Adling was telling me of his roller coaster relationship with Pam (College had somehow caused us to talk more to each other about girls.), when his mom called to ask Adling if he would do a favor for Police Chief Parkinson (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]), driving a family whose driver/father was sick to Gilmer, Texas. Adling and I drove down to the Cisco motel where the family was staying, and Chief Parkinson explained the situation, including there was not enough family money to cover the return bus fares for two, so only one of us could go. Adling agreed to drive the family for $15.45. Chief Parkinson seemed to think differently about the M-4 than he did a year before, which was good; he did not treat us like felons and he seemed to trust us. Adling, after successfully driving the family, saved some of his money for bus fare by hitchhiking, but decided to take an early morning bus from Ft. Worth back to Cisco, after hitchhiking between Gilmer and Ft. Worth with a true bar-fighting hood, an Irving policeman, and a homosexual. Waiting for his bus, he got some free booze and visited a “wild” place called “The Cellar.” On the bus he had to ward off another homosexual, so he was glad to finally make it back to Cisco with a great need for sleep.

Not long after Clark Odom’s dad watched Adling, Lee, Carson, Clark, and I screwing around, swimming in the lake at the Odom lake house allegedly painting piping and platforms of the Odoms’ boat dock at Lake Cisco using inner tubes and calling us in his best “Air Force” dialect “a bunch of malfunctions looking for someplace to happen!”, Adling somehow found the time for the following:

In the large-ranch area north of Lake Cisco, on a spread owned S. E. Hittson, a deserted house became notorious as being haunted, sort-of an “urban myth,” Cisco-style. In the school year 1960-1961, when they were Sophomores, George Mitcham and Cliff Clary, got into serious trouble when an employee of Mr. Hittson found them snooping around the “haunted house” one night; the employee was using the house as a temporary residence. George and Cliff went to the Cisco police station at gunpoint to be turned in for trespassing. Hittson did not apparently press charges, and the myth submerged, only to rise again like a phoenix years later in the summer of 1965.

Adling’s younger brother John, Mark Gerrard, brothers Harold and Darrell Davies, and others, on their “nightly summer drives” noticed a light on inside the house of interest. In those days, no one seemed to be living in the house anymore. One evening, spurred by the stories of John, Adling, his girlfriend Pam, Bobby Smith (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 4 (Coming Together and Planning) [Oct, 2013]), John, and others took a drive out to see the light for themselves; upon arrival, Mark Gerrard and the Davies brothers were already there observing from the road. Clearly Adling was the only one of the observers literally carrying an M-4 card in his wallet, and, to him, he thereby had a reputation to uphold in situations like this; the M-4 experience carried its own “urban myth,” which included fearlessness to tread where others dared not go. He decided to lead the investigation of the house with its mysterious light, with the rest following a distance behind. He announced his intentions out loud in case someone was inside (there, of course, was no one) and then managed to pry open a small window set high, through which he squeezed himself. About the time he noted the house full of old “stuff,” John, not to be outdone by his older brother, kicked open the front door, and the whole crowd came in to discover the mystery light to be an ordinary incandescent light bulb apparently left on as a night-light.

About the same time someone drove up in a pick-up to see what the visitors were doing. Adling, thinking quickly, made up a story he was looking for some old lumber for a lake cabin, and he suspected some might be at this deserted house. The man in the pick-up apparently “bought” this story and drove off. The crowd of visitors made a hasty trip back into Cisco, and Adling and Pam came over to my house to relate this adventure and listen to the Stones on my stereo set. I had a date with Sylvia and had to go, but while I was on the date, Adling, Bobby, and some of the others went back out to the house, finding nothing of further interest.

It might be surmised, knowing the bond we shared as M-4 members, that if it were not for things like dates or being out-of-town, Cole and I would be “right in there” from the beginning of this “haunted house” caper. But Cole and I all but lived on farms and ranches, and could have told Adling before he went out what he would find, having seen night lights in old deserted houses and barns throughout the rural countryside. We would not want to go on the land of somebody’s else’s ranch because our fathers taught us “not to trespass, that you be not trespassed upon.” It was a code among owners of farms and ranches: Do not go on someone’s place without permission — you might get shot. (As George and Cliff had found out about this particular house years before.)

But “this was different,” argued Adling, fascinated by the mythology of the mysterious; this was “UFO” stuff to him, and clearly he was getting a big, bad charge out of being the leader of the investigation, especially in front of his girl friend. Besides, earlier, I had learned the lesson of the mysterious on posted property when rumors of a “monster” on a ranch just south of Cisco turned out to be the owner, Les Threet, proprietor of a variety store that competed with Mott’s variety store, dressing up with a rug or old fur coat scaring off teens hanging out at the gate entrance to his property. I had actually gone out with some “monster” hunters one evening, but we saw nothing. When my dad found out about the trip, he clued me in to what was going on, as Les was a coon hunting buddy of my dad’s and he told my dad what he was doing. In the end, to do what he was doing to scare kids was too dangerous; kids can carry guns, especially if they think they are seeing “monsters.” Luckily, no one got hurt, Les stopped his “pranking” the kids, and “monster” stories of that site faded away.

On a Sunday night (while I was at church), Adling returned once again with John, Bobby, and the Davies brothers, Cole’s and my M-4 buddy apparently not wanting any “country” perspective on the light, which was still burning bright. They were joined by Jimmy Smith and Travis Roach. Adling and one of the Davies approached the house with the usual verbalization in case someone was inside with a gun. He eventually got some writing materials from the car and left a smart-ass note that read “To save money, turn off lights.” Someone shouted out that a car was coming down the road, and Adling had to make a dive into Bobby’s get-away car, just as he had to do at the end of our painting the Lake Cisco dam spillway the night before our high school graduation (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]).

No more visits to the house were made after that, and it looked like the whole thing would “blow over” like Les Threet’s “monster,” but, while Adling was out-of-town visiting Pam’s family, things got “hot” for Adling and his fellow house visitors when rumors began circulating around town that Mr. Hittson was trying mightily to find out who had been trespassing on his property. Adling found out about the “heat” by phone before he got back, and, upon his return, I filled him in on all I knew — he, as the “leader” of the house visitors, and the oldest of them, was being fingered by all the questions thrown at the others; in his absence, without his being able to defend himself, he was being incriminated, as if plea bargaining was going on. Adling was being painted as a “gang leader.”

Adling was scheduled, along with a couple of the other “house visitors,” were to appear down at the police station, reminiscent of our appearance in city court a year before (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]). He and I thought it best he should get a haircut, for an improved appearance, before he went for his appearance. At the police station Adling was questioned for about two hours and he then requested to make a written statement, which took another hour. He was straightforward, truthful, and thorough in his statement. Confident he had shown there was no reason to make this a serious case, he was disappointed to find Mr. Hittson was apparently doing his best to create just such a case. Cole, in from his dad’s ranch, and I went over to Adling’s house to show him support and offer to help in any way we could; we found solace in the legacy of the M-4, but that did not seem to ease the uncertainty of the situation.

A few days later Adling and the guys who had been with him at the house were ordered to appear before the county’s grand jury to review the case Mr. Hittson was building. The grand jury convened at the county courthouse in Eastland. The story we heard was that Hittson was pressing charges under the influence of the County Sheriff, but Hittson seemed to be entirely self-motivated. One the afternoon the grand jury met, Prince Altom and I drove over to Eastland to offer our support. In the courthouse, where Prince’s grandfather worked, Mr. Altom wondered “what in the world” Prince and I were doing being so interested in the grand jury hearing. Mrs. Adling, who was present with a host of parents, seemed to appreciate our show of support. All the guys who were with Adling at the “haunted house” — his brother John, Bobby Smith, the Davies brothers, Mark Gerrard, Jimmy Smith, and Travis Roach — were present. Prince and I got to talk to Adling (with his fresh haircut and dressed in a suit) in the halls of the courthouse, even there joking to lighten Adling’s spirits, saying we were his “personal lawyers,” though we would make lousy character witnesses! We seriously advised him to take a “cool” attitude in front of the grand jury, never acting belligerent or haughty, though that was probably unnecessary for Adling’s head at the time. Adling’s “lawyers” took him out to lunch before the hearing began, back to joking we were taking Adling to his “last free meal as a free man,” and we almost got Adling in trouble by not understanding the afternoon starting time; we were late and barely made it for Adling to be questioned first. “Adling’s lawyers” were not allowed to be in the jury room. Prince and I had to “sweat it out” in the halls of the courthouse.

As Adling was questioned, the others were brought before the grand jury also. Adling did most of the talking, answering questions straightforwardly and politely, and even, near the end of the questioning, getting in some points about the necessary curiosity of Columbus. The jury deliberated for a while, during which Adling made a quick round trip to Cisco and back, and returned their verdict — no indictments would be handed down to any of the guys. This, despite the fact a couple of ranchers were on the jury, and because, probably, of the fact the jury’s chairman was Mr. James McCracken, President of the First National Bank of Cisco, where my mom worked; Mr. McCracken was one of the great humanitarians of Cisco in those years. After the verdict was read, Adling, as the guys’ spokesperson, offered to do free labor for Mr. Hittson on his ranch, which he turned down. Adling emerged from the courthouse more firmly convinced that Hittson had not been the boys’ “friend” he had tried so hard to make himself out to be, for, after he rejected Adling’s offer, he emphatically “advised” Adling and his “cohorts” to “go straight.” He really thought them criminals, not pranksters.

Immediately available to Adling and all of his supporters was the image of his disorganized lawyers Altom and Hastings midst stacks of messy records and law books, of a raving Hittson screaming “Hang ‘em! String ‘em up!”, and of a zealous Teddy Boy Adling “squirreling out,” finally, of a bad situation.

One might think the preceding would be enough for one summer, but this is the M-4 we’re talking about, and about the weird summer of 1965.

At the same time Adling was getting into “hot water” over the “haunted house,” someone he had met at Boys’ State back in high school and with whom he had stayed in written correspondence, Jerry Akers, was scheduled to arrive at Cisco as Adling’s guest! Imagine his surprise when the guest was met at the bus station by Adling, Lee, and Clark Odom and told Adling was under grand jury investigation! It says a lot about Jerry (Adling never invited just anyone to visit him in Cisco.) that he was none too “put off” by the situation, as one would expect an “ordinary” guest to be. Adling brought Jerry over to my house for introductions and record-playing, and the next day I took Jerry on a driving “tour” of Cisco, featuring visuals for my verbal history of the M-4, all while Adling had to work. My memoirs recorded my initial assessment of Jerry as a guy of “remarkable adaptability and freedom from ‘hang-ups.'” He filled in for Adling at work the day Adling had to appear before the grand jury; the day after Adling was “free,” the quartet of Jerry, Adling, Altom, and I went to Abilene to see a Jerry Lewis “flick.” Adling, Akers, and I took pictures of each other on the steps of CJC (Cisco College) dressed in a sheet with a laurel-leaf wreath around our heads, like we were Roman Senators or Greek philosophers. Akers (note how he deserves a last-name label) put on a façade, as if he was “flabbergasted” at all the Cisco/M-4 treatment we were giving him, a “façade” in that when each “party” was over, he was actually cool, calm, and delighted, even after drinking one night with Adling and Earl Carson or after meeting characters like Cliff Clary.

Meanwhile, I was in need of a harmless retaliatory prank. This summer involved a lot of interaction with both Sylvia and her sister Sandra, and I’m not talking about dating, though Sylvia and I steadily did date. Prince Altom had introduced the party novelty of “table lifting,” the fun “game” of four people raising a light weight card table with all eight palms down on the top upon one table leg; the novelty featured spinning the table around on its one leg, all four “lifters” going in circles, and “asking the table” questions whose answers could be tapped out; often the table was mysteriously “correct.” It took a while to figure out, but the whole thing works by diversionary chanting, which gets the four “lifters'” minds off the fact they are doing the whole thing through their hands; but they are doing it subconsciously — lifters are not aware they are making the table do all the things it does. I remember having fun introducing people to the “spirits” of the table, and watching skeptics from the youth groups of Prince’s, Sylvia’s, and Sandra’s First Baptist Church and Joe Woodard’s and my East Cisco Baptist Church become astonished when they experienced the subconscious phenomenon for themselves. I introduced it to Adling and Cole, of course, and we had fun trying to figure it out. Sylvia and Sandra invited the three of us to come out to the Hart house one Sunday afternoon when we happened to be at Adling’s house lifting a table — to come out and do the same thing there. So it was 3 of the M-4 and Sandra raised the Hart card table to wild gyrations.

One of my odd “odd” jobs that summer was being the substitute secretary in the office of East Cisco Baptist Church, while Mrs. Marie Brock was on vacation. During that week, Sandra, in the wake of our “table” visit, I suppose, got the idea to have Rev. Mart Agnew, a long-time Baptist minister known for his practical jokes and telephone pranks, to call me at the church office in the voice of an “old woman,” and I fell for it, much to my chagrin as a “professional” M-4 prankster. Sandra’s prank was made even more successful with me when Sylvia “played along” and acted interested in the call I got from this “eccentric old lady.” I did not find out I had been “conned” until Mart told my mother at work at the bank what he had done, and my mother had a good time relaying the details to me. So, as a matter of M-4 pride, “something had to be done.” And it was not going to be easy to fool someone clever enough to utilize the talents of Mart Agnew. I realized I had to “hit” them close to “home,” having faith that, once more, Sylvia would not “drop me like a hot rock;” my faith that true love trumps pranks was again going to be tested. (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 7 (Found Out…) [Oct, 2013], The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 9 (Continued Aftermath and The Birth of a Legacy) [Oct, 2013], The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013])

Jerry Akers’ visit gave me a way of fulfilling my “need.” Sylvia and Sandra were well-known church soloists; the “Hart twins” were in “high demand” for special music presentations at Cisco’s First Baptist Church, for other churches in the area, and for funerals. (Sylvia sings alto and Sandra sings soprano.) I came up with the idea of Akers posing as an agent of Word Music Co. out of Waco, a music company that recorded regional church music performed by amateurs — an agent looking for new talent, namely wanting to record a sampling of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s singing. Akers pretended like he couldn’t do something like that, but by now Adling and I saw through his false modesty; Akers could pose as anyone he wanted. I checked with Altom at the church with my plans, and he offered the use of the church’s tape recorder for the “agent.” On the day before Akers had to leave Cisco, he was skiing on Lake Cisco with Adling, and I (a non-skier) took photos of them on the water. That night the three of us went to Eastland to see a couple of Edgar Allan Poe “flicks.” Akers was coming around on the idea, but was still not convinced to do it.

The next day, his last in Cisco, Akers was back at the lake skiing with Adling and Clark Odom, so I took Altom out to the lake with me for one last try. By the end of a boat ride full of answers to questions of Akers’, Altom, Adling, and I got him to “come around.” The deed had to be done before Akers left on the bus early that evening, so we all went back into town for preparation. I got detoured by something I had to do for my dad at one of the farms at midday, so by the time I got back into Cisco for the second time that day, I thought it was too late, and I had decided I had to call the whole thing off. But, Adling and Akers already had the whole thing going: Akers, who alias was “Warren Atwood,” so he could use Ading’s monogrammed brief case (“W” & “A” for William Adling), “agent for Word Music Co.,” had called the Harts, where we knew Sylvia and Sandra would not be (both working in the offices at CJC), the number to contact them was given “Warren” by their mother, and “Warren” set up an appointment that afternoon at the Hart house, talking to Sylvia on a CJC phone, for a recording of the Hart twins’ talents. We had to scramble fast!

Akers dressed in a suit and we all bivouacked at the First Baptist Church. Altom had the tape recorder ready and gave Akers some operating lessons (We all hoped the twins would not recognize the recorder from the church.). Altom and I also gave Akers some church music jargon, including names of famous gospel singers we knew Sylvia and Sandra admired. We faced the problem of coming up with a car the Harts would not recognize, and who should drive by but my cousin Dwayne in a white Chevy. Flagging him down in the street by the church, we told him quickly of the plan, and he consented to let us borrow his car for a few minutes. Then, up drives Lee (Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [Apr, 2012]) off work from Cisco Steam Laundry to visit Altom, and he gets briefed on the situation to become, at the very least, an interested bystander to see if all this was going to work. Adling, Altom, Lee, Dwayne, and I watched Akers load up the recorder and brief case into Dwayne’s car, and Adling, Lee, and I, in Adling’s car, led Akers out the Breckenridge Hwy (US 183) to the turn-off to the Harts’ house (Akers had forgotten the directions Sylvia gave him over the phone.). The three of us returned to the church to await with Altom and Dwayne the results of my “brain-child.”

Akers alone in Dwayne’s car did return to the church after what seemed an eternity. By the reserved smile on his face, I first thought he had been found out. I asked him how things turned out.

“I want to get out-of-town as quickly as possible!” he answered.

“What do you mean, Jerry? Did things come off all right?” I asked again.

“Just fine — too good, in fact!”

Indeed, similar to the chair/desk escapade that spawned the M-4, the execution of the “Word Music” caper exceeded expectations, thanks to the incredible impromptu acting skills of Jerry Akers. So convincing before the Harts had he been, he had no stomach for ever facing any of them again; he was not acting at all now, but was most sincere about catching his bus and getting out-of-town! With our thanks to our visitor, Adling saw to it Akers made his “escape” from Cisco, but it took, ironically, Adling and Akers having to chase the bus down (which was late) to get “Warren Atwood” on it.

Dwayne had hardly driven off with his returned car and Lee had hardly left, wishing us luck and promising his silence on what he had seen that late afternoon, when Altom and I began discussing what we were going to do with all this “stain of success on our hands,” especially upon mine. We at first thought we might wait for the next youth fellowship the following Sunday and “spring” the tape “Warren” had recorded of Sylvia and Sandra on them. But things “got out of hand” too quickly (as seemed to happen in most, if not all, M-4-related escapades) for that, so successful had been my “retaliatory prank.”

Sylvia called me that evening about “their surprise visit,” and Sandra called up Altom with the same excitement. Both of us had to feign excitement and congratulations, but we both asked questions to calm down the situation, like did they see any Word Music I.D. on “Warren.” We both had to say we hoped they would hear back from Word soon. We also found out they had already contacted several of their relatives with the “good news!” I was present out at the Harts when Sandra called Prince, and he asked to speak with me over the phone. While I was saying something for the Harts’ ears as if he was saying something completely different, he was actually saying something similar to “Ronnie Jack, this is going too far! Things are getting out of hand! You had better tell them, and the sooner the better. I cannot lie to Sandra and keep this up. I’ve got my job” (music director at First Baptist) “to think about too!” He went on to say that in light of the twins having contacted already members of their extended family, to wait until Sunday to “come clean” would be way too late to avoid an even bigger “catastrophe.” After talking with Altom, I knew I had to reveal the truth that very night.

The confession I had to make to Sylvia, Sandra, and their parents seemed even harder than the answer I had to make in the M-4 “line-up” in the principal’s office back in February, 1964 (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 7 (Found Out….) [Oct, 2013] & The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 8 (Admission, “Punishment,” and Immediate Aftermath) [Oct, 2013]). I started out with, “Well, things did not turn out as I had originally planned.”

Soon I was asked, “Do you know who that was that came out here, Ronnie?”

“Yes,” I said, trying to smile appropriately.

“Who was it?”

“A friend of Bill Adling’s visiting in Cisco.”

I did not know what to expect — was I going to be thrown off the premises? Were they going to laugh the whole thing off? Were Sylvia and Sandra going to break down and cry, after they had broken a few articles upon my head? The reality was a mixture of being stunned and amused, followed by a disbelief I would do such, along with a disbelief they would “fall” for such. I had to express a back-handed apology for the plan working so well. Most of the rest of my “date” that evening was spent on Sylvia and Sandra re-phoning their relatives with news of what had really happened. One of Sandra’s calls was typical:

“Do you remember me calling you about the representative from Word Music Co. coming out today to record our voices?” (response) “Well, do you know a guy named Ronnie Hastings?

“He didn’t!?!!” came the voice on the other end of the line.

“I’m afraid he did!” said Sandra. Etc…….etc……

As news spread about what I had done, all the reactions from different denizens of the community were summed up in one: a good friend of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s, Bernadine (Campbell) Donovan coming up to me in the lobby of East Cisco Baptist Church and exclaimed, “Oh, Ronnie! How could you!?” I didn’t know whether she wanted me to feel like a war criminal, or a Casanova, or both.

I surmise that by the time that summer was over, the Harts had somehow forgiven me. At least Sylvia and Sandra seemed to, for I traveled with them to a church music camp — at Piasano, in the trans-Pecos area of Texas, lead by none other than Prince Altom, and I returned without being maimed or poisoned. Even better, Sylvia and I were still a couple!

The Summer of 1965, despite its chaotic and motley mix of Prince Altom, Jerry Akers, grand juries, and The Word Music Co., actually came to an end in a somewhat circular, almost logical way: Berry returned to Cisco in the break between summer school and the start of his and my Sophomore (“Pisshead” in Aggie lingo) year at A&M. He was going to be a Pisshead in the newly-non-compulsory Corps of Cadets and I was going to be in my first year out of the Corps as a “non-reg” — a civilian. To celebrate Berry’s return, we decided to camp out at the same place to which he and I walked at the beginning of the summer (see above), only this time without the hike. Thus, Adling, Berry, Lee, and I camped out at the Long Branch camp site with no visits from Earl, Keith, or their 22’s. Even while driving out to the site, we behaved just as we did when we camped out on the hill at the Mangum camp site during our high school, conjuring memories and feelings that were to us priceless. We were joined by Cole and Marlin Marcum later that first night. There we were — the M-4 + Lee + Marlin — having fun and giving Berry plenty of renditions of the summer of ’65 that was about to end.

Little did we know that was the next-to-last time ever the M-4 would be together as a quartet.


[Lest the reader think Rev. Mart Agnew got off “scot-free” from his part in Sandra’s prank on me, during the Thanksgiving holidays of 1965, Darrell Holt, visiting my house, being reminded of the Word Music escapade, decided that Mart needed to be “paid back.” With the encouragement of my parents, I called up Rev. Agnew in a high-pitched nervous voice like I was a CJC student needing to get “married to my boyfriend” because I was pregnant! I told him both of us were beyond the age of consent. My “boyfriend” and I were invited to his house right away. I donned grubby work clothes and my coonskin cap (genuine, by the way) as the “groom,” and Darrell, much larger and taller than I, put on one of my mother’s old dresses, rolled up his pants’ legs to expose his hairy legs, and stuck a pillow up his dress front as if he was “the bride with child.” Mart met us at his door all dressed in a suit — surprised, to say the least, to see the “couple” on his front porch. He denied he was fooled, but, after a few minutes of good-natured laughter, Darrell and I got back into the car in front of Mart’s house. We looked at each other, giggling, snickering, and thinking the same thing: “I think we fooled him!” said Darrell.

“I think we did too!” I said. My memoirs describe that visit to the pranking preacher as a “sweet success.”]

We Are the Outliers

Education writer Malcolm Gladwell defines “outliers” as those who operate at the extreme outer edge of what is statistically possible. Anything that is measurable and is randomly distributed graphs into the well-known “bell curve” whereon “average” is most of the population in the large middle of the graph. Therefore, by Gladwell’s definition, measurements from outliers are on the “wings” of the bell curve, on the extreme right or extreme left, graphically speaking (not politically speaking).

Grasping for words that accurately describe those with whom I shared the experiences that compeled me to write my memoirs (And God Said, ‘Let There Be Friends’….And It Was Wierd! [April, 2012]), I realized “outliers” might fit the bill, or “student outliers”. As a physicist, I do not believe analyzing complicated human phenomena, such as love and humor, robs them of their value, beauty, and essence; for me, analyzing has only deepened and magnified the joys of these phenomena. Exploring the insight of what characteristics made my friendships in junior high and high school, specifically those friendships that made up the M-4 (The M-4….And the ‘M’ Stands for…. [May, 2012]) (Adling, Berry, Cole, and I), has magnified my appreciation of who we were, what we did, and what we meant to each other — magnified exponentially.

I have been fortunate to have “outlying” experiences in areas other than the M-4, such as students of mine at Waxahachie High School who became de facto researchers in the university sense of “researchers” (Hard-to-Believe! High School Student Researchers? Say What? [August, 2012]) in the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s. The extreme “outlying” world of being a doctoral candidate and writing a Ph.D. dissertation, is another such experience.

But to be an outlier among other fellow outliers in the schools of a small west-central Texas town called Cisco? Now, THAT is way out on the wings of the bell curve! That is far, far from average! As Adling would say, “Far out, man!” As Berry would say, “Well, I’ll be dogged!” As Cole would say, “I don’t know……..are you sure?”

What follows, then, is a deep, philosophical analysis of our M-4 experience that exploded in the years 1963-1966, our last year in Cisco High School and our first two years of college or university. That to which I refer will include the “odes” to the other 3 (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012], Ode to Bob B. Berry [May, 2012], and Ode to Robert W. Cole [May, 2012]), the entire chair/desk escapade series (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Introduction [Oct, 2013] and Chapters 1-10 — all [Oct, 2013] and each referenced herein as “Chapter X”), and other episodes like The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013], The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013], That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013], and Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant – Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]. It serves as a final commentary of all the detailed school experiences I have recorded with the help of my memoirs.

It has come to my attention that even those three whom I honor might not care about the significance of what we forged together; as my friend and former student Jeff Browning has recently said, “The world doesn’t give a shit about your wheelhouse!” On the other hand, they really might care, but are fearful of talking to me about it, else I reveal to the public unpleasantries they prefer to be kept private. There even is the slight possibility, slight in my estimation, that jealously, pride, envy, resentment, regret, feelings of superiority, feelings of inferiority, shame, remorse, self-pity, distaste, feelings of entitlement, or something similar has reared its ugly head within our friendships during our latter years spanning at least 50 years from the time of the M-4.

If there is any reason I should not document and comment upon our past, that reason needs to be communicated to me, by the M-4 or by the non-M-4, for I cannot see any such reason. My evidence justifying no such reason is straightforward: 1) I tend to remember more of the “good” than the “bad.” I do not write exposes of my friends; I write tributes to them, tributes through “rose-colored” glasses. 2) However, I do not “put them on a pedestal,” nor make them out as something they were not; I write about them, as I try to write about myself — “warts and all.” Part of the “outlying” nature of our friendships was to “cut each other down” when the situation called for it. 3) Enough time has past, enough people have died, and enough life has been lived that anything short of edifying, full disclosure seems unworthy of what it means to be an outlier as we. 4) Our experience as outliers could very well be useful and encouraging to anyone of any generation who has developed low-probability friendships such as ours; to “come clean” about our experiences might embolden and encourage others who dare to take their acquaintances with their school chums to the far wings of the bell curve. It is important to let others know, it seems to me, that friendships of outliers in school can alter so much of your life — by expanding and changing your views on education, society, loyalty, philos — love of your fellow humans, knowledge, challenges, authority, strife, career, family, and attitude.

Award-winning public school teacher in Norman, OK, Judy Burns, immediately thought of what to call us when I was talking to Judy and her husband Jim about the M-4. “You guys were outliers,” she said, matter-of-factly, based upon her reading Malcolm Gladwell. The more she talked about outliers, the more I began to see she was correct about us. What a contrast to the crass analyses and comments about the M-4 I had been told in the past, such as “You guys were just bored!”, “Y’all should have been more involved in community service!”, or “The four of you were a mild form of sociopaths!” It was clear those who brushed off what we did with such statements were not outliers — they were in the crowd in the middle of the bell curve. Judy did not think of herself as an outlier in school, but, as a teacher, she saw student outliers over the years in her classes and recognized us through them — placing her way outside the middle of the bell curve of teachers; I now wonder how many teachers such as Judy could recognize outliers in their classes; too few, I suspect.

My fellow teaching colleagues at Canterbury Episcopal School in DeSoto, TX, with whom I have “deep” discussions over lunch, specifically Madeleine Hoffman and Katherine Reves, agreed with Judy, as they too learned about the M-4. What these two emphasized was the improbability that there would emerge four outliers in the same small graduating class (4 out of 54 1964 graduates of Cisco High School); they guessed the “normal” ratio would be something like 1 in 50 or more. Call it luck, chance, fate, God, destiny, or whatever, our existing together in the same classrooms was way off on the wings of the bell curve! It was part of the unusual circumstances (Chapter 1, Chapter 2) in which our friendships were forged.

Three of the four, Adling, Berry and I, came from the study group that became a hallmark of our friendships (Chapter 2); Lee and Odom, both of whom became MD’s, completed the study group, but, as will be seen, could not be considered outliers; and, the fourth of the M-4, Cole, was not a member of the study group. Moreover, the age of the outlier friendship pairings among the four varied from long-term (Berry and I) to short-term (Cole and I, Cole and Berry, Cole and Adling) (Chapter 2). So there is no correlation with our being outliers and our study group or how long we knew each other prior.

And, there was no correlation with success in academics. Lee, Odom, and I were the most studious (We became the 3 “doctors” of the graduating class.), and, because I was an outlier, I was not allowed to be the valedictorian of the graduating class, to which I was entitled (Chapter 8). However, all of us were involved in extracurricular activities such as athletics, band, class officers, Student Council, Drama Club, and honors academic groups. But a great majority of our classmates were also, so, again, no correlation.

Cutting straight to the first correlations, I think we were all motivated, like Lee and Odom, to do well in academics and extra-curricular activities, or, better, we all behaved as if we were so motivated. Whether pushed by parents, spurred by academic competition with our classmates, pushed by the necessity to go to college, urged by each other, or finding pure joy in learning specific things, the four of us wanted to do well academically — to the point we would spend time on our studies together or separately when many of our schoolmates saught excuses not to do the work. I think I scored highest in the “pure joy” academic scale, followed by Cole, then Berry, and, finally, Adling.

Cole and I “took everything” in Cisco High, almost; the same could not be said of Adling, Berry, Lee, or Odom. All four of us counted academics as such a “necessary evil,” we, to some extent, embraced the required curriculum as if it was something we “snatched” from the grasp of the school, the teachers, and the administration and made it “ours.” It was in the midst of our study group I recall having the epiphany-like realization that, with our textbooks, and each other, we could “learn this stuff” on our own, without teachers. And we, to some extent, believed just that. This independence from the structure of school of our learning was tantamount to our becoming outliers. It meant, by extrapolation, we could learn from experiences beyond the school as well as experiences within the school. A “curriculum” was everywhere, if we just looked.

In other words, we were not beatniks, juvenile delinquents, hippies, grease monkeys, goat ropers, ladies’ men, drop outs, druggies, hoods, Teddy boys, Mods, or Goths; we were not outside the school — we WERE the school. And the school was ours (even when we were underclassmen). School was something we could manipulate to our own advantage.

This independent attitude toward the structure of school put us at odds with literally all authority — teachers, administrators, parents, coaches, upperclassmen, ministers, and community leaders, not to mention police and highway patrol. We could pretend to listen to the advice of all of these forms of authority, but when the talking was over, we were in control of the decision, and never made one just because somebody else wanted us to. After disappointing a few authority figures by making our own decisions, often after consulting each other, instead of following what they preferred we choose, we found fewer and fewer trying to “pull” us one way or another; wise teachers would suggest to us, not conjole. The only people we saw as our peers were our fellow students, both upperclassmen and underclassmen, especially those in our own graduating class. Even when we were “big, bad Seniors” we were inclined to not treat freshmen as badly as we were treated as freshmen, with or without new rules against hazing. As I said in Chapter 10, we were nobody’s “patsies,” “yes-men,” “bitches,” or pawns, nor did we want anyone else to be any of those things to us.

This fierce independence probably cost us a lot of “sanctioned” opportunties from the good graces of the authorities, though Adling did get to go to Boys’ State in Austin and Berry got to go to university summer enrichment programs, as did Lee. But we never resented that cost, laughing it off with jokes.

What took priority in our minds was anything that enhanced our fun-based experiences, especially our imaginative, fun-filled conversations. This meant the “normal” activites such as attending movies and camping out, but it especially meant taking up classroom time making our classmates and ourselves laugh at each other. We separated ourselves from the rest of the class by being overt “class clowns,” each in our own way (Adling’s Ode, Berry’s Ode, Cole’s Ode) Our reputations were based more upon our silliness than upon our academic performances, not so much on how we thought of others. We did make fun of just about everyone, but the reason we did not suffer from this “sin” socially was that we ourselves were among the main “brunts” of our jokes, ridicule, and “cut downs.” The more we were accused of being irresponsible, the more irresponsible we wanted to be! Things progressed to the point that if we could not get adults and our peers to laugh, we would settle for shock, indignation, horror, amazement, or simple speechlessness.

The measure of our “outlying” experience each school year was that it took, especially among Adling, Berry, and me (Cole was the silent one of the M-4 in both tongue and pen.), at least a full page in our annuals (yearbooks) to remind each other of the “antics” we had “pulled off” inside and outside school the previous school year. After the revelation from Judy Burns, I realized that in my four high school annuals resided, in the form of Adling’s and Berry’s handwriting, evidence we were indeed outliers. It was evidence whose meaning only we four could grasp and appreciate.

So our version of being outliers was based upon fun-driven independence of mind bent upon determining our own way; we pleased others as we pleased. What made us glaringly student outliers, so very unusual from most other groups of teenagers, was that we did not incorporate the dating of girls or our girlfriends into our friendships. We all dated, but we just didn’t talk about it much to each other (Chapter 2). There were at least two factors accounting for this — a) the gender segregation among friendships, which assured that our friendships were exclusively male, and b) our deliberately immature behavior (our silliness as class clowns) was not attractive to potential girl friends; we appeared childish to the female population, who, of course, were biologically more mature than we boys. We were having so much fun, how we appeared to the opposite sex was of little or no concern to us.

That’s the negative part of what propelled us to be outliers; the positive part was what bonded our friendships like super glue; and I use the adjective “super” to emphasize our bond was as strong as, say, that between the soldiers in the movie “Lone Survivor.” We were bonded by pranks, because pranks created risk, which, though not dangerous as in the case of soldiers, nonetheless bonded us as we successfully completed our “missions.” When we were pranking, as four, as three, or as just two, we could feel directly why we liked to be around each other, why we felt supported and respected by each other, why, as I said in And God Said, ‘Let There Be Friends’….And It Was Weird! [April, 2012], the reason we got up on school mornings to go to school at Cisco High School was to be with each other in class. (Risk-taking has long been identified as a characteristic of the developing teen-aged brain, a process that doesn’t end until about age 25; if young people did not take risks and “venture into the unknown,” they would not easily “leave the nest,” a necessary component for the advancement of human society. The problem with risk-taking is that when mixed with modern technology, like the automobile, it can become lethally dangerous to teens.)

Pranks……like the classic chair/desk escapade executed on February 11, 1964, the prank that gave us our name and began the M-4 experience. From the reasons why we did it (Chapter 1, Chapter 3), through planning (Chapter 4), through execution (Chapter 5, Chapter 6), through being found out and “punished” (Chapter 7, Chapter 8), and through the aftermath and our metamorphosis (Chapter 9, Chapter 10), our unusual friendships (Chapter 2) mixed with the unusual circumstances of our Senior year (Chapter 1) to produce a life-changing event of our own making. Part of both our friendships and our circumstances was the further social anomaly we were four outliers-in-making together in the same setting unwittingly egging each other on to be outliers of increasing degree — all without really knowing was “outliers” were and “outlying” was. We emerged not only from this first episode, but from all our pranks transcendent of regret or remorse — because our pranks were not crimes, we remained untouched by any “punishment” they could throw at us (Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10). In the world we had created for ourselves, our pranks were more than worth it. Through pranks we had turned ourselves from best friends to something even stronger — we had turned ourselves into an improbable collection of outliers that found themselves in the same time and place — outliers of Cisco way out in west-central Texas and way out on the wings of the bell curve.

The world of maturity and seriousness could not end the world created by our pranks. Only we could, and it ended as we chose to bring falling in love with special members the opposite sex into our lives, as we got married over the years 1966-1968. Only falling in love could bring us more adrenalin than successfully pulling off one of our pranks; only falling in love could transform us from student outliers to the next chapters in our lives, to new forms of outlying.

Those of us making up the M-4 were unusual teen-agers amidst unusual circumstances within which we formed unusual friendships. Using these ingredients, we executed unusual deeds. It was “unusual” to the fourth power! We were transformed by this exponential combination into student outliers. It was a transformation that has affected us for a lifetime. And I, for one, think and believe life is far, far better and far, far more interesting out on the far, far edges of the bell curve than it would have been had we been more “average.” Far out, man!

“We are the champions! We are the champions!” go the lyrics of a hit for the mega-group Queen. Long after the facts that formed us, the M-4 has discovered the lyrics for our hit: “We are the outliers! We are the outliers!” Perhaps we have helped to define the term “outlier,” at least for secondary school students, infusing into it the fun and laughter of self-liberating youth.  If outliers have a motto, it probably is from the Roman poet and satirist Horace (65 BC – 8 BC):  “Carpe diem!” — “Seize the day!”


“…Well, I try my best

To be just like I am,

But everybody wants you

To be just like them…”

– from Maggie’s Farm, by Bob Dylan



The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 10 (Commentary)

Returning to the question from the Introduction: Why, then, this prank? It was an impish dream made real by extraordinary, out-of-the-box teenagers — not one, or two, but the improbable grouping of four of us of like mind (4 out of 54). We had the “gall” (or, better, using words from fellow Senior 1964 Joe Torres, the huevos) to use that dream-come-true to “kick against the pricks” of a graduation year “going bad,” to reach out and “seize the day” — to take control of a situation that was turning the end of our school days into something very forgettable. It was admittedly strange and improbable, but this prank seemed to “do the trick.” Like a bolt of lightning, the prank shot into the “perfect storm” of unusual circumstances and altered permanently the course of the storm into a memorable and fun-filled trek. (By the way, in my opinion, Joe’s compliment to us is the highest one guy can give to another!)

The question of “Would we do it again, knowing what we know today?” may be moot, as I think we would answer “Absolutely yes!” IF the circumstances were the same. But, they can never be the same again. As to the question “Was it worth it?,” which is probably not moot, the answer would be the same, especially if you factor out the effects of the prank on our mothers. It is hard to put into words, but it was as if we graduated from high school with at least two diplomas, not one; we had another from the “School of Hard Knocks,” from the “School of How the World Really Works,” if you please. Earlier than most high school graduates, we learned some very important lessons beyond those in the classroom. We learned we could keep and nurture the joys of childhood without having to remain childish; we learned that respect for authority had to be earned by the authorities, not given to them because of their positions; we measured evidence supporting the philosophy that schools are about students, not about adults — schools are about developing students’ minds, not about providing “career ladders” for so-called “professional educators.” We learned that when friendships clash with the wishes of the school, of the family, and of the community, friendships can triumph.

An obvious part of our triumph was the fact the chair/desk escapade was only the beginning for the string of successes making up the M-4’s “resume” beginning in May, 1964, though it is true that That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013] was the last “escapade” involving all four of us. The other escapades, for example, The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013], The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013], and Crashing The Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [August, 2013], involved only one, two, or three of us. The absent one was Berry, not because he chose to be, we like to believe, but because of the four of us after we graduated, Berry had the “shortest leash” held by his parents. Not even Lee nor Clark Odom were kept away from us as much as Berry, it seemed. Nonetheless, we went through our adventures after high school as if all four of us were always present; we conjured the spirit of 2/11/64 every time we “struck,” and the first person to whom we reported afterwards each time was always Berry. We wanted him to share in our “triumphant successes.”

But it takes very special friendships to be so triumphant. I’ve said it was highly improbable four “like us” were together in the same classrooms. What do I mean by “like us?” We could not articulate what we had as friends back then, though we certainly felt we had lots of things that compelled us to interact. Hindsight, especially 50 years of it, is indeed probably “20-20,” and a similar span of experience teaches one how to articulate with substance, hopefully, and not “chirp” with empty rationalization. With this probability and hope, I would like to list some of the special characteristics we had as friends within the M-4:

We did not overtly compete with each other; if we did use each other for comparative purposes, it was individually and covertly done. We decided things as a democratic group; we never allowed any one of us to “take over,” and we maintained that egalitarian status quo by “cutting each other down” as brunts of jokes “across the board;” no one was immune; no one could be in our group and have a thin skin. We avoided, if we could, situations placing us in competition with each other; that alone explains a lot about the attitude Adling, Berry, and I had toward our King Lobo candidacies (Chapter 3). And, we deliberately did not “go” for a girl any of the others had his eyes upon. If one of us was dating a particular girl, she was “his” until he declared to us she was back “available.”

We accepted each other “as we were” — or, as I like to put it: “warts and all.” No one of us could hide his strengths or his weaknesses, as he knew the other three could see them as plainly as he. Most importantly, we did not try to change each other; we respected each other more than that. We, for the most part, enjoyed each other’s differences as much as we enjoyed each other’s similarities.

We supported each other and each wanted the best for the other three — like loving brothers, if you please. But, as I’ve said, it was better than actual siblings — we chose each other. From my perspective, I chose Berry before we even started to school; I chose Adling at the end of sixth grade; I chose Cole in Mrs. Pirtle’s biology class when we were high school sophomores. Each of the other three would have their own set of similar “choosing” statements. We tried and try to “be there” for each other, but sometimes, that is easier said than done; I wish that when Berry was having trouble academically at A&M, forcing him to go to college elsewhere for an interim, I could have helped him in his courses; Cole was soon to arrive on campus to also be of help to him. But, “one of his warts” was his pride, making him reluctant to ask for help often enough.

It was and is really difficult for us to be truly upset with each other; when Adling got angry at me as described in Chapter 6 was literally the last time I remember him being so with me. Instead of raving at each other over something one of us might think is stupid of the other, we just laugh at the other at his own expense — no pity, and no mercy. We kept and keep each other alert and “on his toes.”

We REALLY exemplified this next trait of true friendship, a trait that, thankfully transcends the M-4 to many other good friends — it does not matter how long two or more are apart, when we reunite face-to-face, it is like we departed only the day before. We “pick up right where we left off.” Like dogs, when it comes to seeing each other, we have no concept of how much time has passed; always, it is a joy to see each other.

We lived our friendships with each other to assure that “in the end,” we would have no regrets. Most people, sooner or later, deal with such personal questions as, “What would have happened if I had…?”, “What would have happened if I hadn’t stepped back from…….?”, or “Should I have taken that step into the unknown…?” We, as individuals and as a group, know the answers to those questions; in other words, our lives have had few, if any, moments struggling with “What if?” questions laced with regret. Because we had the huevos, we have lived our lives without looking back, without regret, without remorse, without second-guessing ourselves. The secret to not being bothered by our conscience (outside being bothered by our mothers’ reactions)? We made sure we never did anything harmful to anyone or anything, by our definition of “harmless.” In many people’s eyes, we “pushed the envelope,” “fudged the rules,” “played needlessly with fire,” “behaved questionably,” and “acted irresponsibly and controversially.” Because we were judging our behavior for ourselves, and not anyone else, we could go to sleep every night with a clean conscience, by our own reckoning; we would not have “done it” otherwise. So, our reaction to those who judged or are judging us to this day is something like, “So…?” or “And your point is what?” Then, possibly, comes further judgement that we are defiant, unrepentant, disrespectful, arrogant, sneaky, and non-exemplary. That’s OK….bring it on!

To us, only those last two adjectives are correct — sneaky and non-exemplary. So..? And your point is what? We were seventeen years old, full of testosterone and Dad’ root beer, and we all had the huevos to make our ideas into reality. I’ve not met many high school graduates who can say similarly all these things together.

Yet, we never thought of ourselves as entitled to anything; we never whined, complained, or asked for clemency, forgiveness, or chances to make amends when the “throw the book at ‘em” view prevailed. We were as human as our “inquisitors,” only we thought and still think we were and are more humane than they.

We like to stand alone, on our own. We were and are no one’s “patsies,” “yes-men,” “bitches,” or pawns. We were never going to be some adult’s vehicle through which that adult would live vicariously his/her life.

I’ll stop the list right here and point out that most of these are traits we could have had without the prank. What did the prank bring to these traits of special friendships? The prank “amped up” the risks and dangers to which teenagers are prone; we lived “on the edge” when doing pranks more than average. The more risky and exciting our innocent pranks, the more closely-knit became the bonds between us; as we worked together, we saw and felt why we thought so much of each other (the “super-glue” of soldiers and athletic teammates, as I’ve said). We found we were so “good” at pulling pranks together, we never got caught; found out, yes, but never caught red-handed. Success only strengthened the bonds between us, just like going through our “punishments” together brought us closer together. “Super-charged” teen-aged excitement and the success that accompanied it morphed us into irrespressibility. In our “moral ivory tower” of our own making, we were beyond reproach, guilt, or shame. Half those in our world, including most of our peers, seemed to agree.

In terms of our friendships, high school without the prank would still have been a great ride. But with the prank, high school was a hell of a ride! Despite the legacy and love of our mothers, we cannot help but be glad we did it! And, we can only hope that our classmates are glad we did it, too! They have giving us lots of evidence they indeed feel that way.

We defied the stereotypical teenaged “gang” always looking for trouble, so I have always believed we never were a “gang.” We defined what kind of group we were, and it just goes by the name “M-4,” from which exudes the “M-4 experience.” We were never compliant, but we were respectful, even at times when that was difficult to do. We together, not necessarily individually, did not smoke, drink, or curse, but that was just our choice, not a deliberate attempt to be exemplary. Most of us were church-goers and none of us had homosexual tendencies. Each of us had likes, hobbies, and tastes that the other three could try or not, and however any one of us reacted to the others’ likes, hobbies, and tastes did not affect our friendships one way or the other. The M-4 experience did not demand certain behaviors or moralities, nor was it ever burdened by having to accept behaviors or moralities of individual members. Our decisions and directions were always the results of open, honest, egalitarian democracy; whether these results reflected one or more of us as individuals was coincidental, but these results necessarily reflected all four of us. We were and are a meritocracy, each member of which is never threatened by the achievements of the others; on the contrary, we all rejoice in those achievements.

Take one attribute of mine that attracted me to the other three strongly — I loved to be different from everyone else (still do!). I’ve often proudly said I’ve never met anyone in my life like whom I would exactly want to be; I have only one hero, and that is a sports hero — the great baseball slugger Hank Aaron. I admire traits of others and despise other traits of others; I do not look for living or dead examples from others to live by — I take admirable traits from a lot of different people, living or dead, to make them my own and reject the despicable traits of, often, a lot of the same people. I say this bit of personal philosophy to say that the M-4 experience seemed to operate similarly, with our “warts and all” policy and our ever-skeptical respect of others.

Accordingly, it is hard to describe the M-4 experience succinctly; elsewhere (The M-4…And the ‘M’ Stands for… [May, 2012] and above) I gave the M-4 only two definitive adjectives — sneaky and non-exemplary. Even after 50 years, I not sure I want to go much further than that. We still do not like being pinned down and defined, and we still do not go around preaching that people, young and old, need to try to be as we. During my teaching career, I’ve had many “groups” in my classrooms wanting to pull pranks — I knowing about their plans because my students have always known that as long as I hear nothing harmful or dangerous, I will not “squeal” to the administration on them. I demand they read the section from my memoirs on what happened to the M-4 before they proceed with their idea, whatever it is. Only then, after reading, I tell them they can plan knowing what we did not know and thereby I have a “clean conscience” as a champion of student expression; they have been warned. Some groups change their minds; others go ahead with their prank, and, usually, get into trouble for it.

The M-4 experience helped me as a “rookie” teacher in public schools, leading me to the conclusion that the more effective teachers were those who were not “perfect” when they were students; instead of my being frustrated with my students trying to pull stunts and pranks on me, I “smelled the attempts out” before they occurred, thinking to myself how “amateur” as pranksters the students were compared to the M-4. Sometimes I get concerned about how politically conservative or socially prejudiced Adling or Berry sometimes appears nowadays, and I think to myself “he is forgetting his M-4 experience.” I have faith that, for both of them, their “backsliding” is a sneaky M-4-like cover, a covert “distraction” away from their real agendas; conservatism, elitism, and prejudice were and are not part of the M-4 experience. Cole is so true to his M-4 experience, I really don’t know what his political views are, despite our working together regularly trading labor on each other’s ranches!

Would that others who read this have experienced the kind of friendships we had and have as the M-4!


We hope the chair/desk escapade changed the relationships among students, faculty, and administrators at the Cisco schools for classes that followed us in graduation — changed for the better; we hope the aftermath of the escapade will remind both the school and the community, not to mention schools and communities everywhere, that students must be an integral part of solving collective, local, educational problems. Never marginalize a class of students, as was attempted with the class of 1964! And never underestimate the power of teenage dreaming!

It is important to point out the legacy of the M-4 was not created to compare or compete with other school pranks or pranksters associated with Cisco High School or any other school. We came together and planned in complete ignorance and indifference to pranks that preceded us; what had happened in the past was not germane to the “perfect storm” of the school year 1963-1964. Any comparison of what we did with other pranks is a prerogative of others, not a point of interest to us.

What makes the M-4 and our legacy so “gray,” so controversial, and, therefore, I think, so interesting is that we inadvertently exposed the foibles of particular authorities and of authority in general; we laid bare the brute and embarrassing fact that the school administrators at the time and the city officials and police at the time (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013]) made inappropriate, myopic, inhumane, childish, and un-called-for decisions; then, they followed up on those decisions with actions and inactions of the same ilk! (not that both groups of authorities did not also make some good decisions and do some good things along the way) How can I say this? Look who’s talking! If anyone can identify inappropriate and childish decisions, it has to be us, the M-4! We sure made our share! But, and here’s the “rub,” ours were not myopic and inhumane; we knew what we were doing and we knew the risks; our “cause” justified our actions in our minds; we were and still are not so sure the same could be said of the school and city administrations back then. Throughout the history of the M-4, just who were the “adults?”

For each of us the M-4 experience and legacy has been of immeasurable aid during our diverse professional lives. The other three have to tell their own stories on this matter, but my story has already been alluded to above in connection with my chosen field of being a high school physics and advanced math teacher for almost 40 years. Beyond help in the classroom, being an M-4 member has allowed me to see quickly that a lot of bad administrative decisions at high levels have been made over the years to bring the state of public education into decline. Simply put, the wrong models — the “business” model and/or the “coaching” model — are/is being used to demote public school teachers into “employees” or “workers” or “team members” who loyalty lies not with their clients, their students, but with the “company,” or “team,” the school. The correct model that has been ignored is the one we saw used back in Cisco High School — the “colleagueual” model wherein teachers are treated like professionals with students as clients (analogous to doctors having patients as clients and lawyers having legal clients). You can imagine how “unfit” I was, as a member of the M-4, to be a “company” guy, to conform to the “cookie-cutter” educational philosophy they attempted to cram down my throat! (For the amusement of those readers who went to Cisco High School back in the 1960’s, can you imagine such “cramming” being done to Mrs. Lee, Mr. Bint, or Mrs. Bailey? How about to our Jr. High Teachers Mrs. Hart and Mrs. Schaefer?) {If you want to pursue this matter further, see my three posts on educational reform, 1: Educational Reform — Wrong Models [May, 2013], 2: Educational Reform — The Right Model [May, 2013], and 3: Educational Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need [May, 2013].} Being of the M-4, having to leave public schools as a teacher before I wanted caused me no frustration whatsoever; it did increase my concern for my clients, my students.

Is there any public figure that reminds the M-4 of ourselves? I think Johnny Manziel, or Johnny “Football,” the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for Texas A&M does. And not because I am an Aggie and Aggie fan or because Sylvia and I have season football tickets at A&M; and not because of his great skill and jaw-dropping performances on the football gridiron. It is because of the way he was treated by the NCAA and the media when he was under suspicion in the summer of 2013 of making money off his signature, which is against the NCAA rules. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, what was alleged seemed to be “spun” as being as bad as possible, without evidence, just as the chair/desk escapade had to be seen by some as being criminal, without evidence. There was a feeling Johnny needed to be made “an example,” just as was attempted on us. I hope I can speak for the whole group, Johnny, when I say, “We feel for you, man! We not only sympathize, we empathize with you; we know exactly what you have been going through. Hang in there!” And, in the other direction, I like to think Johnny agrees with us when we think about the whole M-4 experience and philosophically muse “The world is a lot ‘grayer,’ not stark ‘black and white,’ than most people think!”

It is merely my opinion, but, back in 1964, the path the school administration should have taken was laid before them clearly, if our information from the faculty meeting concerning our “fate” is accurate — the view of Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Lee, and Mrs. (Page) (Chapter 8). Something would have been done to us under their view, but the “punishment would have fit the ‘crime';” justice would have been served, and the school would have avoided the divisive chaos “throwing the book at us” caused. As far as we were concerned, had this happened, we would have made our point and would not have, perhaps, felt the need to carry on the legacy of the chair/desk escapade. On the other hand, had this happened, our subsequent “adventures” would have been, if attempted, much less significant in meaning, and our legacy would not have soared near as high. “Gray,” very “gray.”

I shall close with this thought: What if the new administration and the new coaching staff coming in for our senior year in 1963 was enlightened enough to see that the only way they could successfully transition into the new school facility was to heavily involve those who would be most affected by having no high school building — the CHS Seniors of 1964? What if they recognized our immense insights, imagination, abilities, talents, and potential? (All they had to do was look into the Coronation we produced for the Seniors ’63 in early 1963.) If we had spent our energies with the power and where-with-all to actually change the atmosphere from pessimistic resignation to optimistic fun, would there have been a chair/desk prank/escapade at all? As it was, with no such power and where-with-all, and with the adults of the school distracted from us, playing their silly adult games, Adling’s imagination came up with a way we could change the atmosphere of the school from pessimistic resignation to, at least, chaotic (if not optimistic) fun. It took four of us; I was the “how” of Adling’s idea; all four of us were the executioners of the idea; the back-breaking work wrought the change, and our quartet got a new name. Our friendships soared exponentially. Like the school year after February 11, 1964, we and our class were never the same. Long live the memory and legacy of the M-4!


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 9 (Continued Aftermath and The Birth of a Legacy)

Next, we went to see Mrs. Catherine Cole at Cole’s house. She “took it” better than we had expected, maybe because we appeared to her en masse. Then, we went downtown to City Hall, where Mrs. Lois Adling worked, to break the news to her (In addition to reacting to her son’s involvement, she now for sure knew she had to guard against exposing Bobby’s peripheral involvement (Chapter 8); she might completely forgive Bobby — her son was another matter.) Finally, our quartet visited Mrs. Charlotte Hastings at First National Bank, also in downtown Cisco, where it was difficult for my mother to respond, probably, as she wanted in such a public setting. Generally speaking, our mothers responded to our news with a great deal of disappointment, voicing disbelief we would have done what we did; yet, they all were in agreement the “punishment” did not fit the deed. None of our mothers were “crusading suffragette” types to gather public pressure against the school to come up with a better response to what we did; the times for such responses had not yet come in small towns in Texas. Personally, what was difficult for me to handle was that we could not voice to our mothers how we actually felt — we were proud of what we had done and delighted at the results we had caused already at the school; they would not have “taken” to those sentiments very well at all. Now, our fathers might, but we dared not tell them, either for fear it would get back to our mothers, or for fear it might become a divisive point between our parents, or both. (It was years later when my dad thought it “OK” to let me know something he never told my mother: soon after our admission, he had lots of friends come to him at the meat market counter where he worked at A&P Grocery as head butcher and shake his hand in masculine congratulations; they knew that deep down fathers everywhere would be proud to have sons with the “gall” to do what we had done. The same thing happened to Mr. Berry when he visited downtown at that time.)

Needless to say, our plans to camp out during our “3-day vacation” from school went over like a “lead balloon.” Our parents, in fact, went out of their way to see none of the four of us even saw each other during this time. Cole spent those days mostly working on his dad’s ranch with his uncle, who had “a blast” asking Cole over and over why he wasn’t in school. My dad took some time off and took me to Abilene to buy some college supplies — specifically a foot locker for my anticipated days in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets — and I had to relay the “embarrassing news” to my aunt and great-aunt, who accompanied us on our trip to do shopping of their own.

Nonetheless, we managed to have contact with our peers during the “vacation,” mostly with certain Juniors, who were working on producing the Coronation. There was a school-wide consensus brewing that thought we had been punished much too severely; we suddenly had a solidarity of support and sympathy. Petitions of protest were circulated and signed by the braver students, all organized by Dr. Addy’s sons, Ervin and Blair. We learned the petitions were squelched by the administration, like King George responding to Patriot calls to resistance. Rumors were piling up about the faculty meeting, like names of teachers who had tears in their eyes over what had been decided about us.

Adling, Berry, and I not getting to live out our King Lobo candidacies not only called consternation with our mothers, it caused a lot of havoc at school. The call for new elections to replace the three of us “blew up” in the administration’s face. Not lost upon the student body was the fact their wishes for who should be King Lobo were being disregarded, as if it was a matter of who the school wanted, not they. The question arose, for whom was the Coronation — the school, the parents, or the students? No doubt what answer was in the students’ minds. When we returned to classes after our expulsion to serve our “probation,” one of the first things the three of us were told was that the prank had no negative effect on their vote; many even said the prank “reinforced” their vote, indicating that the three of us got lots of votes in the original election. The new election was hastily called and held (just for King Lobo candidates, not for Queen candidates and all other members of the court who were elected in the original, “legit” election), and the student body actually told they could not vote for any or all of we three! Many voters in the new election told us they wrote in our names anyway, and, of course, these were ignored. What a “great” lesson in democracy for high school students! As a result of this new election, we three were replaced (Gene Darr and Robert Mitchell, originally elected, remained candidates) by Clark Odom, Earl Carson, and Stan Livingston as King Lobo candidates.

These three were and still are friends of the three of us. (For me, Clark was one of the “study group” at my house (Chapter 2), Earl I had known from first grade and was one friend whose ankles I had taped many times, and Stan I had known just as long and with whom I went through years of Sunday School.) So my comments on the “new” King Lobo candidacies have nothing to do with these three good friends; they have to do with the sham the administration made of the election of King Lobo in 1964. I am not saying that Adling, Berry, or I would have won King Lobo (In fact, Gene Darr, who was elected King Lobo, along with the Queen, Leannah (Leveridge) Darr, was an excellent choice — traditional outstanding athlete — more than worthy to represent our graduation class, CHS Seniors 1964.), but however the election for King Lobo turned out that year, it was the outcome of a “rigged” election — “fudged” by the administration in complete repudiation of the wishes and preferences of the student body. Moreover, it was hypocritical; under the conditions the three of us were elected, Earl would not have been academically eligible; yet when it came to applying the rules in his case as a replacement, a “blind eye” was shown. It also appeared that the three replacements had no choice — they had to participate regardless of how they felt about being placed in such an embarrassing predicament — acting like a winner instead of an “also-ran.” Not only was it a sham, it was a farce for the Senior boys.

The Juniors working to present the Coronation for the Seniors and the rest of the school knew it too. The idea cropped up among them to refuse to put on the Coronation unless the three of us were reinstated as King Lobo candidates. The administration “freaked out” at this, threatening to cancel all future Coronations if they “striked.” It was another bluff; this administration was good at bluffing! (Chapter 8) Specifically, it was emotional blackmail of all the parents of the community who had present children and were to have future children honored in the Coronation. To the calm and rational, any administration who tried to cancel Coronation in Cisco would not have jobs very long! The short-term irrationality of the threat shifted, unjustly in my opinion, blame to the “rebellious” Juniors, and the upcoming Coronation was commanded and pushed forward, under duress and protest, as far as lots of students were concerned.

The Coronation was a public event, so the administrators, even if they had wanted to, could not prevent the three of us attending. However, Mrs. Berry absolutely forbade Berry from attending, citing it would look like he was bearing a grudge. There was no such prevention of the attendance of the other two “ousted” candidates and of Cole, so Adling and I got to see the replacements participate wearing the accessories he and I had helped choose! I had a date with Sylvia for the Coronation, and she was not happy with me for wearing a white formal coat just like the other King Lobo candidates and replacements were wearing in the program (Perhaps she had the same concern as Mrs. Berry, or, perhaps she would have preferred me to be more “humble.”) Adling and Cole went as “stags,” protesting by wearing big, black, broad-brimmed cowboy hats, Adling having borrowed his from me. When the program was over I went down on the gym floor, seeking out Mr. Roach. I found him among the crowd, reached out and shook his hand, and wished him a nice evening. He acknowledged my greeting, but did not look me in the eye.

When the Junior-Senior Banquet was held, traditionally right after the Coronation, Adling “threw” an “alternative party” to the banquet at his house, in honor of the four of us. It was the place to be that night, written up nicely by Kay in the school section of the newspaper; many came over to Adling’s right after the banquet, not staying for the dancing, etc. As a “honoree” to this “shindig,” I dearly wanted to be there, but I had to stay away to placate Sylvia, who was struggling to know how to react to all this, as far as our relationship was concerned. It was possible, again, I was going to lose her. This was one time my love for her trumped my loyalty to the four of us, and I vowed thereafter to do all I could to prevent these two important aspects of my life from ever again coming into conflict.

Speaking again of farces, our month’s “probation” turned out to be the greatest joke of all; that is why I’ve put quotes around the word. I can only guess the administration thought we would passively observe all school activity, lamenting we “took ourselves out of it.” They never understood there was nothing passive about us; we were irrepressible. Take the Student Council, for example, which was presumably stripped of Senior boys because of our “probation.” C. B. Rust, the Vice-President, took over my Presidential duties. Before each meeting, he would meet with me, often accompanied by Berry, Student Council member because of his Senior class Presidency, and Cole, Senior class Student Council representative. We would go over all the items and issues that needed to be discussed; then, after the meeting, C. B. would brief us on what had occurred, and, if I needed to, I could talk also with Seniors Kay (Wallace) Morris — Student Council Treasurer and Alice Ann (Webb) Holliday — Student Council Secretary. Berry, Cole, and I never felt “out of the loop” because of our absence.

We soon found out in our “probation” who sympathetic teachers were and who wanted to “make us an example.” Coach Turner teased us about “singing like canaries,” but we could tell he did not approve of what happened to us; whether true or not, Mr. Hughes made us feel better by saying we did such a good cover-up job, he had become convinced we did not do it right before our admission. We took respectful advantage of the sympathizers, as they went out of their way to make things as “normal” for us as we wanted, and then some. Speaking of my personal experiences, I think I got to do things at school as Student Council President and as President of the Drama Club I would have never got to had it not been for the prank and its aftermath. I was allowed into the “taboo” ground of the teachers’ lounge to mimeograph off copies of the Edgar Allan Poe-like short story collection (entitled “Stories to Ponder”) I had written since my Junior year and allowed to distribute those copies throughout the school; we were allowed, thanks in no small part to Mrs. Mulliner, to put on a play I had written (not quite the Senior Play, but better than nothing), despite there were no theater facilities in the building (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013]), even though we had been told at the beginning of the year we could have no plays (Chapter 1). The student body was very supportive, treating us like celebrities, both on and off school grounds; our peers went out of their way to keep all four of us informed and “in the loop” just like the three of us on the Student Council.

I took a copy of my short story collection by Coach Cromartie’s house one afternoon after school. He made the remark that it looked like we “had the whole school in the palm of our hands” during and after “probation.” It seemed true. We four began to experience what it was like to be “public heroes” and “household words.” Lee Wallace, Kay’s brother, and “fish” in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M at the time, started referring to us, tongue-in-cheek, as the “Malicious Four,” knowing full-well there was nothing malicious about what we had done. The name made its way to Cisco quickly and it stuck; we used it ourselves for a while, but did not like its implications if not used sarcastically — it misrepresented us, so we took advantage of its popularity and only said “M-4,” letting anyone who heard our story make up their minds what the “M” stands for (The M-4…And the ‘M’ Stands for…. [May, 2012]). The prank, we began to find out, made several radio shows over the State, as well as a few newspapers, although one paper shortchanged us on the number of chair/desks we transported — how dare they! We wanted to document all this publicity, but, given the moods of our mothers, we never did.

It got to where we felt we could steer the student body any way we wanted; they seemed to beg us to organize them in some way to retaliate for the way their voice in the King Lobo election had been eviscerated; we were the de facto leaders of any expression of the student body, not the Student Council or any faculty advisor. For example, one noon hour at school, a group of boys, disgruntled at the rule that students could not be in the main hall at lunch, asked me to lead them on a protest march into the hall. Leading the student “mob” up to the main entrance door where we had done the chair/desk lifting, I soon was facing a very nervous Mrs. (Page) and Mrs. Cotton, faculty hall monitors that day. Seeing their uncertain faces, I realized that if I went through with this piece of anarchy, I would lower the name of the M-4 to a level our detractors would wish we would fall and thereby justify all the unfair treatment we had received in their twisted minds. I acted as if the monitors knew what they were doing and said it was not as good an idea as I first thought; I lost a little prestige, perhaps, in the eyes of the wildest of the “mob,” but I “saved” the reputation of the M-4.

It seems not even new information about February 11, 1964, information that potentially could have caused the M-4 disaster that night, could tarnish our growing legacy. We learned that weather reports for the early morning of the 12th called for a high probability of rain, which, thank goodness, did not materialize; I’m glad we never heard that forecast! Also, Mr. Mitchell, head custodian and Robert’s dad, who lived across Avenue H from the school at the W 12th Street permanent roadblock, said later he thought he heard “strange noises” from the direction of the school before he retired that night and “came within an inch” going to check them out! But, fortunately for us, he decided they must be coming from the religious meeting up the avenue, or, more likely, from neighbors “moving furniture.”

If any of our peers asked us why we did the prank, all we had to do, eventually, is ask him or her if we had come to him/her and asked them to help, what would they have said? Noting our growing fame and the perks accompanying it, the answer always was “I would have said ‘yes.'” We did not have to justify anything about the prank to our peers before long. There was no way we could justify the timing of the prank, given the King Lobo “thing,” to our faculty sympathizers, and there was no way we could justify anything about the prank to our mothers.

Because of the chair/desk escapade, we had inadvertently redefined ourselves. We started out to change the school year, and we ended up changing ourselves as well. Because our friendships were based upon humor at each other’s expense, we had made a set of great friendships even greater; we could take on all the fame the world could bestow, we felt, and we would never get the “big-head.” It had become far, far more than everything one of us becoming King Lobo could have brought on. To this day in Cisco, one is pressed to know who was King Lobo when, but many know the name “M-4″ and the event from whence it sprang.


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 8 (Admission, “Punishment,” and Immediate Aftermath)

It was a bluff; they were trying to “scare” confession and apology from us. We know now that if they had any evidence against us, they would have brought it up at our “line-up;” we should have asked for their evidence, but their haste in getting us to “confess” would not allow any cross-examination from us; they were deliberately not giving us any time to think clearly. The “college” thing was pure scare tactics; with the rights of students today, they could not have come close to preventing us from graduating and going to college; we never looked into the rights of students back in 1964, but, as discriminatory as they were against students back then, had we had any legal “savvy,” we nonetheless could have received some legal counsel to assure our matriculation to college, if we chose not to “cooperate.”

The title of this chapter says “Admission,” not “Confession.” The difference was the basis of all that was whirring through my head when I was asked to respond first at the end of our “line-up” in Mr. Midkiff’s principal’s office. I was still sure they had no proof we had done it. But, to have confessed would be commensurate with our thinking the deed was somehow criminal, I thought. So adamant was I the deed had been “innocent” and guided by the spirit of fun, the spirit of our friendships, I saw no shame or guilt in admitting I had been a part of it — I was genuinely proud of what we had done and only sorry for the hurt we had caused our mothers. I knew that if the school could derail our plans for college, risking those plans was far more serious than risking anything the administration could do to us in high school. The moment we went to sleep after that successful night of chair/desk work, we, in my opinion, had reaped our reward; nothing coming our way, including King Lobo and Junior-Senior Banquet could equal what we had already received through our own efforts. We had clearly changed the whole school year forever, as we hoped, and the looks we were getting in the office in the “line-up” were but confirmations of how successful had been the change we wrought . And nothing they could do would diminish those rewards we were savoring, but to treat us like criminals and deny us our college education was ludicrous. Whatever we lost in our admission would be a pittance compared to the loss of our futures.

How I replied as first responder under the duress of the line-up has been as unknown or misunderstood as much as why we chose to do the deed before, not after, the Coronation (Chapter 3). We ourselves are partly responsible for this, as the line-up was our first set-back, and to “come clean” with what happened is a blow to our pride; but the truth more than makes up for any loss of pride. My three “compadres” have joked with me that I “confessed” and got us all in trouble, but they know what actually happened as well as I. In truth, I decided to admit my own involvement without implicating anyone else, using such words as “speaking only for myself.” I did not think it through, for it immediately implicated Cole, due to our association that night, a fact Cole has never let me forget! Adling and Berry, however, were free to deny, using their Hamilton basketball game alibi, which, thanks to the silence of people like Anthony and the cooperation of people like Bobby and Larry, was holding up.

(Here was a moment pregnant with possibility, a moment for which we had not prepared, for if we had prepared, we might have opted for one of several different scenarios, any one of which would have made this school year even more fun than it actually became after February 11, 1964: 1) Cole would also admit his collaboration with me, but Adling and Berry would deny their involvement. Then the school would have to continue their investigation, for who would believe only two people did all that work? Cole and I would be heroes to the students and martyrs to almost everyone else. The burden of proof would be on the school to “finger” more than the two of us, and I don’t think they could have done it — probably they would have had to bring back the police for help, much to their embarrassment. 2) Cole would be surprised, saying something like “That’s what you were doing when you slipped out of my house that night?” In other words, with Adling and Berry in denial, I would be the only one who did the deed! That nobody would buy, and would heap upon the school major embarrassment; the rest of my school year would have been hell, as everything would be denied me until I “squealed” on others, but the more that went on, the more heroic I would appear and the more villainous the school would appear. I think I could have held out, for they could not have denied me graduation, since I had admitted I had done it. 3) Anticipating the possibility of being found out, work with the student body without revealing ourselves as the perpetrators, and say that if they find any who said they did it, then we all (or at least a majority of the student body) would say they also did it. What would they do — “punish” half the school? Students, parents, and a lot of the community would be outraged. 4) I (or Cole and I) would be the only ones who confessed, and then hint there were lots and lots who helped me (us), but not Adling, Berry, or Cole (or not Adling and Berry). This would create a similar dilemma for the school as would 3). Perhaps the reader could come up with his/her own scenario. One thing is sure in all this fun speculation about scenarios: had we had the experience and “savvy” of the way things worked in the world during this line-up that we were to gain over the next year or so, then one scenario similar to those described above would not have been so speculative.)

But back to reality. As the “floor” passed to the other three from me, the strength of the bond that had been forged among the four of us in the planning and execution of one prank became apparent. As Berry said, “We couldn’t let you take the blame for what we all committed to.” Whatever was going to happen to one was going to happen to all four — sort of a “Three Musketeers” thing. We were four individuals, but we were loyal and dedicated to each other — to a fault; nothing that could happen to one or all of us could “crack” or weaken the friendships this prank had conjured. Though forged because of the high school, our friendships had transcended the high school.

Each of the other three, down the line (I don’t remember the particular order, except Berry was the last one.), admitted to the deed much as I had done. Each of us implicated only himself. Immediately they acted as if they did not “have everyone,” and asked who else had been involved. This indicated they were in many ways “lucky” to have called in the correct quartet; they merely called in the four most talked about around campus and in the community. We were certainly not going to say anything to hint about Bobby’s and Larry’s prior knowledge of “something” happening (a mode we strictly followed for over three years thereafter, until both of them were graduated), but we did at that moment have the opportunity to “set them off on a wild goose chase” looking for our helpers who never existed. Instead, our pride of being so few to do so much in so little time took over all of us, and we proudly stated that only we had done it all that night. The physical achievement of the prank still remains after fifty years a source of astonishment to many reading or hearing of the deed.

The two administrators, after our admissions and their fruitless “fishing” for accomplices, gave us time to say something else. We supposed they wanted apologies and queries for forgiveness, as if we recognized we had committed something heinous, harmful, shameful, and criminal. To us, there was nothing to apologize for; nothing we had done, as far as we were concerned, needed forgiving (except for the matter with our mothers, which was an issue that was none of the school’s business).

We were dismissed with the announcement there would be a faculty meeting that afternoon after school to decide our “fate,” and we were not to attend. We left the office and went back to class in relief of not having to be so guarded any more; we left in a mental posture that was to mark us for the rest of our “career” as a sneaky quartet — unapologetic, unrepentant, proud, confident, without remorse, and without regret. Not that we were not concerned about what might be our “fate;” but we knew that whatever was going to happen to us, our conscious was “clean;” our “moral ground” was “high and dry.”

Word of our line-up spread like wildfire throughout the school. The rest of the school day we were treated like heroes, kings if you please. Our classmates wanted to know details, how we did it, how we planned it out, and how we got away with it without being caught. The greatest surprise to those who inquired seemed to be how simple the modus operandi was; no one seemed to think of the simple lifting site near the main entrance. We had to demonstrate to them how it worked in between classes before many of them believed it. During sixth period at the community gym Adling, Berry, and I continued to be surrounded by congratulations and questions. Danny Clack made his way through the group around us, reached out, and shook my hand vigorously.

“I said I would shake the hands of those who did it!” he said, as he shook Adling’s and Berry’s also. I like to think we reminded him that if he had not done so, he should not forget to shake Cole’s as well.

To use a term from the 1960’s, we were on a day-long “high” of being school-wide “heroes.” It portended the fact that we were “in” with our peers for the rest of the school year, at least “in” with a majority of them. Our fate was being determined at the secretive faculty meeting after school that afternoon, and we were as clueless as our questioners as to what was going to happen to us. Needless to say, our peers, for the most part, agreed with us that we had to be “punished,” but, surely, the “punishment’ should fit the deed — note I did not say “crime.”

There emerged, after the fact, conflicting reports about what actually happened that afternoon at the “faculty meeting.” The only thing we know for certain is that the prank divided the faculty, the administration, and, later, the community, just as surely as the school bond issue had divided the community back in 1963 (Chapter 1). It was a division over what should be done to us. One report we got was that the first inclination of much of the faculty, including Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Lee, and Mrs. (Page) was that the whole thing should be forgotten and forgiven, taking into consideration there had been no harm and we had freely admitted we had done it. That position became one way of saying the “punishment” fitted the spirit in which the prank was done. But there was a position strongly opposite that one, one that treated the prank as if it was malicious and criminal — a position fueled by the fear that a light “slap on the wrist” might encourage “copy cats” and would outrage parents and community members who felt no out-of-the-box behavior should go unpunished as a lesson to all present and future students; they needed to make an “example” of us. This “throw the book” attitude was pushed upon the faculty by the school board responding to certain parents and community leaders, we surmised; we heard that for their part Mr. Midkiff and Supt. Roach were sympathetic toward us, reporting the details of our admission to the faculty. Yet faculty members like Mr. Hathaway, Coach Bates, and Mrs. Odom (Clark’s mother), we were told, led the “throw the book at ‘em” faction among the faculty. Not as certain in our information is the “gag order” that was apparently placed upon the faculty by the school board and the administration; teachers seemed “scared shitless” for their jobs when, later on, we pressed some of them for details, so it appeared that to break that order would put, in their minds, their jobs in jeopardy. Compounding all this was the rumor there never was a faculty meeting or a vote, that the faculty was merely told what had already been decided and that they should keep their mouths shut.

With this alleged “gag order,” how did we know so many rumors? One of our sources was Coach Jack Cromartie, who had “fallen in grace” with Coach Bates and knew he had no job in Cisco the following year; a gag order meant nothing to him; he also was sympathetic to the four us, having us all in his fourth period civics class. However, he was so “disgusted with the situation,” seemingly bent upon “hanging” us, he did not even attend the faculty meeting, so his breaking of the “gag rule” was based upon second-hand information told to him by fellow and brave faculty members who also were disgusted. We’ve always wished he had attended, for we know we would have gotten first-hand information from him instead of rumors from other sources.

Regardless (I always like to use the archaic “irregardless” in irritating honor of all my English teachers over the years.) of who was sympathetic to us and who was not, it now seems clear that the “throw the book at ‘em” faction was commensurate with the “take names, sit down, and shut up” posture the new administration and new coaching staff was foisting upon the school district, all backed by what seemed to be a hard-line school board at the time.

Moreover, it appeared, our “punishment” was a “cave-in” to the pressure of the “throw the book” faction subgroup consisting of parents of students whose children had been punished in the past for vandalous acts against the school and of students and community members who thought something like “They won’t punish them!”

To get the “dark side” of this punishment phase out-of-the-way before covering the “fun side,” a true crime, an actual vandalous act was committed in the wake of the prank, for which we, because of the way the four of us were treated, were blamed: several administrators’ tires were slashed while cars were parked in driveways one evening; that means, for the criminally-challenged, knife blades were thrust into the soft sides of the tires to form one long slit, which, of course, deflated the tire and ruined it. Curiously, Lee’s tires were treated the same way, and he was the only student victim. As Keith Starr (Senior classmate who unfortunately did not get to graduate with us) said to me recently, “There was also a lot of bad stuff going on at that time!” There was never any serious consideration we had done it, to the credit of the more rational in the community (We had lots of witnesses of our whereabouts and actions that night.), but what it did for us was to contrast deeds; even our detractors saw how stupid it was to treat what we did as similar to the tire slashing. The tire slashing was never solved, either by the police or by the school. As I’ve said elsewhere, the school administration could catch harmless pranksters; they could not catch actual criminals. The whole terrible incident vindicated in our four minds that we wanted no part of “adult” leadership in our lives, if “adult leadership” means childishly treating playful pranks as malicious acts. As Adling summed it up, “…the administrators showed less character in their action than we did in ours. They sold out to unwarranted pressure.”

Our punishment was to be announced on Tuesday, one week after the prank, the day after the faculty meeting. Mrs. Bailey’s room was vacant the first period, so that was the site where we were gathered, Adling, Berry, and I plucked from Mr. Bint’s class and Cole “fished” from band. Now it turned out (I can’t make this stuff up!) Berry had a radio devotional on the county radio station that morning to deliver, and when we told Mrs. Bailey about that, she had to “fish out” Mr. Roach to get our meeting going (We suspect Mr. Roach was deliberately making us “sweat” and wait.). Mr. Roach, now knowing about Berry’s appointment, hurried up and “pronounced sentence,” to which we listened very calmly throughout. But he “blew it” with us with the way he ended, after he went over what was to happen to us. Perhaps because we were not showing remorse, and, therefore, were walking affronts (at this moment, sitting affronts) to the authority of the school, he tried to bully us once more. Among our “punishments” he told us earlier was three days’ expulsion — which immediately became a 3-day vacation in our minds — and Adling was told in a high-handed, intimidating tone he could not come back until he cut his hair so it did not touch his ears. (How’s that for dating all this crap?)

As I said, we were expelled for three days; Adling, Berry, and I were prohibited from participating in the Coronation — the ballots making us King Lobo candidates would be discarded and a new election would be held to find our replacements (In addition to our already choosing our accessories, our names were already printed on the Coronation programs.); for each day we were expelled, 3 points would be taken off our six-weeks average, for a total of 9 (A few years after 1964 a similar case wherein a school tried to take away points for a prank was taken to court. The court ruled taking away points could not be done, as part of students’ rights. Pity they couldn’t make that ruling retroactive! As it was, those 9 points off my grades in the end caused me not to be the valedictorian at graduation about three months later, allowing Kay (Wallace) Morris to be valedictorian and Clark Odom to be salutatorian. I’ve never let them forget that! I know all this because Mr. Midkiff, just before graduation, allowed me to see my grades and calculate my overall grade average without the 9 points off and compare it with the averages of my fellow honor graduates. So strong academically was our class (Chapter 2), the 9 points off dropped me to fourth.); we could not participate in the Junior-Senior Banquet; we were to serve a month’s “probation,” during which we were prohibited from participating in any extracurricular activity, like the Student Council, on which Berry, Cole, and I served.

We were more concerned about getting Berry off in time than we were about reacting to Mr. Roach’s pronouncement and tongue-lashing of Adling. As I’ve tried to argue, anything they could do to us could not “crack” us; the reward we had already gotten had far exceeded anything they could take away from us. We just wished our parents (read “mothers”) could have seen it that way. After we were “released” and after Berry finished his devotional on the radio, we knew we had to go report to our parents. Making sure we gave no satisfaction to Mr. Roach, by listening to him “stone-faced,” as soon as he was finished and gone, we went to our classrooms to get our books for our “3-day vacation.” which was to begin immediately. Walking into Mr. Bint’s class to get our school stuff, it was like four “dead men walking” to our peers; the class was stone silent, probably for the first moment of the whole school year! We ushered Berry off to the radio station, and, before we left the school grounds, Adling, Cole, and I began making plans to go camping during our “vacation,” as part of our “shaking off” what we had just heard; probably at this moment we would have admitted to being “a bit stunned” hearing our “sentence,” yet we were far from down-hearted. By this time we were prepared for the worst, and we felt we got it; the classlessness that had been thrust upon us was by now morphing into vindication of our conviction that for more adults than we thought, the joy of youth had dried up within them and blown away; it was sad, but it was hard for us to feel sorry for them.

There was no way we were going to tell our mothers as anything less than as a quartet. So, we had to wait for Berry to finish his devotional before we began probably the hardest part of the whole escapade — a lot harder than actually doing the physically demanding prank — telling the very people who loved us, but, who could never, ever, understand why we did it. Adling, Cole, and I gathered at my house (Both my parents were on the job.) to listen to Berry’s devotional on my transistor radio (Great clue for dating all this!). He did a great job. We waited for Berry to join us at my house (a plan “in the works” before Berry left the school before the rest of us), and then collectively we set out to do the “hard part.” We decided to go to Berry’s house first.

Mrs. Bonnie Berry had already received a couple of phone calls complimenting her son on his devotional by the time the four of us arrived, much to her surprise and puzzlement. In fact, we had to wait for her to finish one such call after we walked into the kitchen, where she was using the wall-mounted kitchen phone. As she hung up, she proudly told Berry it was another congratulatory call to him; then, she realized we were all there during school hours, so she asked the obvious. It is hard to imagine the mixed emotions she must have experienced at our answer, with Berry doing most of the talking to her and with visions of devotionals and expulsions in her head! We stayed to allow her to get over her shock and consternation. Then we left for the next “leg” of our “tour.”


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 7 (Found Out….)

The day of chaos at Cisco High School, Wednesday, February 12, 1964, defied description. The chair/desk escapade caught everyone by surprise; its effects, emulating from the success of its execution the night before, far, far exceeded the expectations in the minds of a particular four Seniors. My memoirs recall two of the four minds’ first impressions upon arriving at school that morning, we acting as “normal” as possible:

According to Adling, “The next morning I got up easily — could have arrived at school early, but wanted to come characteristically late — wanted my arrival to be no different than usual. I parked in my same spot, walked toward school and noticed nothing unusual until I got near the door and heard some guys call out to me; the desks were still there — I wasn’t sure if the administration even knew where they were or not.”

I had gotten up unusually early so I could return my things to my house from Cole’s before going to school. As I drove up and parked in my usual spot, I saw the unusual sight of several students running around the school building in a great deal of excitement. I smiled to myself. As I walked to the entrance of the gym, the place we had to stay before classes began, I made sure that I did not look up at the rooftop. I was greeted by the late Ervin Addy, who rushed out the door to me.

“All right, Hastings,” he said, “why did you do it?” Realizing it was said in jest, I casually inquired into what he was talking about. “Look!” he said, pointing to the roof. The edges of the great mass of chair/desks could be seen by moving a bit away from the school building toward the flagpole. I did my best astonishment act and asked Ervin who had done it. “No one knows,” he answered.

So began several school days in which everyone seemed to “examine” everyone else; the students’ reaction was as we had hoped — a vast majority of them, especially the boys, thought the prank was “unreal” and “neat,” to use but two descriptors. Laughter over the chair/desks atop the roof was contagious and irresistible. The whole mood and demeanor of the school was so different on February 12 compared to the whole school year prior; we had permanently altered the course of our senior year.

Nothing could compare with the chaos of that first day. What was the school going to do without chair/desks in most of the classrooms? When it was clear the school day was not going to be cancelled, first period for Adling, Berry, and me was Mr. Bint’s chemistry class, wherein, like all the furniture-less classrooms, the boys had to sit on the floor and the girls had to sit on the low windowsill on one side of the room. I sat down by Robert Mitchell on the floor, who asked me quietly what I thought about “all this.” I said I thought someone had pulled off a pretty slick job, and I was wondering just who had done it; he agreed. Mr. Bint, trying with great frustration to teach in these conditions, was having little success getting any information over to us, the low laughter, giggles, and snickering filling the air with a constant din. Adling recalled during this class becoming “uncontrollably giggly at points,” despite his being called upon by Mr. Bint to work a problem on the chalk board, which, of course, he could not do. I struggled with “uncontrolled giggliness” when I spotted Anthony Strother (Recall he played basketball at Hamilton the previous night.), stretched out prone on floor, falling asleep!

Immediately after this first period, we had to use our alibis, as everyone on the faculty and many of the students, became “detectives” trying to solve the mystery before everyone’s eyes — a role the four of us took on also as cover. Mrs. Mulliner (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May 2013]), who lived next door to the Coles and therefore knew that I had stayed overnight with Cole at his house, thought she had us “dead to rights,” deliberately and cleverly questioning both of us separately about what we had done the night before. Her enthusiasm collapsed, however, when our stories of our aborted bowling trip corroborated. She had questioned Cole at the end of first period, and she later questioned me fifth period, at the start of speech. I guess she did not think that Cole and I probably would have a few stolen moments alone to talk with each other between these two periods.

The administration had to attack the chaos of the first period, so just as second period teacher Mr. Hughes was assuring all of us sitting on the floor again that who did the deed would soon be found out, our principal, C. B. Midkiff, requested the services of Mr. Hughes’ “boys” to help get the chair/desks off the roof. Mr. Hughes volunteered us right away. Students’ pick-ups were backed up to the edge of the school roof on either end of the building into which chair/desks were to be loaded; eventually all the boys in the school were “volunteered” to help get the chair/desks down; Mr. Mitchell’s custodial ladders were used to get us up on the roof, and I was amused that no one seemed to notice they could get up there also using the hand rail by the main entrance. It took all of second period (45 minutes) for about 175 boys to get down what four of us had gotten up in about 3 hours! (That shouldn’t be surprising, as getting out of second period classes “mandated” taking one’s time.) At one point during the “take-down,” Berry and I passed each other going in opposite directions atop the flat roof out of earshot of anyone else, one of us carrying a chair/desk and the other returning to get another. I whispered to him out of the corner of my mouth while still moving, “Does this seem familiar?” Adling recalled that this second period school-wide work force, compared to the prank the night before, “wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”

At the start of third period, the chair/desks were off the roof, but back-jammed in the main hall (like they were the night before) to be sorted back to their “proper” rooms — classroom teachers flattering themselves they could recognize all “their” chair/desks. I particularly remember Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Cotton, and Mrs. Mulliner going up and down the hall pointing out “their” items to boys carrying them. The four of us were privately amused to see that these and other teachers were claiming chair/desks we knew (It was amazing how many chair/desks we individually recognized, having handled them the night before.) had not been taken from their rooms!

When all the chair/desks were back in place, so to speak, near the end of third period, the chaotic “melee” of that school day continued on; attention of the students could not be drawn away from what had happened. During lunch, Mr. Hughes, who took up our lunch money at the end of the cafeteria line, announced he would inspect the hands of all the boys, something that startled me at the time, as I had not even looked to see if I had any callouses on my hands. Before I got to loading my lunch tray, I peeked to see no obvious sign of “chair wear” on my hands, and I passed Mr. Hughes’ inspection, thankfully.

For a week after the prank, all self-proclaimed “detectives” seemed to have their own ideas about how the deed was done, none of which was accurate. Mr. Bint thought the chair/desks were put up on the roof through the skylight windows of the classroom; no one thought of the simple lifting at the front entrance. The most common pattern of speculation was that several people had to be involved — at least 8 and as many as 15. Girls were suspected as well as boys. Students like Danny Clack spoke for a lot of students when he said he considered whoever did it to be heroes, and that he could not wait to “shake their hands” when identified. All these speculations were much to our delight. Not to our delight, two days after the prank, Cole and I were going to get a podium for speech class during fifth period. (Recall Adling and Berry left speech class after the first semester — Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013] — and were in Mrs. Lee’s room as her student assistants.) As we passed the office area we saw Chief of Police Parkinson (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013]), Principal Midkiff, and Supt. Roach (Chapter 3) talking together!

After we passed, Cole whispered, “Did you see what I saw?”

“I sure did!” I replied.

I added we should act as if the presence of the police was not upsetting to us. When we reported this sight to Adling and Berry, we all were concerned, but still confident there was little or no evidence of a committed crime; evidence for even breaking and entering was merely circumstantial. Our confidence was “on the right trial,” as it soon became common knowledge the school was not wanting to make it a police matter, but, rather, wanted to make it an “internal” matter. The “high moral plane” upon which we saw ourselves carrying our the chair/desk escapade was paying off: it bore the marks of a prank, not a crime, and the school knew it.

But the “high moral plane” was a “double-edged” sword for us. It played no small part in our being found out within a week by the process of elimination applied on a small sample of possible suspects. The facts that there were 1) no evidence of any kind of foul play, 2) no damage to or theft of school property, and 3) merely circumstantial evidence that did not prove breaking and entering, indicated that only certain students with certain characteristics did the deed. Using, unapologetically, the stereotypical judgments placed, justly or unjustly, on all four classes of that school year, by both the students themselves as well as by the faculty and the administration, the following logic was applied: The freshman class did not have the nerve to even try something like the prank; the sophomore class did not have the skill and experience to successfully execute the prank; the junior class was not precise or careful enough to perform the prank — they would have probably added some damage in their wake; the senior class had some members that just might go to all that trouble, seeing it as a challenge. Only the administrative speculation of that time, gone forever, could tell us, but it is also possible the administration was cognizant of the pressure being put on Senior leadership (Chapters 1 and 2), making the prank an act of some kind of retaliation by that leadership. This “whittled” down the number of suspects to that of the boys in the Senior class, about 30, as girls were not seriously considered, though some faculty members, like Mr. Bint and Coach Bates, thought otherwise. It became a matter of listening to what was being said about this population, especially the leaders of this population. Yet, it must have been difficult to believe those leaders would risk as much as they would to pull off this prank. As I said in Chapter 2, they probably only thought they understood those upon whom they were beginning to focus.

One day during the week before our “ID-ing,” Anthony Strother (of sleeping in Mr. Bint’s class floor “fame”) blurted out jokingly he knew exactly who did it — Adling, Berry, Cole, and Hastings, as he remembered seeing them all together at the truck stop after the basketball game (Chapter 6). Those of our quartet who heard this laughingly acted like we were caught, and we thought that was the end of it. But the more Anthony thought about it, the more it made sense, so, on another day at the gym during sixth period, he cornered Adling and Berry and began grilling them on details about the basketball game, which, of course, they could not answer directly. Anthony immediately shut up about his idea; he knew he had stumbled upon something the school would love to know, and he was not going to “rat” on anyone. At about the same time Anthony was grilling Adling and Berry, Cole was being grilled by Mr. Bint after school. He asked Cole if he, Berry, and I were involved (I think he already suspected Adling, given his “calling out” of Adling to work the chalkboard problem the “morning after,” mentioned above.). Cole refused to incriminate anyone, and Mr. Bint let him go. It was clear the number of suspects was getting small indeed.

When it came time in this week for final preparations for the Coronation, we candidates for King Lobo (Chapter 3) met to choose our accessories to wear during the program. After the decision, Mr. Hathaway (Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]) said we had decided upon ties, but it had not been decided if all of us were going to be in the Coronation! Sylvia was becoming worried I was involved, due to, of all things, the orderly arrangement of the chair/desks on the roof! Not wanting to jeopardize our relationship and with things looking like they were going to “bust open,” I wanted her to hear from me that I was involved, assuring her there was nothing criminal in the prank, yet asking her to talk to no one about what I said. She was asked about my involvement before we were found out, but she would only say that I had some idea of who had done it. This was the first, but, unfortunately, not the last time I was afraid I was going to “lose” her because of my involvement with the group who was to become the M-4. Mrs. Bailey began to suspect Adling, Berry, and me because of the tremendous amount of planning and work that went into the prank, as well as the deed’s neatness and completeness. Like Sylvia, Mrs. Lee was impressed by the ordering of the chair/desks on the roof; this made her think of Berry, who, in her words, “always had to have things just so.” She began to believe that the day “after,” we had acted too much like “little angels” instead of the “little devils” we always seemed to be; she too seemed to be zeroing in on the four of us. One afternoon at the community gym Coach Turner found me alone and asked me, with that broad grin of his, what I was going to do when the authorities “came after me.” I acted surprised he would say that and dodged his questions concerning what my parents were going to think.

We were being trapped by our uniqueness and our success!

Because of all this “heat,” it was becoming more and more difficult for the four of us to be together to talk, but when we could talk “prank” to each other we agreed that a) things were getting “hot” for the four of us, and b) we still could flat deny everything, as we saw no evidence they had any evidence on us. If anything was constant, it was our confidence we had carried the prank out without a flaw and that we had “covered all our bases.” We were not happy we were being cornered as if we were criminals; we were consoled by the fact we were not. Adling contacted in secret Bobby and Larry, making sure nothing was going to come out from them, and assuring them that whatever happened, they would never be “fingered.”

That weekend after the prank was the “time of the parents,” for the whole town seemed to be talking about who did the chair/desk escapade, and my parents were asked about me, as was Mrs. Adling asked about her son. My parents confronted me with the “64-dollar question,” and I unashamedly told them I was involved and was one of four executioners/planners. My mother was very upset, of course, but what concerned me was her thinking I was unduly influenced by “bad friends,” instead of recognizing I could be a major cog in such an enterprise. My dad, I think, could very well see me doing the prank; he had been a teenager like me once, after all. But, understandably, he could not break the solidarity my parents wanted to exude. That solidarity came in the form of being “grounded” in the future, regardless of what was going to happen to us at school. I accepted not on the basis I had committed something “wrong,” but upon the basis I had been deceptive in my actions. Meanwhile, Mrs. Adling (Mrs. Lois Adling, Mrs. Edward Lee, and the Big Afternoon [June, 2012]) became so frustrated she could get nothing direct from her son regarding his having anything to do with the prank, decided to call up Bobby Smith to ask him if Adling and Berry had indeed been at the basketball game that night! Commendably, Bobby, knowing the situation at school, told her, as hard as it was for him to do so, that indeed those two had been at the game. Mrs. Adling was momentarily satisfied. (When we were found out, she knew that Bobby was culpable, but she, like the four of us, never “ratted” on Bobby.)

Our being found out became tangible on Monday at school, six days after the prank. All four of us were in Mrs. Hughes’ trig class, and Suzette (Hagan), second-period office girl, came as requested that the exacted four of us were to report to the office to see Mr. Roach, and, we presumed, others. As we walked en masse down the hall to the office, Adling whispered, “All right, let’s deny everything! They can’t prove anything!” Cole commented in a low voice that we better see exactly what is going on here and that we should “play it by ear.” All of us wondered if they had something on the four of us, or if “fingering” the “right” four was just a lucky coincidence. (As we later concluded, it was a bit of both; the process of elimination outlined above and the circumstantial evidence of our two “groupings” that night were enough upon which the administration could “go” with the four of us before the Coronation occurred; they were on a “tight” time schedule to settle this matter!)

We walked into the office to line up, like a police line-up, facing Mr. Midkiff’s desk, behind which he and Mr. Roach stood. Without being able to say anything at the start, we were told that they knew the four of us were definitely involved in the chair/desk incident; if we denied that we did it, we would be expelled from school permanently and would not be allowed to attend any other high school in Texas — no graduation from high school for us! Unbelievably, we were being treated as vandals for a harmless prank! They acknowledged no damage had been done, which sounded like they did not consider it a crime, but then, the next moment they repeated the ultimatums as if we were criminals, or, at least, the worst of juvenile delinquents! They demanded an immediate answer to confirm the knowledge of our culpability they said they had, and we were to answer individually.

I was standing on one end of the line-up, and, because of this or for some other reason we will never know, for both these men are now deceased, I was commanded to answer first….


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 6 (Carrying Out the Deed — Later Stages)

However, we could not test out my idea immediately after we all four were together in the school; we had to wait on the meeting in the little church across Avenue H to end. Taking our cue from Adling’s and Berry’s excellent idea of “lining up” the chair/desks from the classrooms near the entrance of my idea’s testing, we began moving chair/desks from as many classrooms lining the main hall as we could reach, lining them up “bumper-to-bumper” as quickly as we could in front of the east (NE) main entrance. The remaining meeting might delay chair/desk lifting to the roof, but it did not have to delay chair/desk moving.

The sides of the hall were darker than the center, so as we finished all the chair/desks in Coach Bates’ stage room and began moving chair/desks from hall classrooms such as Mr. Hughes’, Mr. Bint’s and Coach Turner’s into the hall, we tried walking and carrying near the hall sides, but found ourselves running into the hard-to-see tall metal trash cans, making much too much noise! When the noise gave no response from outside, we would laugh at our clumsiness, yet seemed reluctant to take the time to move the trash cans! The classrooms were much brighter due to diffused street light, but still dark enough there was little chance of being seen by a car driving along W 11th St., though we “ducked down” below windowsill level by instinct. One particular moment found Berry and I in a classroom while Adling and Cole were jamming up chair/desks near the east entrance. Suddenly, a shadow appeared at the windows of the room! Thinking it was someone at the window, I hissed out, “What was that?” It proved to be someone all right — a cat jumping upon the window sill from the ground below. With Mrs. Bailey’s room already right at the entrance and with now about five rooms emptied, the main hall was getting mighty crowded with chair/desk traffic!

We had to take short breaks because of the hard work, and during one such break we discovered a new problem at the west (SW) end of the main hall, where we knew the band hall meeting had ceased. A home across Avenue I displayed an open, brightly lit window commanding a nice view of the west entrance. This entrance had originally been tagged as possibly the site of moving chair/desks from a couple of rooms at this end of the main hall; it was believed my lifting idea would barely work there also. To lift from the west entrance or not, that was the question; in our usual, efficient, and democratic way of making decisions in the M-4, we decided on a compromise position and decided to move only Mrs. Cotton’s chair/desks out the west entrance when the time came.

At about this time, the religious meeting across Avenue H broke up; it was time to move jammed chair/desks in the hall to the roof; it was time to test my idea.

My idea of how to get the chair/desks atop the school’s flat roof above the main hall, my modus operandi, was mind-numbingly simple: at the double main entrance at the east (NE) end of the building, the flat roof jutted out to provide sidewalk protection for an extended side of classrooms; the truncated side ended at the doors, leaving a bare, open edge of the flat roof, only a little over eight feet above the sidewalk. A 20-ft square open-air decorative flower bed, planted in lantana and/or nan Dina, just to the right of the doors as you walked out toward Avenue H, had two of its sides ringed with these bare, open roof edges. One of these edges on the square butted up against the wall of the entrance. I saw that if one stood just inside the square off the sidewalk/walkway right outside the entrance and “pressed,” like a barbell, a chair/desk above his head, gripping simultaneously the back of the chair and the front edge of the desk, two legs of the chair/desk would be just about roof level, where another person could kneel down and grab the piece of furniture by one or two of the upward-jutting legs and bring it up out of the “presser’s” grip, turning it around upright in the process, and place it on the flat roof. The distance at the west entrance from the ground to roof level was greater, but believed to be doable also, if the person on the roof reached down as far as he could below the roof level.

It was decided at first Berry and I would climb upon the roof just outside the main entrance, using the sidewalk guard rails like ladder rungs, and start as the two “roof men.” Cole was the first “feeder” of chair/desks out the door and Adling was the first “lifter” to Berry and me. It worked — just as I thought it would! I think we all felt a surge of relief and great satisfaction, none more so than I. It was not easy, especially on the lifter, but we found we could generate a rhythm efficient enough that the feeder and lifter could keep both roof men in perpetual motion walking one way loaded and the opposite empty — setting the chair/desks in ranks and files across the width of the flat roof above the main hall. We experimented to find the most efficient arrangement of our quartet, exchanging positions for several “units.” We found we seemed to work best, fast and efficient, with Adling and Berry on the roof, Cole as the feeder, and I as the lifter. I recall the sensations of a “well-oiled” machine: the soft crunching of the flat roof’s gravel under Adling’s and Berry’s feet during their two-way repetitions, Cole’s reliable maneuvering of the chair/desks from the hall, through the partially propped-open door, and to the lifting spot, and my seeminglly never-ending “military pressing” of each chair/desk over my head.

Our greatest concern, of course, was to be spotted by someone in a car driving on Avenue H, so we had a “system of concealment” should one the roof men, doubling, reasonably, as a watchman, should whisper as loudly as he dared, “Car!” That word would be relayed down along our “conveyor belt” of moving chair/desks. The roof men would quickly place any near-by desks they were transporting in the shadows and both lie flat on their stomachs upon the gravel; the feeder would shove any chair/desks at the entrance back inside the building and get inside the door, shutting it behind him; the lifter would assist the feeder as much as possible and then duck behind the lantana bushes in the landscaping. Thankfully, this system did not have to be employed too many times, and each time “all was clear” within seconds of the car’s passing. If any of us had a moment to spare, which was not often, he would glance up at the sky to look for signs of our greatest dread — worse than being caught in the deed — rain. Again, thankfully, no signs of rain were ever spotted.

Periodically, as more and more chair/desks were lining up along the roof top, we would all four stop our “conveyor belt” and go back inside to push more desks up close to the entrance for the efficient “feeding of the feeder.” At the end of one such “feeding,” we decided to go to other end of the hall and put up the one room of chair/desks from Mrs. Cotton’s room, for, no one seemed to be appearing at the bright window across Avenue I. This lifting site was more difficult, as both lifter and roof man had to stretch to complete the “hand-off.” Here the west door was left propped open all the time during lifting, as that entrance was entirely in shadow; a broken “business” end of a baseball bat was found as the prop. As we finished the chair/desks from this one room, it was my task to get rid of the broken bat that had served us so well. In our surging confidence I carelessly tossed the bat so hard it thundered into the end of the band hall with a loud thud! The three in the hall and I at the door froze; I hurriedly shut the door and received right away a “triple-tongue lashing” concerning my careless “stupidity.” The lashings turned to giggles when it was apparent there would be no response to the loud thud.

Back at the main lifting site at the east entrance, we had stopped for a breather and to check to see how many chair/desks we had to go. As we all talked just outside the entrance, I was holding the front door open so it would not close and lock us out, when it slipped out of my hand and did just that! There was a brief moment of panic, as we all had the realization that such a great plan, having been so successful so far, could be ruined by something so stupid and trivial. Adling became very emotional, and for the only time any of us over the years can remember, he “lost it;” composure became beyond him at that moment.

“Hastings! It ain’t going to be too difficult in the morning to figure out who did all this when they find Berry’s and my jackets and my books in the teachers’ lounge!” he said as loudly as he dared. The way Adling railed at me reminded me of the acting scenes he and I used to do for each other back in our junior high days; I could not help but start laughing, right in Adling’s face. As Adling became more and more upset with me, Berry and Cole became infected by my laughter. Adling noted Cole laughing nervously and did not notice that Berry’s laugh was curiously care-free. An observer of our as-quiet-as-possible quartet of laughter might have thought it a scene of condemned men laughing at themselves. My whirring mind quickly thought of a way to get back into the building, and, apparently, the same thing occurred to Berry. But neither of us let Adling know what we were thinking, as we were enjoying his rant too much. Adling even began laughing at himself ranting. Cole, also clueless to Berry’s and my thoughts, but true to his “coolness under fire,” decided to take it upon himself to calm Adling down and suggested the two of them walk around to the west door where we had recently worked to see, if by chance, it had been left ajar. (He probably wanted to make sure Adling was away from me, in case Adling was really angry enough at me to attack me.)

As Cole escorted Adling around the corner of the building closest to the intersection of W 11th St. and Avenue H to walk the length of the building around to the west door, Berry and I stood side by side without a word until they were out of earshot. We looked at each other and I asked him, “Do you want to go, or do you want me to?” Berry grinned and shrugged his shoulders. At that moment we both knew we were thinking the same thing, and to this day, I do not remember us saying anything about how to get back in to each other! I do remember him answering my question.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. Feeling myself responsible for this “mess,” I said I would go; I climbed onto the roof, squeezed into the small window above one of the stalls of the boys’ restroom, and dropped onto the toilet seat and down on the floor. In a matter of seconds I had let Berry back inside at the main entrance, and the two of us began walking toward the west door to see if we could catch Adling and Cole there. Who should we meet coming toward us down the hall through the maze of chair/desks yet to be “processed” but Ading and Cole! The west door had somehow been unintentionally left ajar! (Perhaps in that “frozen” moment when I slammed the bat against the band hall?) We all now, even Adling, had as loud a “snickering” fest as we could for a couple of minutes over this farcical series of events, when Adling “lost it.”

We returned to the final stages of stooping, reaching, carrying, lifting, and scooting. 10:00 PM changed into near 11:00 PM and we were determined to get at all the chair/desks we could. Some rooms were locked, so we could not get to our “prey” in these — Mrs. Lee’s (outside entrance), Mrs. Wagley’s, Mrs. Pirtle’s, and Mrs. Page’s, not to mention the library. We worked so continuously, efficiently, and rapidly we did not take the time to count the number we did get to and transport to the roof. Near the end, fatigue was appearing, reflected how hard we had worked, in the form of slips and accidental bumping of the chair/desks. But, when finished, we estimated we had reached a total of eight rooms, each with 25 to 35 chair/desks, for a total between 220 and 240! Four of us had done this in a little under 3 hours! (Not counting the preparatory positioning Adling and Berry had done before Cole and I joined them.) Little wonder back then and even today many suspect more than four did the prank, in light of the work done, and that we are still “covering” for no-telling-how-many!

When we could not reach any other chair/desks, we had to call a halt, much to the relief of our aching backs, and we took turns going up on the roof to view the surreal, fantastic, and hilarious sight of what we had accomplished — the entire long flat-roofed corridor over the main hall was jammed “bumper-to-bumper” with ranks and files of desks; the flat area over the offices was completely clogged with chair/desks, with some units sitting on the sloped “wings” of the area; the roof was full of school chair/desks! We seemed to agree, despite how tired we were, that the results exceeded our wildest expectations conjured in our planning sessions. Classrooms below were empty; the sight on the roof compelled laughter; midnight was approaching; the job was done. Tired, sweating, proud, and happy, we all four congratulated each other by shaking hands once again.

Our obvious success spurred us on to complete the rest of our plan for the evening. Cole and I left the building to retrace our steps along Avenue I across town to his car near the cemetery. We ran for a good deal of the way, and, to our surprise, we got barked at again by Tiny at Cole’s house! Meanwhile, Adling and Berry made sure there were no traces in the school building of who might have done this deed and made sure all doors were locked before they closed the last one behind them. They then, with jackets and Adling’s books, waited in the shadows for the sight of Cole’s car. That sight was to appear in the same area where Berry had been deposited back what seemed now a long time ago. Following an obscure route, Cole drove upon the school ground, as he had done on Berry’s deposit. Cole slowed down, and I once more slipped into the back seat to open the right rear door; Adling and Berry slipped into the back seat with me and closed the door quietly; I slipped back up into the passenger seat; it was hard to know which was smoother — the depositing of one or the pick-up of two. Cole drove directly to the rear of W.W. Smith’s service station, where Adling and Berry got out of Cole’s car into Adling’s, to begin acting as if they had just returned from the basketball game.

It was planned for Adling and Berry to meet Bobby and Larry after the team’s return from Hamilton to obtain information about the basketball game. After we had let Adling and Berry off behind the service station, Cole and I, resolving we were not going to lie about our aborted bowling trip, decided we needed more “substance” to our alibi, other than just “riding around” all this time. So, we thought it would be good to say we had waited around for the return of the basketball team, “meeting” athletes and “basketball fans” like Adling and Berry, after we couldn’t bowl. But we missed the arrival of the team at the community gym, so we quickly started looking for any team members not home yet to we could be seen by them. We did find such members at the all-night truck stop on Highway 80 at the west end of town, but, to our surprise, there were Adling and Berry also! It was cool to see that apparently Adling and Berry had gotten to speak to Bobby before going into the truck stop, for they were “talking up” the game with Bobby, Earl Carson, Macon Strother, and Anthony Strother, as if they had been in the stands. Not germane to the game, Cole and I made sure the story of our aborted bowling trip was well circulated at the truck stop. Cole and I felt our alibi strengthened, if the need arose, despite the unplanned gathering of a very tired quartet.

Adling dropped Berry off at the latter’s house and himself drove home; Cole and I arrived back at his house not very long after midnight, about the time we had told his mother we would. We were all back in our “normal” positions for the evening — the plan had been executed!

We all went to sleep that night tired, dog tired, but experiencing the exhaustion of a job well done. Before nodding off we talked, long after the fact, that we all experienced when retiring after the prank a “different form” of disbelief; it was hard to believe everything had “gone off” so very well; our planning had been successfully carried out, even to details, meeting and exceeding our expectations. Cole had radio station KOMA on as we “fell” into our beds, and the newly famous group, the Beatles, who had played at a concert in Washington, D.C. that very evening while the four of us were “so busy,” were being played — their first big hit in the U.S.: “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” I commented how appropriate it was to hear the Beatles to end such a fantastic night; Cole only mumbled something against the Beatles, as was his wont, but he did leave the radio on to the end of the song for me. Just before Cole went to sleep we shared the thought of how the next school day was going to be “interesting,” and how hard it was going to be to keep straight faces, hoping it was going to be hard to be found out.

Alone now with my thoughts as sleep came easily, my feelings, before they yielded to fatigued “grogginess” were best described as tidbits of triumphant giddiness. In Coronation terms, it was as if we all four had been crowned King Loboes; like Napoleon had reached out and crowned himself, we had reached out and done something about our Senior year to make it memorable; we had declared we were kings of our lives — not the pawns of anyone. It was an act of freedom, of defiance, of youthful joy — an act that had turned us into bonded brothers.


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