From Our Readers: Fall 2010

January 11, 2011

“Dear Young Wabash” 

I enjoyed Professor Bill Cook’s “Dear Young Wabash” [WM Spring 2010]  so much that I read it twice. Bill’s look at Wabash across his two on-campus experiences [as a student in the Class of 1966 and the past two years as a visiting professor] captured the essence of the College and evidenced how that essence enduringly lives on from generation to generation. 
As he so eloquently noted, professorial legends change, traditions evolve, new buildings replace old, and Wabash men come and go. Everything that is Wabash, however, remains. 
 
Bill had the enviable opportunity to live the Wabash experience twice and 45 years apart. My thanks to him for sharing that experience with us and reassuring us that “Dear Old Wabash” lives on at “Dear Young Wabash.”
—Jay R. Allen ’79, Chatham, NJ
 
“The Gregarious and Quirky” 
Just read your great piece in the magazine about riding Amtrak [From the Editor, WM Spring 2010]. In June, my wife, Harlane, and I went from California to Chicago on Amtrak for my 50th high school reunion in Columbus, Indiana. Your piece was right on the mark! 
 
We’ve ridden Amtrak a lot because we love riding the rails, and what you said about “the gregarious and quirky” passengers was right on! In fact, I couldn’t wait to read to Harlane what you had written. She thought you were spot on, too! 
Thanks for capturing what riding Amtrak is like.
—Skip Lindeman ’64, Redondo Beach, CA
 
“An Intimate Experience”
Like Professor David Krohne, I am a deer hunter, and I echo the thoughts he shared so well in his essay [“Essence,” WM Spring 2010]. I’ve hunted with bow and arrow for 28 years now, and each deer that I’ve harvested has given rise to an uneasy feeling. It’s the feeling that one gets at the moment of truth, when you know the timing is right for the shot you hope will enable you to take a life with minimal suffering to your quarry. 
 
So often the anti-hunting crowd perceives hunters as a cross between Yosemite Sam and Larry the Cable Guy—brash, cruel, and with an attitude of “up yours.” Admittedly, there are hunters out there who give the majority in the hunting world a bad reputation. But for most hunters I know, the taking of a life is no small thing. We care a great deal about our environment and the animals we share it with. Every deer I harvest gets consumed. I want to make the cleanest shot possible, and each time I take a life, a little something inside of me aches just a bit. 
 
I recall a hunt five years ago in early December. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon. Snow had begun falling at a steady pace, there was no wind. Six deer meandered up a draw from a creek bottom into my camp, and a doe broke away from the group and ran right up under me. With careful aim and a clear shot, I released my arrow. It hit the mark perfectly behind the shoulder, and barely flinching, the doe trotted off about 25 yards and fell on her side in 3 inches of snow.
 
I stayed in my tree stand to wait for the inevitable. I could see her clearly and watched her chest rise and fall. About 30 seconds later, she died. I climbed down, and walked up to her, and suddenly felt compelled to fall on my knees in front of her. I watched and listened to the stillness of the woods. Then I placed my hand on that deer and began to pray. It seemed right to thank my Creator for the sustenance that deer would provide, for the beautiful woods I had to hunt in, for the joy and privilege
of hunting that property, and for the safety the Lord provided me that day. 
 
Did I feel something inside, perhaps a little sadness for the life taken? Absolutely. Was it an intimate experience, as Dr. Krohne put it? A perfect description. 
—David Troutman, Director of Planned Giving, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, IN
 
“Demonstrating Humanity” 
Wabash Magazine reminds me of why I am proud to be a member of the Wabash brotherhood. The story about the students who went to El Salvador [“Beyond Words,” WM Spring 2010] was only the most recent story of many of Wabash men doing good and demonstrating humanity that you have published in recent years. 
 
Keep up the good work.
—Lee Grogg ’68, Executive Director/CEO, Ryther Child Center, Seattle, WA

Wabash Stories
We’re always looking for Wabash stories, but in the Fall 2009 issue we specifically invited alumni to send us their tales and meaningful moments from their student days. The following are two recent submissions. Keep ’em coming!

The Burning of the “W”
It was on a wonderfully pleasant fall evening in 1948 when four Delta Tau Delta pledges from the Class of 1952—Joe McFarland, Doyle Pickett, Bill Reinke, and myself—decided to take a ride in Pickett’s Ford coupe down the road to Greencastle. Doyle wanted to see his girlfriend before the Monon Bell game, and the rest of us volunteered to keep him company. (Perhaps to meet some nubile and available DePauw coeds.)
 
As we drove along, however, a different idea evolved—a plot that will live in fame and memory as long as “the scarlet flag shall proudly flash.” In the trunk of Doyle’s car was an empty gasoline can. We stopped at a service station along the way, filled the can, and drove to the DePauw football field. There was no one in sight as we drove along the streets, and we soon found a parking place. 
 
The football field was in complete darkness, but lights from neighboring buildings provided sufficient illumination for the four of us. We placed ourselves in appropriate positions directly in front of the grandstand, centering on the 50-yard line. One of us, using the others as points of reference, poured the gasoline onto the turf in the form of a very large “W”. The grass and the ground welcomed the gasoline, and soon the can was empty. Someone produced a match, and in moments the football field was aflame with the symbol of Wabash might and freshmen ingenuity.
 
It was a wonderful sight, as any loyal Wabash man may well imagine. But we knew better than to stay and admire our work. We piled into the car as fast as we could and drove over to another part of the campus, unobtrusively parking so 
that we could see the street that led toward the football field. As we swore ourselves to secrecy, knowing not what fate would befall us if Dean Byron Trippet discovered who had done the deed, a couple of fire trucks and police cars, lights flashing and sirens blasting, zoomed past us. Hmmm—now where could they have been going? 
 
At the next Chapel, Dean Trippet called on the arsonists to confess, implying swift punishment for our crime. DePauw’s dean or president had been on the phone with him early in the morning, and apparently it had not been a very pleasant conversation. “Trip” made it clear that if we were found out it would not be a very pleasant conversation for us, either. I think expulsion was inferred if not mentioned directly.
 
I regret that I was not at the Monon Bell Game the following Saturday. As far as I know, none of us ever discussed our prank while we remained at Wabash. Reinke and Pickett graduated and went on to distinguished careers in law and publishing, respectively. What would have happened to those miscreants had they been discovered and expelled from Wabash?
 
A couple of years later I was visiting with a friend at Purdue, and while chatting with him and a couple of his friends, I learned that one of them had attended the Monon Bell game in 1948. He told me about the huge black “W” that was burned into the football field. He said that every formation of the DePauw band before the game and at half time centered upon that “W.” 
It must have been a beautiful sight!
 
Doyle Pickett died several years ago, and Joe McFarland cannot be found. But Class Agent Bill Reinke and I are still around, and we occasionally reminisce about the night we branded DePauw’s football field.
 
Ooh-Wa Wa!
—Kurt Thoss ’52, Naperville, IL
 
From the Pits to Near the Top 
The weekend before Chapel Sing 1956, I went with the Wabash Pep Band to the Ohio Wesleyan football game. I planned to memorize the song in the car to and from the game. But I slept most of the way. 
 
The following Monday, I mumbled in singing the song and the Senior Council pulled me out. I missed five words and commas (three permitted). I had not had a haircut for two months. I got the “W” haircut the next day.
 
I was a Phi Delt embarrassment. Thanks to me, my 18-member pledge class ate lunch on the floor the next week with no utensils. I called my girlfriend, Joanie (who later became my beloved wife of over 52 years), and told her she did not have to come to Homecoming. I met her at the bus station on Saturday morning and told if she was too embarrassed to be with me, she could walk 10 feet behind me. 
 
But Joanie walked with me to her friend’s house. She sat with me with the Wabash Band at the Homecoming football game. The next day she shaved my head so that the shameful “W” was gone. 
That was the pits! Dean Rogge called me in the next week to ask if I was okay. I said, “I guess I am.”
 
I had been valedictorian of my high school class of 175. By the eighth grade, I was one of the best clarinetists in all Indiana high schools. I received an Alfred Sloan Scholarship to Wabash. Failure was not a word that had meaning to me. I was not a quitter, although I thought about it.
 
I also thought about suicide a couple of times. Those nights, I walked into the Presbyterian Church, prayed, and realized that I could not waste my life.
 
By the end of my freshman year, I had a 2.65 out of 3.00 grade point average both semesters, played clarinet in the college band, ran track, and played clarinet in a four-piece dance band 
most Saturday nights. I was nominated as the outstanding Phi Delt freshman.
 
Warren Hall was the Wabash outstanding freshman that year. He had a 3.00 GPA. I was proud to see him win the mile at the Indiana collegiate track meet in 4:09, beating the best from Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, and the rest of the state. The 4-minute time for the mile had only been broken a couple of years earlier in the world.
—F. William (Bill) Johnson ’60, 
Fort Myers, FL

 


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