By Geoffrey Wallace Brown, Ph.D.
In the Kitchen of my house there hangs on the wall a Needlepoint given to me by my (former) Sister-in-law--Karol Gerde.
Karol is the second purest woman I have ever met.
Next to Kathee.
In the Spring of 1972 I persuaded Karol to come to Whitman.
For the Fall of '73.
Karol and I arrived on Campus at the same time.
Karol was just about the sweetest, most innocent thing you ever could imagine.
She was going to go to Dental Technician School; but she had the courage to break out of that and dare to try herself at something that would challenge her mind.
She was very much like Kathee, when Kathee first arrived.
An undiscriminating little Christian (Lutheran), sort of filling up time waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus, and trying to stay out of as much trouble as possible.
There was a certain parallel between Karol and me.
I was returning to Campus with a similar degree of vulnerability.
Only mine, you might say, had been self-inflicted; because I had chosen to make the moves that had gotten me where I was.
I knew I had three years to prove to these guys that I wasn't nuts; and was in no danger of tipping over the edge.
That was the agonizing thing about my predicament, and that of all persons with the stigma of "Mental Illness."
You always are constantly having to prove yourself. That you are O.K. That you are not about to Cave In. Or go berserk.
You can see that (question) in people's faces.
All the time.
Everywhere you go.
I had to demonstrate to these people that I was O.K., and that I was going to be O.K.
I began by assuming a full work load, with just as many duties as I had had before my "Mental Breakdown."
Do you have any idea of what that phrase means?
In the eyes of people who are trusting you with the responsibilities of a teacher?
Every eye was upon me.
Every class was a Crisis.
For any sign that I was going to Crack.
Right there in front of the Class.
In different sections.
For any little sign.
While I was trying to explore the great minds in Ethics.
I told the class--it was split into two sections, with about sixty in each--that my Sister-in-Law had come to Whitman.
And that I had real reservations about bringing her.
Because she was a perfect Christian little girl, as had been my wife; and Whitman, as they all knew, was a bastion of atheism, that, every Christmas, bordered on agnosticism.
It had been started back in the 1800ís by Congregationalists and Presbyterians, people derivative from the Marcus Whitman Mission on the Oregon Trail; but now it was a stronghold of intellectual resistance to anything resembling faith, or spirituality.
Even our two Religion Professors made no (public) claim to any degree of spirituality.
In fact, Roy Hoover, who ran the Bible Literature studies, and was himself a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, made a point of insisting that there be an absence of spirituality in the students' papers.
And George Ball, who had a Law Degree from Cornell, as well as a Ph.D. from Yale, took great pains to make sure that any metaphysical or theological position taken by any of his students in their papers be backed up with good, wholesome, rational arguments.
Like an attorney.
Well, I was teaching this Ethics Course, and I always liked to use extremely relevant examples, to illustrate the Ethical points made by people like Mill and Sartre and Nietzsche and Freud.
So I used Karol.
She didn't mind.
We were very, very close.
She would have trusted me with anything I did.
Within her Christian Morals.
I was concerned that Whitman might corrupt her.
The students saw why.
And they saw that it was a good example, and why I used it to illustrate the theories.
I mean it was a moral dilemma.
Just to prove what a moral dilemma it turned out to be, Karol ended up getting kicked out of College Life, which is the Christian College Youth Organization, for wearing a bikini in a fashion show being held in a tavern. And she ended up spending her Senior Year rooming with a Pre-Med Student, who dumped her when he took off for Medical School the next Fall.
In case you doubted that it was a real ethical issue.
Whether or not I should have persuaded her to come to Whitman in the first place.
It was a good issue.
It really was.
That sort of illustrates my teaching technique.
Taking the most abstract and seemingly remote of Metaphysical Theories and making them intensely relevant to the lives of my students in that class.
Showing them how the Ethical decisions really were the real ones.
In their lives.
And, how the ethical theories they subscribed to, whether consciously or unconsciously, shaped the decisions they were going to make. And, consequently, how it was of primary importance, in their lives, to expose to the light of reflection and rational discourse the theories they did in fact subscribe to.
That was my job.
Yesterday I was reading an Interview between Norman Mailer and John Ehrlichman.
I remember Watergate.
I was in the Bin.
Making a belt.
That's right. A belt.
I have it hanging right here next to my desk.
In spite of the fact that I am the world's worst craftsman.
But I made this God Damn belt.
To please my Captors.
In the Bin.
They figured I needed a little Arts and Crafts, to round me out.
So, in a large effort to please, I made this fucking belt.
I hate Arts and Crafts.
I am terrible at Arts and Crafts.
The last time I got near Arts and Crafts was in Shop.
In the Eighth Grade.
Sherry can vouch for this.
I chased the class on the way to Shop swinging a dead cat.
Mr. Clevenger made me make a Hamburger Press.
Actually, I wanted to please my Mom, so I volunteered to make a Hamburger Press.
It required equilateral sides.
I was fucked.
That Hamburger Press got smaller and smaller and smaller.
Until it had equilateral sides, plus, equilateral angles.
I got a 'C' in Shop.
I was impressed by Watergate for one central reason.
It reaffirmed to me the intense and deep morality of the American People.
Image. Fucking up the whole government for an entire year or two. Over something as trivial as the Republicans wiretapping the Democrats.
How inconceivably inconsequential.
Well, down to cases.
Maybe a couple of you have wondered what the fuck I do all day.
If I seem to sit around and do nothing. But read magazines and watch the Box.
Your impression is correct.
That is exactly what I do all day.
That, and watch the time go by on my electric, battery powered clock.
It is the most frustrating, exasperating thing I have ever done.
But I am gaining tremendous, deep, self-control.
At least I am free of physical problems.
That I used to inflict on myself.
I calculated once that I have eaten over 20,000 Maalox and Gelusil.
Since I got my duodenal ulcer, when I was a Freshman at Whitman.
It got a little absurd, there, toward the end of my teaching career at Whitman, when I was fighting for my life--literally--as far as I was concerned.
After their denial of tenure for me in the fifth year, I came home and announced to Kathee that I was going to blow my head off if they did it to me again the next year.
Toward the end I was waking up in the morning around 11:00, if I could get away with it, because I was taking so many tranquilizers and drinking so much booze that I needed a good twelve hours to recover.
And there would be Maalox in my hair.
And dried, on my chin, and in my ears.
And on the pillowcase. And up my nose.
You see, to counteract the ulcer I needed to dissolve six tablets of Maalox in my mouth during the night. As I slept.
But I had to so knock myself out, the night before, with drugs and booze, to handle the fear, that I would be literally unconscious all during the night.
So I would drool.
All over my face.
Without knowing it.
Now you know why I see the purity in my wife Kathee.
I was swell to be around.
In fact, that was what she called me: Mr. Swell.
Kathee said she got real tired of watching me walk around with a Pistol in my mouth.
Or my Shotgun.
I was going to see Fritz.
60 miles away.
In the Tri-Cities.
Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco.
Right near the Hanford Nuclear Reactor.
Fritz kept me alive.
With the most precious, caring, psychotherapy I have ever seen.
Mellaril. And Thorazine.
He would administer these with skill and care. And discernment. To estimate, or judge, how many, how much medication to give a guy like me.
Too little and he kills himself.
Too much and he kills himself.
Thank you Dr. Fritz.
The high point of these darkest days was watching The Waltons.
I craved the sense of family that was reflected in that television show.
I would have given anything for a Mother like Olivia Walton.
And then we got the idea to try to buy the farm up Blue Creek!
I called my Mother, and asked her for some money to help with the down payment.
She hung up on me.
I wrote my Grandmother--the "Christian Scientist."
She told me I wasn't mentally stable enough to undertake such a responsibility.
But, then an extraordinary real estate agent appeared.
And my Father came through.
And my Grandfather--Jack McKinnon--who lived in Lewiston, about a hundred miles away, came through.
And Kathee's folks came through.
And, suddenly the money was there, and this agent made the arrangements for us.
And we had our Farm.
Our dream home.
Now the only job was to keep it.
That was when I started drinking, again.
After the Bin.
I was a good drinker.
I knew all about it.
The essential thing was not to drink so much that it interfered, in any way with your work day.
To relax you.
So you can sleep.
And enjoy life a little bit.
When you come home.
The great secret, I discovered, was mixing pills and booze.
You have to be very, very careful.
Because it's dynamite.
A couple of times I blew it.
And went Psychotic.
But only at times when it was safe, and I was willing to go a little too far.
I remember once, when we went to visit Katheeís brother and sister-in-law, Jon and Kristin.
Up the South Fork.
Of the Walla Walla River.
We were coming back in the car.
Kathee was driving.
I was trying to figure out a way to stop the guys in the backseat.
Who were trying to kill us.
I finally got a concoction going that I could measure out, that would give me the desired effect, without giving me a hangover.
I had to perform in Class.
I mean that in every sense of the word.
I had to be an actor.
Pretend to be this wonderful little hooker.
Who would suck the cock of anybody who happened to be strolling by, that might be of some conceivable help in my effort to get tenure.
I had to befriend everyone, no matter how vicious.
Anyone was capable of starting a rumor that would finish someone as vulnerable as I was.
There were seven guys, it turned out, counting both the initial tenure Committee meeting and the Appeal Committee.
Two of the guys on the Original Committee were also put on the Appeal Committee.
Both of them were against me.
The first was my old friend Dick Thomassen.
The second was a guy named Don King.
King was seriously disliked by the students.
That was my perception anyway.
Kathee had him in class.
She said he gave you no reason, whatsoever, to be interested in the material.
Don did things like ask you the Causes for the Fall of the Roman Empire.
As one question.
Out of eight.
In a two hour final.
Don's point, at my tenure evaluation, since the entire focus of the meeting was why I was so popular, was that my popularity would wane.
As I got older.
That was it.
That was the point of Don's remarks.
That was why he voted against me on both occasions.
That, and the fact that I hadn't published.
I was out on the Railroad Tracks again last Night.
The train is a Metaphor.
I sat down on a bridge.
And watched it roar by.
About two feet away.
It means Error to me.
So long as you know that it is a train, you can sit quietly, even close to it, and never be disturbed at all.
Well, let's go on to my little bout with Error when I didn't know that it was a train. Confined to a track. That was really doing all kinds of good things.
In the Spring of 1974 Whitman got a Grant from the Danforth Foundation to go to Salishan.
A beautiful Lodge--Resort--on the Oregon Coast.
Something like $50,000.
And there we were to talk about Curriculum Development.
And related matters, pertaining to the improvement of our school.
It was clear, that the crunch was on, for Academia.
The Baby Boom was over.
Enrollments were going to decline.
And we had to become more competitive.
And we had had this new hot shot from the East--Bob Skotheim--to show us the Way.
Skotheim's idea, of course, was to cut my throat.
Or, people like me.
Because we had no publications.
It didn't matter what else you might do, the number, the list, of publications behind your name was what counted.
It is what counts.
When all you have are statistics.
Which, he failed to see, was an argument against Statistics.
I could have played that game.
But I decided, when I came to Whitman, that the line had to be drawn.
If I was ever going to be a man, I had, somewhere, to draw at least one dinky little line, which said I will not violate my integrity past this point.
With me that was publishing.
The game of Academic Publishing is one of the great small-minded rackets on earth.
Infinitely much more gets written down for "publication" in Academic Journals, than could ever conceivably be used, or even read, for that matter.
The most trivial nonsense horseshit known to man.
My discipline ("Profession") Philosophy, for example, has at least 270 different Journals you might send your "Articles" to.
Now I know that you probably supposed that there might have been a couple of Journals that a fellow might get his stuff published in.
What's going on here?
Perhaps the word "busywork" might come to mind.
But, we won't go into how those Journals and Publications are used for purposes of promotion, rank, and tenure.
And all the ugly politics that goes along with them.
And all the people that manage to rise to the top of Academia on the strength of their willingness to eat the kind of trivial shit that you have to endlessly engage yourself in--literal-minded nitpicking ad infinitum--that is the sole source and substance of these "Publications".
These people come to control Academia.
They Control Academia today.
How do you do.
Well, I drew the line there.
I wouldn't publish in those crap garbage journals.
I wouldn't do it.
I drew the line there.
And I got caught.
It was my Achilles' Heel.
My one point of vulnerability.
And it was what they got me on.
The School--our school--Whitman College, of course had almost no faculty members who published for these things.
But, when I came along they decided to change the rules to make it look like this was the thing to do.
And I had been derelict.
(Which I had.)
And so therefore I shouldn't get tenure.
That was it.
You may think that this is a caricature, or a piece of paranoia on my part, but it is quite literally the God's truth.
Let me quote you the substantive paragraph from Skotheimís letter of denial of tenure to me:
"Some of your colleagues spoke favorably of your teaching and counseling. Discussion occurred concerning whether the very positive aspects of your teaching involve primarily excellent style for your particular courses as opposed to academic substance, or both. There seemed no question that you are an appreciated teacher and adviser; but skeptical questions persisted about your long-run potential as a teacher. These questions related in large part to the absence of activity as a scholar, as a philosopher. It was noted that for many years you have been urged orally and in writing to pursue an active professional interest in some aspect of your discipline. Almost six years after completion of the dissertation the committee continues to be told what you plan to do but little has been done."
The "urged both orally and in writing" refers to the year before, when, for the first time I had been told by the then acting President, Kenyon Knopf, my old pal, to get off my butt and develop my course in Far Eastern Philosophy. If that's what I was going to do.
But now the drift toward "professionalism" had taken a more clearly material tack.
I had done nothing to "evidence" that I was a "professional" philosopher.
By outward criteria.
Of course not.
I had put every last dime of energy I had into that school.
Where requirements, such as counseling and teaching, were exactly the opposite of the requirements of Big Time Academia.
Which was exactly why I wanted to be there.
Why I had to be there.
I was the perfect counselor for these kids.
I was the perfect teacher for these kids.
They knew it.
I knew it.
I had to be destroyed.
Precisely because I was such a direct threat to my colleagues.
At least the ones who bought the imitation (vs. the substantive) theory of what an education is.
Which was about half of them.
I would say.
But a half that could become a whole as soon as somebody stampedes the Turkeys.
And they fall all over themselves, suffocating each other, in the effort to run for their lives.
You see, most of these guys were there--at Whitman--because they genuinely liked teaching.
That's why they didn't move in the 60ís. When moving was the thing to do.
Most of the guys were genuinely good teachers.
Given what our job was--what and who the kids were--that we were to teach.
Kind of Middle Class Kids, from all over the Northwest, who needed a little extra care.
And who therefore shouldn't have gone to Big University Schools.
That was our job.
And we did it well.
But we all--each of us--had our little foibles and weaknesses that made us vulnerable.
Each of us.
In our own way.
And so when Skotheim came along, who wanted to use Whitman as his little stepping stone, he virtually stampeded the Turkeys into a Catastrophic Fit of Self-Destruction.
And, boy, when you destroy that trust, that runs an organization, you turn to statistics.
So I was the Pigeon.
The test case.
To see whether the Faculty was willing to destroy itself.
They had elected two men--King and Thomassen--who were perfect for the job.
As Chairmen of the Social Science and Science Divisions, respectively.
And from the Humanities Division, a man only slightly more humane than the other two, named Patrick Tyson.
As a Composite of Officers, they were termed the Committee of Division Chairmen.
They had overturned a vote of 5-4 in favor of my getting tenure the year before my final year.
I knew that all of this was happening on my way to Salishan.
"Happy Days are here again ....."
We all took a Greyhound Bus from Whitman to the Oregon Coast.
It was togetherness time.
(The way that Evil works is to put on the trappings of the good and true and pure.
And parade these as the genuine article.
You can tell who is where in their understanding of Truth by their readiness to buy into the counterfeit.)
I was shattered.
I was having anxiety attacks whenever I got around these people.
I could see what they were doing, to themselves, to the school, and to Me.
There was no way around it.
That I could possibly see.
It was a Freight Train, way off in the Distance, just barely flickering its headlight, and beginning to make a thunderous noise.
Well, the Indians got me.
For all of the seemingly nasty things I have been saying about them.
Trying to wake them up.
To the goodness of Life.
But, nevertheless, they have triumphed.
My sewer is plugged up.
That's right. The 4-inch line from my house to the Main Sewer Line is plugged.
Is more like it.
Last summer, you see, somebody got the great and bright idea to pave the streets!
So now we have nice new crisp streets running up and down the blocks, in among the ratty old beaten down shacks and outhouses and vacant lots.
At no cost, of course.
There is an infinitely large Federal check to pay for anything that will keep the Indians happy. (Quiet.)
Across the street from me, for example, there are no fewer than six full-time employees. Who do nothing except fill out application forms for "Financial Aid."
They couldnít even get their gas Furnace going.
And had to ask me to come and light it for them.
Which I did.
But they got me in the end.
For blowing the whistle on them.
They ran over my Sewer Line.
And flattened it.
With those great big Earth Movers.
When they were gouging out the roadbed for the asphalt.
Sons of bitches.
So now my Sewer is plugged up.
In the middle of Winter.
And my laundry tubs are full of Washing Machine Water.
And the bathtub is full.
Of two-day-old water.
And I am waiting for the Big Sky Sewer Service.
Who is two days late.
Sons of bitches.
It reminds me of when I was going through it at Whitman.
And my Lennox Oil Burning Furnace went out.
And I would spend every day, before going to school, fucking with that furnace, trying to get it lighted. So we wouldn't freeze.
We ended up trying to heat the house with the Fireplace.
So we had a choice of whether to suffocate or freeze.
I haven't found the courage to explore the metaphysical implications of this new problem yet.
I must return, moreover, to my friends in Glasgow, working at Buttrey's.
The Checker's name is Joan Burns.
I return to her because she reminds me of something about Intelligence that I think you should know about.
Intelligence is something that is given to us.
In response to our use of love, trust, humility, and courage.
It is a gift.
Hence, it is something that is reflected.
It is a response.
To something that it sees and recognizes.
It is not I.Q.
Intelligence Quotient is something dreamed up by scientists, engineers, and sociologists for their own amusement.
I.Q. has nothing to do with Intelligence.
Intelligence that is concerned with what is really going on in Life.
IQ "intelligence" is interested, basically, in building bridges.
That is the basis for the exam.
Which is a pretty good indication that if you have a high IQ you have a low Intelligence.
Because you are interested, or have developed an interest, in things like Scrabble.
Which is prima facie grounds for indicating you aren't very smart.
I say this, as one moron to another, because I have a measly IQ of 101.
As tested in the Eighth Grade.
It's right there on my sheet.
You know, the one where they give you the Aptitude and Achievement tests.
And slip the IQ test in on the side.
In fact, my mother was so concerned about my failing I.Q., which, literally, is only two points above Moron, that she went to see the Counselor in my High School.
Hossack told her that on the basis of my IQ, I should forget about College, and go into a Vocational Training Program.
The Old Lady freaked out.
And sent me to the University Mental Health Clinic.
Where I got my IQ jacked up to somewhere around 121.
By Al Walters.
Who was a hell of a nice guy.
And told me I ought to be a Clinical Shrink. Like him.
Based on all the other test results.
TAT. Rorschach. MMPI. Etc.
But the crucial thing I want you to see here is that you can tell how intelligent somebody is by what they respond to.
Not what their IQ is.
The two are almost mutually exclusive.
Well, enough fun.
Down to business.
I was going to talk about my defense.
Trying to get tenure.
Well, I had three extremely good friends, on the student body, in the Academic Year 1975-76.
The Day of the Locust.
Which is the name of a Movie my brother played in.
At about that time.
You know, the one on Malibu Beach.
On. Not just in.
Read it and weep fun seekers.
I had lots and lots of friends on the Student Body.
Largely stemming from the fact that I totally loved my students; they were the only ray of open-minded intelligence I had ever seen in my entire life; and I was ready to do anything for them.
And they for me.
Which was the trouble.
The main problem in the whole business was keeping them quiet.
That was where my three friends came in.
Thank God, when they locked me up in the Solitary Confinement Cell in the County Jail, the Night before I went in the Bin, my Students had already gone home for summer vacation.
That's all I could think of while I was in there.
Thank God my students aren't here.
It was perfectly clear, when I lost the initial tenure decision, that I could get 500 letters from students who had had me to testify in my behalf.
That was precisely the problem.
The main issue at the first meeting, was why was I so popular.
One guy, Ted Anderson, who had been brought in fresh that year onto my Committee, and who headed the Pre-med Program at Whitman, and who voted against me, said at the Meeting, "I understand Geoff sells Acid to his students."
Another guy, Jay Ecker, the Behaviorist of the school, said that he was concerned that I exerted a spellbinding power over the students.
Like I was a hypnotist.
(Behaviorists don't really believe in mental phenomena, like hypnotism, but for this occasion Jay made an exception.)
Another, Roy Hoover, like the other two, brought in for the first time on my Committee that year, tried to establish that whatever my appeal was...it wasn't intellectual.
Roy worked down the Hall from me. A couple of doors.
Roy had his degree from Harvard.
The school with the good taste to have its graduates wear Red Gowns.
To set them apart from all the rest of us morons wearing Black Gowns.
Well, fully half of Roy's job at Whitman was being what they called the Religious Counselor.
Which was a euphemism for saying they didn't have enough work for him.
They eventually made him Assistant Dean.
Because Roy never got enough students to come and see him.
In his Office.
He would sit there.
Day after day.
And once in a while a few students would trickle in to see him.
And those, it seemed to me, were there to discuss the long, boring papers he would assign them as exegesis work in the Bible.
Spirituality left out.
Well, these three guys plus Dick and Don, constituted the five negative votes that tied the first Committee decision.
The Dean had not only imported three new guys to vote on my Committee (and left one of the old (friendly) guys off), but he had set it up so it could tie: 5 to 5.
Which is exactly what it did.
Dale Cosper, the man whom I appointed to represent me at this Meeting asked Kenyon what would happen then.
Ken--smilin' Ken we always called him--leaned back in his chair and said, Well, I guess it's in the hands of me and the President.
Not that it mattered.
The next Meeting, wherein I appealed the decision of that "Committee," gave me a 5 to 4 favorable decision and the President--honest Bob Skotheim--overturned that.
Saying it wasn't strong enough.
Who says there isn't justice.
I remember going in to see Ken and Bob after my defeat on the appeal.
I was there to tell them that I wasn't going to go to Court.
And I wasn't going to go to the AAUP (the Union).
Smilin' Ken just leaned back and gave me this great big grin; and said, "Sometimes you find yourself in a "No-Win" situation."
Then I went up to honest Bob Skotheim's Office.
I told him that I wasn't going to sue. Too.
He was visibly relieved and laughed, and joked that there "is no justice."
He told me that he had had a brother-in-law who had been in a situation similar to mine.
A Philosophy Professor looking for work.
For three years.
And he never found it.
He finally got a teaching certificate and taught Grade School.
Which, "with my ideas about education," he told me, was what I should do.
Skotheim later came to appreciate my "Intelligence."
In fact he came to substantially respect me.
Our last conversation together found him shaking hands with me, as I was leaving his Office, telling me that I continued to "inspire" and "bewilder" people.
Skotheim also sent a note to one of my students, Liz Oppenheimer, a beautiful little Jewish Girl from Ladue, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
Liz had broken the ranks of discipline I had instilled in my students.
She had written him a letter telling him that she couldnít give any money to the College because of what he had done to me.
Skotheim wrote her a note in reply, saying that it wasn't his fault, what had happened to me.
He was just functionary.
I've had a very exciting morning this morning.
I had peanut butter on my toast.
Instead of butter. (Margarine.)
Pretty racy. Huh.
I've come a long way from the Farm.
The one up Blue Creek.
Kathee used to fix us (Jon and Kristin and whoever else happened to be staying with us that night) bacon and sausage and eggs and pancakes and toast (homemade bread) and waffles; and all kinds of syrup and jam and jelly and preserves.
We got the eggs from our Chickens.
New Hampshire Reds.
We had a big Farm Kitchen.
I had gotten new Solarium for the floor.
So we could be slobs.
Which we were.
Kathee and Kristin's favorite act was Chinese food.
Egg rolls. Fried Rice. Sweet and Sour Pork. Egg Foo Yung. Almond Chicken. Steamed Veggies.
And we had Parties.
One Party, the best one I guess, was what we called the Morel Mushroom Party.
We asked all the younger faculty, the more sporting crowd, to come out in the Afternoon.
The Morel Mushrooms were out!
And we had a feast!
There was something else that was good about the Farm though.
The protected tranquility.
I could stroll around the house, before dinner, with a drink, and look at, say, three hundred elk, grazing on the ridgeline above.
There were so many that the Game Warden was always coming up to chase them off the farmer's wheat.
I took up splitting fence posts.
I took a drink across the Creek, across the bridge that I and some student friends had built, and strolled over to my pile of split posts.
Very very tough.
It takes six metal wedges to split one post.
But I could stand there in the early dusk, and listen to the ping of the sledgehammer hit the wedge.
And my students came out in droves.
To help me fix up the place.
One time we had 100 students, which was one-twelfth the Student Body, out there helping me clear the five acres across the Creek.
Of all the slash.
We had thirteen bonfires going at once.
Another time we spread three inches of sawdust over my entire 10,000 square foot Garden.
And, prepared the ground (the soil and humus and manure and gravel) for the fruit trees.
We also had the sheep.
One old Ewe had triplets.
My favorite picture of the place is Kristin holding a little baby black runt.
But this was all distraction.
From the central business of those three years of getting tenure.
I thought I had it.
I really did.
I should have.
Everybody thought so.
There was nothing going against me; except my one little "mistake" that I'd made; and I'd "paid" for that. Dearly.
So when the tie vote came up I launched the most aggressive Appeal in the history of the school.
The problem, of course, was my popularity.
Or, to put another way: it was other people's jealousy.
But I had to go with my strongest suit.
The year before I had been told that I was counseling too much.
So I had to cut down.
But those were still my strong points.
Counseling amounts to just listening, anyway.
And I am the best listener I have ever met.
How do you do.
So it's easy.
So what I had to do, to avoid the charge that I hypnotized my students, was get them to behave like disciplined men and women.
Not stampeding weird fools.
Spooked by the imminent demise of their Messiah.
So I called up a bunch of old, graduated, students.
Told them the story.
And asked them to write.
To Ely Chertok.
Department of Sociology.
Walla Walla, Washington 99362.
Not to me.
So that I could have no chance to edit. The letters.
The students on Campus were asked to write.
So that there would be no furor.
Which I recognized would be my most deadly foe.
And while they weren't as restrained as the Alums, occasionally using words like "brilliant" and "genius," they were extremely, impressively, orderly.
Even after I lost!
The watchword here was dignity.
It may sound corny, but if I was going to die in this business, then, like Socrates and Christ, my two favorite teachers, I was going to at least show my students how to die with dignity.
Ely happened to catch me just as I was about to walk into the last class I ever taught at Whitman.
He looked at me with a tear in his eye and shook my hand.
And said, "Congratulations."
Because my last class, filled to capacity, as usual, was utterly, utterly, calm.