Category Archives: College

Fifty Years Later…

In the fall semester of college 1965, I made a decision that has changed my life forever—and for the better. I made a whole bunch of new friends and had wonderful experiences with them I would have never had otherwise. I pledged a fraternity—Epsilon Chi Chapter of Kappa Sigma, to be exact. This was at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL), which is now called the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL).

I began that session with no thought of joining a frat, but my neighbors at our new off-campus apartment were all Kappa Sigs and recruited me and my two roommates. I am thankful they did. I “went active” in the winter of ’66 and finally graduated in ’68. Of all my college experiences, those three years were the best. I made friends that I still have contact with. Some stood in my wedding, and I stood in theirs. While those were fun times, they eventually came to an end with graduation. Many of us went off into the military, marriage, and jobs after leaving school, and many of us lost contact with most of our brothers.

Fifty years later, an event changed that. A brother, Bo Cooksey, was about to pass with cancer, and some of his Kappa Sig brothers reached out to others from Bo’s era for a party in Lafayette. About thirty-five brothers from that period were located and able to come, some from far away states. It was a wonderful time in spite of the reason for the gathering. It stirred in us the need to not wait again until one of us was dying before getting together again. A reunion sprang from that.

A year later 102 brothers from the 1960s were found and able to attend a reunion in the Alumni Center at UL. In the process of searching for all these brothers, we discovered that thirty-seven of us were deceased already, which isn’t surprising, considering we were all in our mid sixties–mid seventies. Some died of diseases or accidents—and even Vietnam—many way too early in life.

It was a gathering with laughter and tears, and it will go down in my memory among my fondest. Yes, a few of us might have gotten a little snockered (not me). Many old tales were recalled, but the truth was never allowed to stand in the way of a good story. David Coughlin regaled us with his memories of the “Mobile Gross-Out Unit” activated in response to us being put on probation. Yes, we were on probation at least once while I was there. Back then Kappa Sigs (on the USL campus at least) were known as the “Animals,” and this was years before the movie “Animal House” came out. I don’t think we were as bad as those guys in the movie, but some might disagree, the Mobile Gross-Out Unit being just one reason for that.

For those who must know the details: It involved several brothers (who shall remain nameless, as they have attained some level of professional respectability as adults) riding around the campus in an IH Scout 4X4 with the top removed (and past the frat house that turned us in) while exposed their backsides, a position which is generally referred to as a “moon.” At least it was a simple moon and not a “double hog-back growler” (which, believe me, is much worse, but that’s another story, and it shall not be told on this blog.)

The infraction was hazing, which the Epsilon Chi chapter practiced back then. It really wasn’t that bad and prepared me well for my military basic training after graduation, which was a cakewalk after experiencing “Hell Week” as a pledge.

What’s my point? We make friends in our travel through the Valley of Death. Sometimes those friendships are allowed to fade away—and we should not allow that to happen. “Friends and Brothers” are too valuable to let slip away.


The pic is of me in my Eric “Otter” Stratton pose.

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Petty Wars – Stupid Things College Boys Do

If only we had applied ourselves to our studies with the same enthusiasm we applied to having fun, all three of us, me and my two roommates, were capable of being honor students, however, we were not so inclined to make that application. We were freshmen at Southeastern Louisiana College, a “suitcase college” only an hour from home, so most of us went home on the weekend. One of our diversions from study was what we came to call “Petty Wars,” which was a series of continually escalating conflicts involving silly trickery and gags between me and my two roommates, Sam Hopkins and Richard Caire, or between the three of us and some other person or group.

I forget how the Petty Wars started, probably some stupid college kid prank, like me stealing Sam’s Boston Cream Pie desert in the cafeteria. I distracted him by pointing out the “assets” of a particularly lovely coed, and when he turned to look, his slice of Boston Cream Pie, which was his favorite kind of pie, had disappeared into my mouth—all of it. He turned back to see me looking like a chipmunk with a years worth of nuts stuffed in my cheeks and Boston Cream Pie oozing from between my lips.

Or it may have been our stealing of Sam’s mother’s chocolate chip cookies, which he tried to hide in the dorm room. Come on! How many places can you hide a tin of cookies in a dorm room? Sam’s mother made great cookies. He did share them, albeit doling them out maybe one to each of us on Sunday night when we arrived back on campus. He figured that would satisfy us, and he could eat the rest while we were in class, assuming we even went to class, but that’s another tale.

Sam was and is clever, and he got me good. I came in from class one afternoon and neither Sam nor Richard were in the room, BUT “stupid” Sam had left his box of Chiclets Chewing Gum laying out on his desk—in plain sight—just begging to be stolen! Just in case you don’t recall, Chiclets come in a small box of about ten pieces of little  pillow shaped chewing gum, each of which is coated with a hard sugar coating, like M&Ms.

Well—guess what? I scooped the pack up and tossed two pieces into my mouth and went to chewing. I then went next door and passed the gum around to our neighbors, commenting how “dumb” Sam was. They all took some themselves, and we finished the whole pack in one sitting.

HOWEVER, none of us took note of the fact that the “Chiclets” were not their usual square shape but were rectangular, and the flavor was a bit off. All we cared about was they were free and “careless” Sam’s gum.

Ever hear of a product called Feen-A-Mint gum? Wikipedia defines it this way: a laxative that stimulates bowel movements—kind of a dry way of saying you will become very attached to a toilet for the next 24 hours. Feen-A-Mints look an awful lot like Chiclets, and even taste a little like Chiclets, but they are not square shaped like Chiclets; they are rectangular shaped. That’s right, we all sitting there chewing away on a double dose of a rather strong laxative!

Sam got a good laugh, and for those of us who had partaken of “stupid Sam’s Chiclets,” attending class the next day was completely out of the question.

After that, the Petty War escalated but shifted from interpersonal to between rooms, namely the guys in the room next door with whom we shared a bathroom. We lived in Holloway-Smith Dorm. It was a two-story “V” shaped into two wings broken up into four room suites, two on each side of a common bathroom of four sinks, two toilets and a large shower stall. The rooms opened to the outside and also to the common bathroom, of course.

With a recent escalation of the war by our neighbors next door (I forget what they did but it demanded retaliation), I put my engineering skills to work, which turned out to be a pretty impressive skill set, considering I was an art major.

The exposed plumbing ran overhead in the bathrooms, a feature that proved beneficial for my “Mechanical Marvel” retaliation device. From the pipe above, I hung a large malt cup by two strings through the lip directly in front of the offending neighbor’s door. I hung it at about chest level. I attached another string to the bottom rim of the cup on the side away from the door and looped the other end over a pipe on the opposite side of the bathroom, pulled it taut, and tied it off.

Next step was to fill the cup with something gross. That turned out to be just water and shaving cream. Might have been a little urine in it; I don’t recall?

Now, the final touch: I tied a string to the lip of the cup on the side away from the door, looped the other end over a pipe on the other side of the bathroom, then carefully pulled on that string. As I pulled, the cup, supported by its bridle and now the third string, slowly swung up towards the ceiling. Get the picture? The cup is hanging from its bridle and the third string up near the pipes now.

I stretched out the string all the way back to the door of our target, tied a matchstick to the end of the string, then stuck the match stick between the door and its jamb. The “booby trap” is set, and we retired to the day room to watch TV.

About an hour later, we were confronted by a very irate neighbor, who was also very wet. It had obviously worked! And while he was mad, he was also impressed.

This is what happened:

  1. Target neighbor comes home and goes directly to the bathroom to relieve himself.
  2. He opens the door, releasing its hold on the match stick
  3. String holding the cup of joy up near the ceiling is no longer doing so
  4. Cup is now free to swing back to its rested position—and it does
  5. At the end of its swing arc, the string tied to the bottom rim goes taut, upending the swinging cup
  6. Upended cup dumps contents onto surprised target neighbor


Prank Trap

He said when he looked up and saw the cup coming at him, he froze, mesmerized by this mysterious cup coming at him from out of the darkness.

No one ever topped that one for sheer cleverness. I should have studied engineering…

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Outhouses and Smart*** College Boys

A Tree Grows In Bartlett_03122006My friend Richard Caire and I roomed together in college. The third member of our little confederacy was Sam Hopkins, and all three of us majored in art. Richard has focused his talents on photography and Photoshop manipulation to create some truly beautiful works of art. He sent me the attached image of an outhouse near where he lives, and it reminded me of a story.

It was our second year at Southeastern Louisiana Institute (Sounds like some kind of asylum doesn’t it? Such would have been appropriate for Richard, Sam, and me.)

Anyhow, we were taking art with no real notion how we might make a living at that. Actually, we were taking art so we could drink beer, thus my claim I minored in beer. We three happy-go-lucky, beer-swilling smartasses show up for the first day of a drawing class in the fall of 1963, and after all the introduction stuff, we get our first assignment, which was to venture forth and find a nice house and draw it. The instructor’s assumption was that we would wander off campus and sketch one of the many beautiful old homes around the college.

Oh no! The Three Amigos had to turn a simple assignment into a contest of wills. We drove all over the backwoods around Hammond, Louisiana to find an outhouse to draw. They are, after all, “houses,” are they not? It might not surprise the reader to learn that finding an outhouse around Hammond in 1963 was not a major challenge.

We found a nice one, kind of leaning like the one in the picture, and approached the owners, an elderly black man and his equally elderly wife, to ask permission to sketch their outhouse. She stood off to the side and looked suspiciously at the three white boys standing there, stupid grins on our faces, sketchbooks in hand, and asking to draw their outhouse. The old man looked at us and rubbed his chin, and I am sure he was thinking, These white boys be crazy!

He was right!

But he graciously gave his permission. (We might even have given him a few bucks.)

An hour or so later, outhouse properly sketched, we departed and turned in our assignment, expecting … I’m not sure just exactly what we were expecting, now that I think about it. The instructor could have taken it badly and given us all an “F” for being so arrogant, and we would have deserved it. Instead, he evaluated them right along with all the other students sketches of “real” houses. Maybe he thought we were really creative?

So we went out for a beer to celebrate.

Image credit: © 2015 Richard A Caire

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