Sunday, April 1, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 30: Pepper Race

Eagle eyed readers may notice that I've skipped forward a bit on the narrative. Couple reasons for that, really.

The first is that I noticed that people really didn't care as much about the chapters which were more "personal," as in about developing romances and such.  How did I know?  Well, those chapters would get only a few hundred hits vs the ones about more general University and/or Fraternity events, whose hits would number in the thousands.

So, here's a summary of what got skipped:  I completely screwed up one romance, all but wrecked another, and may or may not begun a third maybe.  Also during that time, I made one of the stupidest mistakes of my life.  Oh, and the football team is still undefeated.  And the 'Hood decided I could start attending pledge meetings.

A LOT can happen in three weeks at Penn State.  (If you'd like to read the missing chapters, let me know.)  Especially since we didn't have "Fall Break" back then.  (Seriously?  Fall break?  Toughen up kids!)

In any case, here we have the first "Game."  This happened exactly as I wrote it.  The years have lent me perspective on this.  Back then, I didn't see the harm- after all, I had pledged as well.  The more I thought about it, the more I read, the more I understood how events affect people; I realized this for what it was.


No one got hurt, really.  But this was Hazing.  Games were not really discussed, except among brothers, and not often then.  They were traditions, handed down from class to class- never written down, but never changed.  Almost sacred.  Always performed in the same order during a pledging period.  I'll admit- only one of the games ever bothered me, and it comes much later in the narrative:  Cracker Race.  That makes me a participant in the hazing.  We all were.  It would've taken someone braver than myself to say "stop! This is wrong!'  I just wanted to fit in- be accepted.

Fortunately, several years later, enough of the brothers (and alumni) DID say "Stop."  The games were abolished.  The Skull pledge program no longer has "games" of this sort.  I ought to know- I helped write it.  Since the House was re-established about a decade ago, it has done so with a more positive pledge program.

There's no Glory in winning if the contest is rigged in your favor.  And there were no real "winners."

The events which I chronicle are now over thirty years ago.  We were DAMN lucky- no one was ever seriously physically hurt.  I can't speak for psychological scars though.

Is my perspective different because of my Truth- that I was actually female?  No.  Older and wiser.  And I know a LOT of the Brothers of my time agree with me.  Because yes, NOW we talk about games- and almost always with regret.  At least among the Brothers I know.


Chapter 30: Pepper Race

Wednesday, November 19, 1986 Iran aid effort outlined

            My first pledge meeting!  I was really excited!  They were accepting me! 
            I arrived around 10:45 for the 11 PM pre-meeting.  The pledges were hanging out in the dining room, dressed in t-shirts and scruffy jeans.  They didn’t seem nervous or anything.  At about five of eleven they went up the back “pledge” stairs all the way to the third floor (from the sound of things).  Double D put something between the bars of the landing railing on the Brotherhood steps: a siren?
            I asked one of the brothers whose name I couldn’t remember. 
            “Where’d the siren come from?”
            “Off some World War II destroyer.  We’ve had it for years.”
            “What’s it for?”  I asked.
            “You’ll see,” he said.
            Double D called the meeting to order.
            “Ok, this week the pledges were pretty much on time and they’re getting better at cleaning…”
            “They fuckin’ suck!  The third floor bathroom wasn’t cleaned all fuckin’ weekend!” one of the guys shouted.           
            “Ok, you want to tell them that?”  Double D said, writing something on a small pad. 
            “Yeah, yeah I will,” the voice said.
            “Maybe you shouldn’ta shit on the floor if you wanted it so fuckin’ spotless!” another brother said.
            “Fuck you!” the first brother said.
            “Anyone else?”  Double D said loudly to cut off the argument.
            “Slow getting beers to the brothers in the Commissary at parties.  Not just once, either,” said another brother.  I think his name was Bill- a senior.
            “You want that speech?”
            “Sure” he said, sounding resigned.
            “Ok, I need someone to give the “make sure you keep up with your studies” speech.  Is Clit here?”
            “No,” someone said.  “At the library.”
            “Shit.  How about you, Bean?”
            “Yeah, I got it” said someone I’d never even seen before.  Very tall.  Balding with a thin face and big chin.
            “Do you know how it goes?  Keep up with your studies; don’t wanna lose you to grades and all that shit?”  Double D asked.
            “Heard it a million times” Bean said.
            “Ok.  We have the speeches lined up.  I wanted them to do Pepper Race tonight.  Can enough of you guys stick around?”
            Several “yes’s” and “yeah’s.”
            “Ok.  Pepper it is.  I’m gonna ring the siren in a minute, so get ready.”
            Double D saw me standing in the back.  He walked over to me.
            “What you see doesn’t happen.  Never happened.  Got that?” he said.
            “Of course.  Third rule.”
            Right,” he said, and headed up the Brotherhood Steps to the landing.
            The carpet in the foyer was pulled back a couple of feet from the steps and the brothers lined up on the edge of it.  Double D put his foot on the siren to keep it in place and used both hands to crank it.  It was loud!

The Siren.  It eventually fell apart.

            As the siren quieted slowly, thunder rumbled.  No- not thunder: the frenzied stampede of feet charging down the back steps.
            Suddenly all of the brothers started shouting, yelling and stomping their feet.
            “Get the fuck down here!”
“Run motherfuckers!”
“Why aren’t you here yet you lazy fucks!”
“The gross national product of China is six billion yen!”
“Move it you assholes!”
            The pledges opened the side door (the one that leads to the kitchen, party room, and outside) and spilled out into a line in front of the brothers.  They were all dressed in white t-shirts and blue jeans.
            “Count off!” the brothers shouted.  I smiled.  This count off shit must be universal.
            “One!”  “Two!”  “Three!”  “Four!”  “Five!”  “Six!”  “Seven!”  “Eight!”  “Nine!”
            “Backwards!” the brothers yelled.
 “Nine!”  “Eight”  “Seven!”  “Six!”  “Five!”  “Four!”  “Three!”  “Two!”  “One!”
“Inside out!” the brothers yelled.
“Five!”  “Four!”  “Six!”  “Three”  “Seven!”  “Two!”  “Eight!”  “Nine!”  “One!”
“Outside in!” the brothers yelled.
“One!”  “Nine!”  “Two!”  “Eight!”  “Three!”  “Seven!”  “Four!”  “Six!”  “Five!”
“What’s the greatest fraternity in the world!?”
“Skull, sir!”
“SKULL, sir!”
“Fuck off!  “You guys suck!”  “Damn right!”  “Blah blah blah!”
The brothers all stepped back a little as one brother slid through the line.  I’d seen him around, but not much.  He had a very early Eighties style haircut which seemed very out of place with the rest of the brothers who had fairly conservative lids.
“Listen, you fucking worms.  Why can’t you get fucking anything right?”
He paused and looked at them for a moment.
“Answer me!” he shouted.
            “What’s your fucking problem?”
“He asked you a question, shitheads!”
                                                            Fucking graduating senior!”
The pledges all answered “Sir!  We don’t know sir!”
“That’s fucking right you don’t know!”  Haircut said.  “Why wasn’t the third floor bathroom cleaned ALL FUCKING WEEKEND?  IT SMELLED SO BAD I HAD TO TAKE A SHIT DOWNSTAIRS!”
                        “What the fuck!”
            “Second floor shits!”
“Listen up, assholes.  By tomorrow morning I want that shitter standing tall and so clean your mom could suck my dick off it!  Got me?”
“Sir yes sir!”  The pledges were trying not to laugh.
Bathroom brother gave them a dirty look and faded back into the group.  As he did, Bill stepped forward.  He paced back and forth one, silently looking each of the pledges in the eye.
“What’s my fucking rundown?” he said.
“Sir, William Lazarus the Third.  Senior, Marketing.  Towanda, Pa.  Don’t take anything seriously.  Sir!”
“Oh, so you know who I am?”  William Lazarus the Third said with mock surprise.
“Sir yes sir!”
“And I’m a brother?”
“Sir yes sir!”
“Sir no sir!”
“I was in the Commissary with the fucking President of IFC!  I.F. fucking C!  And I couldn’t get us beers!  Were you too busy serving the cracks to get a brother a beer?  ANSWER ME!”
“Sir no sir!”
“If I, or any other fucking brother in the fucking Commissary have to wait for a beer at our own fucking party, I will personally come around and rip those pins right off your chests!  Do you understand?”
“Sir yes sir!”
William Lazarus the Third disappeared back into the crowd.  He walked past me (I stood in the back behind everyone) and went out the front door with a couple of brothers.  I guess they were going to the bars.  As William Lazarus the Third stepped away, Ted stepped out of the group.
“I want you guys to listen very closely to what I have to say” he said.
“Graduating senior!” someone shouted followed by an “Ow!” after the guy next to the shouter slapped him offside the head.
Ted ignored all the commotion.  “We are all here at Penn State for one reason.  It isn’t to get drunk, get laid, do coke or any of that.  All of us are here to get an education:  To study and to learn.  If you don’t study You-Will-FAIL.  If you fail, they throw you out of Penn State, which means out of here.  Now you guys may be rock headed morons, but we took a long time selecting you, and we don’t want to lose you, especially to something as stupid as flunking out.  Now look at all these guys.”
He pointed at the brothers.
“Every one of the guys is here to help you.  Chances are there are at least two brothers here in your major.  Ask for help if you need it.  Use the study hours and test library we provide.  We want you here.  With all of us behind you, if you fail it’s your own fucking fault.”
Ted stepped off to the side and Double D sounded the siren just a little.
“Turn around you fucks!”
                        Pay attention to your Iota!”
The pledges huddled up tight as they could under the stair landing.  Someone turned on the lights for the stairwell so that the pledges would stare up into them unless they focused on Double D.
Double D stood on the landing, bent over the rail.
“Did you enjoy that meeting you little worms?” he shouted down at them.  One of the pledges blinked as a bit of spit hit him in the face.  He didn’t wipe it off.
“Sir yes sir!”  The pledges shouted.
“WHAT?!?!?!  Basics!  Basics basics basics!”  Double D yelled as e slammed his hand on the rail for emphasis.
“If you can’t even fucking get the basics right, we’ll just have to find a way to fix you!”
“Games!” a voice said from the crowd.
“Games!  GAMES!” the chant was joined by all the brothers, then it became synchronized.  “GAMES!  GAMES!  GAMES!” as the brothers clapped and stomped their feet.
Double D held up his hands, and the brothers silenced.  He must’ve felt like Godly powerful.
“Games!” he shouted.
            Then one brother shouted “Elephant walk!”
            Another shouted “Cracker!”
            Then from all through the crowd:
“Ceiling tiles!”
                                                                                                “Hide the banana!”
            “Man O War!”
                                                            “Goat Ride!”
                                    “Pepper Race!”
                                                                                    “Pepper Race!”
            They all started chanting “Pep-per Race!  Pep-per Race!  Pep-per Race!  Hey!  Pep-per Race!  Hey!  Pep-per Race!”
            Double D held up his hands again.  Silence. 
            “Pepper Race!”  He shouted down at the pledges.
            The brothers cheered.
             “And like all games at Skull House, there are a few rules!”
            “A FEW RULES!” the brothers leaned in to shout into the pledges ears.
            “First rule: No talking!”  Double D shouted.
            “NO TALKING!”
            “Second rule!  Line up and each of you chooses the brother you hate the most!”
They lined back up in order.  One by one, the pledges shouted the name of a brother.  The brothers would shout stuff like “Bad choice!  He’s the best at this!  “You’re fucked!”  Then the pledges were sent running back up to wherever they came from as the brothers set up the game.
            Several brothers found push brooms and removed the handles.  Another brother produced a jar of hot green peppers and some spoons. 
            The game was simple- it was a relay race.  The racer would walk from “start” (where the foyer joined the clubroom) to the other side, where the foyer met the dining room and back.  That was maybe twenty feet each way.  They would do this with a spoon clenched in their teeth.  The business end of the spoon held a hot green pepper.  Drop the pepper, eat the pepper.  Then the person received a fresh pepper and kept going until everyone made it through the course.  Sounds easy?  That’s where the broom handles come in. 
            Ever do “the Limbo?”
            Participants would have to go under poles held by the brothers at varying heights.
            Of course, the House was on tap for this, as nothing goes better than volcanically hot green peppers than a cold beer.  Of course, some beer was “accidentally” spilled on the course as well, making it quite slick.  Oops!
            That was Pepper Race.
            So the pledges came back downstairs, the lights were turned on, salsa music played, and lots of beer was drunk.  The pledges ate many peppers.  The brothers didn’t eat a single one.  Why?  Was it because they were pros?
            Hell no!  Their spoons had a small coating of peanut butter beneath the pepper.  It may as well have been glue.  As long as the brothers didn’t flaunt it, the pledges would never suspect. 
Anyway, when it was over the pledges learned once again an important lesson about fraternity life and pledging: the Hood (brotherhood) always wins.
            Then, after the game was over, the pledges went upstairs, drunk, tired and with stinging mouths, to clean the third floor bathroom.



  1. I'd like to read the missing chapters! I enjoy all of them.

  2. Wait, there's nothing between chapters 18 and 29? Not cool!

    1. The ones I posted of "personal history" only get a trickle of hits. I figured nobody was interested.

    2. I guess the personal stuff and the fraternity stuff are two different things. I was reading your posts as part of an overall experience.

    3. Well, your wish is granted! I posted Chapter 19 this morning!