VMI: PT on the Stoops


15 September 2004






The rain is steady this morn

and as I smoke my cigarette in the garage

watching and listening,

a torrent of memories begin to pour down

and over me. 


This will most definitely be a “PT on the Stoop” day, I think.

And the more I watch,

the more each drop smashing into an existing pool,

brings forth more images, sounds, smells and feelings

of a time and place

long ago.




"The Post".

Stoopee’s in and out of your room to empty the trash can.





The sound of shoe heels clicking together, smartly.

The smell of cinnamon buns as you entered Crozet at Sunday BRC.

Running in place, wearing an overcoat, hay roll over my head.


Rat party with 20 or more in a room and no place to “give me 10” except on top of a BR.


“The Beach”.


The beach at VMI.




Toothpaste tube must be rolled. I still do this.

Oyster Bowl.

All coat hangers pointed in the same direction towards the wall. Still do this.

Best physical shape of my life.

Blisters on the feet and bad ones, the first several weeks.

Doing a nice tight 180 with that shoe click at the end of the rotation.


Some upperclassmen moving to that last row of the formation, hoping Friday inspection would not reach them and sometimes it did not.


Running and chanting some Army ditty about “Kill Mother”, which my mother heard once and did not care for.

The “Ghetto”. Wonder if there is still such a place identified as such?

Pull-ups in the “sinks”.

Walking the post in new barracks at 2 am.

“Dress right”.

Gray fatigues.

Rat "bible."

Peeing in the sink after taps, although I never did it.

Dust on bayonet: 2 demerits. Wonder if there has been demerit inflation over the years?

Shoulders down and back. After 40+ years, catch myself doing this at odd times.

"Chin in!"


I start another cigarette and try to shake off the flood of memories but when I look out to the rain, there is Bill “The Bugler”, the crank that turned the mechanism: the “I”. What a character in his “Alice in Wonderland” rumpled suit, worn hat and pocket watch, appearing out of nowhere to move us all along. Took me years to get over not feeling anxious when I did not hear the change of the hour, every hour, of every day


That quick look down, jamming back the rifle bolt back in one smooth, quick motion and then immediately looking up, straight ahead: mechanical, robotic, disciplined, precision.


The smell of brasso.

“Finger print on breast plate” demerits.

The feel of a newly starched collar and cuffs.

The smile on rolled socks.


Sunday morning room inspections.

Sunday morning room inspections were you got demerits no matter what.

Sunday’s after a football game win.


Ass in the bucket followed by head in the bucket.


A pickup football game on the parade field on a Saturday afternoon.

"Go Big Red"


I think standing in the sun in a hat or shako boiled my head and that is why I am bald today. Anyone else think this? 

Maybe a "class" action?


2 lengths of the pool, underwater, without breaking the surface. “To avoid burning ship oil”, he said.

"Pinch my fingers."


A girlfriend’s stockings in my hay roll. The prize for winning some contest with her. Actually, sort of remember, keeping, putting various things in hay roll. Never once asked during room inspection to roll out hay. Some sort of unwritten code: no hay examination?


The “blue” lockbox I still have and use.

Rat nude swimming classes. And the point to being nude was?

Breaking open newly starched ducks: the sound and the feel.

3 class stripes on the arm.

First time putting on the class ring.

Barracks filled with football pep rally painted bed sheets.


Football Pep Sheets in VMI Old Barracks.




In the post hospital when Joe Namath won the Super bowl. Been watching Super bowls ever since.

The hole in the wall behind the class schedule holder, which held peppermint schnapps of all things.

Cardboard box on top shelf of clothes rack? Seem to remember one but no idea what I kept in there.


Becoming interested in Economics because of an Econ major roommate.

Leaning about Zen from a roommate who had lived in Japan.

How everyone seemed to be from the Richmond and\or Petersburg.

A, B, C, D, E, F and Band.

"The West Point of the South"


Falling in love with computer programming after taking course(s) on the “I’s” IBM 1620 mainframe.  Card deck submission but who cared.  Lucky to have access to a computer at that time.


Almost getting kicked off a Greyhound bus by the driver who overheard me talking with another Keydet about some “pussy” Rat.


Having some number on my clothes bag (358?) and all my shirts and ducts but not sure what number was or where it came from! Name on stuff to be dry-cleaned and pressed?


Nightmares about getting out on the bricks and not remembering which class I supposed to go to next. Or leaving a class and again, not sure which class was next or where.


Room numbers? Why can't I remember where each room was marked with its number? Not on the door, not over the door, on the stoop perhaps? And how many rooms were there total? I only remember 352, which was my Rat year room. Suspect some remember each and every room number but not me.


Slide rules and the arguments sometimes over which one was better than another.

“Uniform of the day” and how it changed suddenly some days.

The sleep lab. How did you get to it?  I can’t remember.  Wonder what is there now?

An empty mailbox.

A letter in the mailbox from a girlfriend.

A perfumed letter from a girlfriend carried in the hat.

A letter in the mail box from the folks with some money in it.

Blue books.

"Drive on!"


Br I really did not know, coming into my room and saying he had heard about this music festival in Woodstock NY and wondered if I wanted to go. Couldn't. Wonder if he went, got there and then actually got back in time to not be declared Awol?


Never turning my head an inch in any exam in fear someone would claim I was looking at another Keydet’s blue book.


My Rat dyke who left at Christmas for a school I never heard of then in NY but from which, my son just graduated!


Dust on butt plate: 2 demerits

Hays hung out on the stoop rails. Monday's?

Rat boxing, which sucked when you have 20/400 vision without glasses.

Having to see the Commandant.

Not having to see the Superintendent, thank God.

Having a car uptown on a side street.

Riding home with 20 others in the back of a rental truck with no windows.

The smell of burning wool.

The smell of wet wool.

Charging up the stairs in old barracks through the water, whacking and the noise of "breakout".

Music promoter BR roommate. Interesting fellow with designs to be big time. Wonder if he made it?


The dyke I had as a Rat. Never whacked me but did his other Rat. Coat hanger.


The “trunk room”, which was and probably still is, one weird place.

Studying after taps. What was that room called outside the post office?

Selling textbooks back to the bookstore to finance a weekend date.

Having no textbooks at all the last half of my 1st class year because of my girlfriend.

$50 a month ROTC check.

Getting to play with one of the very first VCR’s that Dr Foster bought for classroom use.

Those plastic, I think, name tags. How many did I own? Wonder where they went?

Talking some Rat on the stoop into staying on when he broke down after a little Rat party and said he was quitting.


VMI rat "party" on stoop.


Cadre. Some of them were just plain mean.

Using both hands to tuck the white shirt and still doing so.

Wishing I could wear one of those feathered plumes in my shako.

Walking penalty tours. 

A Wednesday movie uptown.

A Saturday movie uptown.

The guard house and actually sitting behind the desk there.

Hitchhiking home and getting picked up by a W&L in brand new Lotus. 100MPH all the way.

"Stove pipe" blouse arms and wool pants legs.

Having no hair on the inside of my legs from wool pants.

Where and when did "Band" company practice? And why practice, they only ever seemed to know one tune.

Snowed in at end of one Christmas "leave". Called and explained situation. Did not matter. Get back for else demerits.


Taking class of "Health" (Va teaching certificate requirement back then) from football coach and worried that since I did not play football going to be hard to get a decent grade. Probably one of the best professors I had. Encouraged thinking over simple parroting text books. Liked him a lot and got an "A" for my writing efforts.

‘68 appearing one morning painted on the RDC tower or is this just some dream I had?

Not really learning how to study until towards the end of the 3rd class year.

Having to have my blouse taken in many times after loosing so much weight.

Signing my name in “The Book” at matriculation.


Coatee, overcoat and blouse in a closet here, all cleaned and pressed.  No idea what I am saving them for but can not throw them away.


Classes: Calculus, lots of Calculus; Physics, lots of Physics; Statistics; Magnetics; Statics; Dynamics; Corporate Finance; Psychology (lots of Psychology); Economics; Circuits (lots of circuits); Computer Programming;  3 Dimensional Geometry; Thermodynamics, Fluids; Materials; Analog Computers; Health; ...............


Always taking 18 hours per semester. What was wrong with me?


Never being a room or uniform inspector but doing several barracks inspections in the Army. What did they teach soldiers in basic training anyway as the ones I had did not have a clue about inspections?


The Pine Room. Saw some strange things happen in the Pine Room or think I did.

Grain alcohol. Always drinking too much of it before I knew it and then it was too late.

Mixers. Never met anyone at a mixer, which lead to anything. Did anyone?

Mixers. Sure did like the way the ladies smelt and felt.

Learning the hard way that condiments are “on the menu”.

First time I heard the word “quibble” and learning what it meant.

Squaring food from my plate to my mouth, sort of, as a rat.


1st class decisions. Take a year off before the Army?  Graduate school?  What about the girlfriend?  Job?  That great offer to get in on a group buy of a Corvette or the pistol or shotgun for Viet Nam.


“Give me 10”.

Civvies. The BR’s that leant me clothes now and again, thanks.

VMI - VPI Football: 72 (VPI) to 12 one year and unbelievably 12 (VMI) to 7 the next year.

Flask in overcoat pocket, in formation, at bus loading.

W&L parties from a distance.

W&L dates from a distance.

Stick check. Sometimes a tap. Other times, trying to bring the door down.

The bear pit.

Getting a weekend "pass?" Saturday noon formation or was it Friday after last class until SRC Sunday or was it last note of taps?


Trying not to fall asleep in Monday morn Rat Chemistry lecture but falling asleep anyway or so my handwritten notes later confirmed.


Clifton Forge. Motels always had vacancies when Lexington full up.

Douthat State Park.



Harrisonburg. JMU.


The dreaded RDC. Never had to go, thank God.

Pitching one of those button together, WWII tents at FTX. Button together?

The plywood board bought for the hayrack after the springs gave out.

The first black Keydet.

Before Lejeune Hall.

That hidden, dark, little room (actually in between walls?) in Nicholas that hosted the VMI amateur radio station.

How the canon ball at parade field edge could suddenly be painted some awful color: opposing football team school prank.

Getting leave several times to visit father in hospital after another one of his heart attacks.


The 8mm porno movie watched one night on a battery powered projector. 1st porno movie ever seen. Well sort of, as cheap battery powered projector kept breaking.


Job interviews, on “campus”.

The dreaded Thermodynamics professor who had no compunction about failing 1st classmen. 


The crowd that quickly formed after the first swing of my cheap-ass guitar (Shared frustration release???) against the wall outside my room. Where did I keep the damn thing in my room anyway?


My own personal study space in a stairwell in the bottom of  Nicholas where I contemplated quitting and even suicide now and again.


Jackson’s horse Sorrel’s moth eaten hide, which just seemed wrong.

Star Trek on the large projection TV.

7 Day Israeli\Egyptian war on the large projection TV.

The Viet Nam War on the large projection TV.

Calling USAA and signing up for their car insurance. Still with them. How did I learn of them?

Never knew a football cheerleader. Who were those guys?


Not caring for taste of coffee but loving it on FTX on a cold, wet morning. How warm the mess kit cup was in my hands and the rising steam.


After a academically miserable 3rd class year, getting drunk and sitting on the stoop outside my room, waiting for the Tac officer to come by and find me, but saved by my BR’s who went way out of their way to get me inside and into bed. Thank you.


“A Keydet does not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do.”

Lexington motels on hop weekends or any weekend for that matter.

Picking up my date at a chaperoned house uptown.

On the floor, in the dark, with a date, at a chaperoned house uptown.

Southern Sem.

Southern Sem girls.


Runners and slimey’s”.

Attending guest lectures, for extra credit, in Lee Chapel now and again. "Situation Ethics" one of the better ones.

Room inspector running his white glove up underneath a locker. Always good for demerits.

Water in sink demerits.

Can not remember one Viet Nam War protestor, ever being outside. Wonder why? Escorted off post?


“You may be whatever you resolved to be.” Passed on to all my kids, many times.


Always having pretty serious roommates.  How was I assigned roommates anyway?


Rumors of a possible corps revolt (What was that called? Step Off?) over some action by the Superintendent or Commandant.



Not remembering ever seeing one fight between 2 Keydets. Strange.

Some Rat walking guard duty in old barracks and yelling at someone to stop running on the stoop. Yeah, right!

The OD out walking around keeping his eyes pretty much towards the ground.


How little floor space there was when everyone's rack was down and often bumping someone when coming in from guard duty or a late night study session.


Being OD. How did one get picked for that honor, hassle? How come I was OD about 20 times when I was a 1st classman?

“The Bomb”. How did those guys who put this together ever find the time?

“The Sounding Brass”.

Making Dean’s List for the first time.

Missing Dean’s list, again and again.

Being on academic probation.

Being on Dean’s List and academic probation at the same time.

Hauling laundry up.

The huge pile of laundry bags being loaded into a  truck parked in Jackson Arch. Bags dropped off the upper stoops?

Punching out door panels with your fist.

Colonel (Dodo) Dillard. One of a kind.

The roommate BR who would go off post every night to a small grocery story on Route 11 for some snack foods.

Don't remember one snoring roommate.

No meds required then to go to sleep. 10 seconds after eyes closed. Always tired.

Seem to remember a BR that lent money. VMI loan shark?


Colonel Dillard’s daughter riding around in that Mercedes convertible. What a tease.


An FTX exercise of taking a machine gun bunker at the top of a mud covered hill. Proof, if it was needed at all, that it would be easy to be killed in combat.



Little Toot.

Big Toot.

Saturday afternoon nap. Saturday afternoon study.

Sunday afternoon nap. Sunday afternoon study.

Scotch taping lint of wool black.


The sounds of life in barracks on a Saturday afternoon and how quiet it could get.


Causal reading:  “The Harrod Experiment”, “2001.  A Space Odyssey”, “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” +,  ……


BR’s. Their faces, their eccentricities, how they made me laugh. Really only knowing my roommates, those in my major and some in my company. Guess it the same for most.


Tac Officers.

Drums in the middle of the night.

Hay racks “up” every morning.

Banging a broom stick on the ceiling to quiet down underclassmen. How come the stick did not punch holes in the ceiling?

That first getaway on parent’s weekend.

Training table steak. Guard duty steak.

Unshined brass in locker: 2 demerits


The blind dates, some of whom I still remember the names of and wonder now, where they could be and how they are. I wonder what they saw when they came to the “I”? One of my daughters carries the name of one of them, but I will never tell my wife that.


A crack of lightening startles me and once again, I am back in my garage, my cigarette just about to burn my fingers. Why, after years of not giving the “I” 2 seconds of thought, should it creep into my mind now at odd times?


Those big red comforters, which were used for more than a bed cover at night.

That first day back, each year.

Learning how not to “bounce”. I wonder if it shows now when I walk?

“Shave with a chocolate bar?”


Trying to not fall asleep in the chapel on Sunday.

“God Squad”.


That first sight of the “I” from the Greyhound bus bringing me back from a weekend.

Writing my parents letters but always beginning with “Busy and so this will be short…”

Wondering sometimes about those that had lived in "my" room before me. Who were they, where were they now?


The Honor Code. That intense and scary introduction to the Honor Code the first couple of days of the Rat year. “Some of you will not be here.”


AF FTX in the rain with only a parachute for cover.

Hitting the showers and then the hay after FTX and how good it felt.







Singing “Hark the Herald Angels shout.  10 more days until we get out.”

The firing of the cannon at SRC.


Firing the M1 at FTX and the ping the bullet clip made springing out when it was empty.

Why can't I remember any real rife marksmanship training?

"Sick call?" Seems there was one, but when? Fall out from morning formation? Marched to hospital?

How nicknames developed for BR's and some not so flattering.

How quiet 1200 souls could be on a very cold winter morning first formation.

The steam cloud from exhale that could form over 1st formation on a cold, cold morning.

When was first formation anyway? 7am? Taps at 11:15pm? 11:30?

"Games" that got played like waking up to find a bayonet stuck in the wood of your hay rack and a note on it saying "Your Dead." Or the alarm clock in the center of the table going off at odd times and "Your Dead" written on the bottom of it.


Not sure now where we were but clearly remember a BR staggering to an upright piano, opening the lid\top and upchucking.  Wonder what you do with a piano like that?


Mind drifting, standing at attention on the parade field.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Strange names for cannons it seems to me.

Cadet waiters.

Citizen Soldier.

Always having 2 horrible final exams on the same day.

“Me to the right”. Used this for years at dinner with my kids. Still like to introduce it to groups out dining.



Working at the reception desk in Lejeune Hall with the old fellow who once had a car dealership in BV but who had lost it in hard times. I liked him a lot.


Shoving blank 105’s in the breach and the look of my white gloves afterwards.



VMI. (4) 105 firing.




Getting military branch assignment. Did not know there was such a thing as Army ADA.

Walking completely around every stoop, once, just to see what I could see.

Not even knowing my draft number because of deferment.

Folding the flag.


All of a sudden, being told at some routine formation, you have to be company commander or some other officer.


“Wilson Picket Died for our Sins.” Keydet newspaper headline.

Making sure my “gig line” was straight and still doing so.

Walking in “the arch” drunk and hoping a Tac officer was not there.

“Worn cuffs” demerits.

Checking for grade postings. Always had to know as soon as possible.


Colt 45 and not the pistol. A member of the Cadre introduced me to this simple pleasure. So strange to see my son drinking it the other day. 


Borrowing a typewriter to write a term paper for either Rat English or History or maybe both. So glad I was an engineer as don’t remember term papers after this one. 2?


“Sally” port. What? Sally?

The feel and sound of a saber snapping into your shoulder.

“Driving” the stairs.

The “Hops”, which you could hear from old barracks.

Taking years to get over saying “Yes sir and no sir” to everyone.

How different barracks, “The Post” was and felt in summer school.

How did "forward march" become "forward (long pause) Harch"? 


Watching some 3rd’s push broom water out of their room after a couple of trash cans of water can to visit courtesy of the 2nd below them.


Spit shining my shoes and studying a textbook at the same time. In fact, always doing 2 or 3 things at the same time. Where I learned time management and multitasking.


Actually auditing a class my first class year, just so I could “cut” it if I wanted to. Of all things, senior English literature.


Attending a “jam session” with the windows and door covered with blankets. Never looked at “Band Company” the same way again.


Class sweaters. Class sweaters? Seemed like a throwback to Harvard 1920’s.


The roommate who never owned a toothbrush, yet always brushed his teeth after taps. I got to hiding my toothbrush.

Washing out a new spit shine cloth.

Sliding my chair in Crozet Hall.





That cane bottom chair with my name on it, which I still have for some reason.

So glad to get out of wool and into ducts each spring.

How nice it was never having to worry about anything being stolen and feeling pride about that fact.

Finally being able to walk around in Crozet Hall.

That last note of any bugling.

Ring Figure. God, my date was beautiful or maybe it was the occasion.

The big “Number 1”.

Never wanting to clean the windows for room inspection as some BR's could get a little overzealous after taps.

Never forgetting to wear my hat. Wonder why? How many hats did I own anyway? Runner and slimey???

When I got a haircut every week but never on Thursday.


All those marching, formation, commands like "to the right flank" or "to the rear" or "about face" or "right shoulder" Worth many a push-up when a Rat for getting it wrong.





How short the summer was when I attended Indian Town Gap Reservation and what a joke everything there seemed after the “I”.


What a trip it was, having to take my Army physical in Roanoke with draftees. “Lucky” for me, a Captain there, “waived” my bad eyes because I was a Keydet and was sure I did not want to waste all my military training by being classified 4F.


The view out over Jackson Arch at 2am and how peaceful and quiet it was.

The coolness of barracks wall, no matter the temperature of the day or night.

The pride I felt in wearing the uniform, all pressed, away from the Post.

How nice it was that you were taken at your word, always.

"Old Corps."  Getting so sick of hearing how hard it was in the "Old Corps."



Those white cloth strips you wore crossed in the back over you coatee?  What can’t I remember what they were called?  Dykes?


Getting to company formation for BRC and realizing the company march order had changed, reversed, and you were at the wrong company.


When everyone expected, knew, they would have a military commission.

Putting on the sash and belt of an officer.

Walking the stoops after taps.

Talking to a date through a first stoop window and how neat it was.

As a Rat, always afraid I would not find my table in Crozet by the "most direct route."

Standing in Jackson Arch and reading the chalk board defining the day.

Checking out the demerit list in Jackson Arch.


Running and running as a Rat: outside, inside, on the stoops. "Get those knees up."


The red cape of the overcoat. Only cape before or since I have ever owned. Cape?

Yelling, “Showers!” Still do this by instinct now and again.

John Glenn's graduation speech and not remembering a word he said.

Dr. Dean Foster, in this classroom, his office, his home, then his farm and all his “toys”. A mentor and friend.


Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons.

Louie. Louie.

Officer’s row on the first stoop.

Now and again, a firecracker exploding in the courtyard of old barracks. Slow burn cigarette as fuse. Not me, of course.


Rooming in officer’s row my 5th year for some reason. “They” wanting to watch me?

The small Rat PX on the 4th stoop.

“Monday, Monday, so good to Me”.

2 Mail postings a day.

$1000 a year: tuition, room and board, uniforms, haircuts and books? 


The drum out of a BR in my 5th year. Something has always seemed wrong about it. Perhaps that his class was not represented on the “Court”.


Always thinking “Hokie” or was it hoakie ? was a good term for the Tech ROTC.


Pistachio ice cream from the small PX in old barracks before there was a Lejeune Hall.

Class privileges. Why can't I remember what happened when a 3rd violated a 2nd class privilege or a 2nd a 1st?

A BR lending me his brand new MG convertible for a weekend.

Girls\dates\girl friends actually wearing dresses.

A gold star on the collars. Almost got those twice but no cigar.


Never having a pair of those always shiny, patent leather or whatever shoes some “rankers” had.

Getting a letter from some girl in my old high school, out of the blue.

Going somewhere and staying with some BR’s in a hotel and having the maid mistaking our laid out room money for her tip.

Always knowing the day of the founding of the Marine Corps because some ranker would make sure my company knew.


Seeing English majors smoking cigarettes while in one of their classes. Seemed cool at the time.

Driving a duce and a half and so disappointed it was an automatic.

Where was FTX held anyway?

The music listening rooms in Lejeune Hall. Records: The Doors, Bob Dylan, +…..

Solomon’s. Drunk in a chicken coop.

Spit shining the cartridge box. Cartridge box? 


During some Rat “party” realizing that nothing lasts for very long and that I could endure and make it through until it was over. A lesson I have not forgotten. 


Disassembling the old M1. Wish I could remember some of the rifle numbers and know we had to know them.

“Dust in barrel” demerits.

Never thinking I was in a ROTC program. I was a VMI Keydet.

How cold it was at Nixon’s inaugural parade.

The night a BR, on a dare, ate 50 grape popsicles from the Rat, 4th stoop, PX.

Flying paper airplanes out the backside of old barracks and watching them sail and sail.

“Pining” my girlfriend.

"Supernumerary." Never selected for this honor.



VMI. Guard detail.


Colonel Morrison who almost peed his pants when I used a side rule to do a corporate finance compound interest problem. 

White Horse Scotch. Can’t remember how I got alcohol! White Horse still made?

Taking the military IQ test or whatever it was.

Smoking cigarettes during final exams week but only then! Saw many others do same.

Home football games and wanting the team to win so badly.

The drone, the sound, barracks always seem to have like some underground engine always turning.

How slimy some of my BR's got in our 1st class year. They seemed to take pride in their slimy.


4th Class year: Rat Line, physical. Sweat. Lots and lots of sweat. Sucked.

3rd Class year: academics and lots of majors changed.

2nd Class year: on top of it all, finally, accepted into academic major by the department.

1st Class year: on top with privileges.

My 5th year: disconnected, as my class had gone.


Looking at all those flyers posted in various buildings for special summer programs in some foreign country. Did anyone ever go to one of those? Or the graduate school program offerings.


Envious of how dedicated all the Biology majors seemed to be to becoming doctors.

How disappointed I was when the AF rejected me because of my eyes.

Reading by flashlight under the big red cover.

Running the parade field with a BR on a Wednesday afternoon for the fun of it. What?


Demerits. 70 a year or was it a semester, got you out. Remember 2 demerits for lots of things but did anything have a 1 demerit penalty? Can’t remember highest total per whatever I ever got. Never close though, remember that. Did seem to me that if the administration wanted you out, all that had to do was pile on the demerits, which was easy to do as no instant replay or appeal on demerits.


Envious of the AF providing some flight training to potential pilots. I had to pay for my Cessna training.

The old ladies in their hats and white gloves at the dedication of the Marshal Library.

Still awake, after taps, when some Tac officer shown his flashlight through the door glass to check we all there.

Companies being Friday parade graded and once being visited by company commander afterwards saying I had been identified as being out of step and it had hurt company's grade. Told him no way it was me. By 2nd class year, marching in step automatic.


The Rangers. Did they really have to find, kill and eat chickens?

How some Keydets went off to fight forest fires from time to time, although I never did.


Labs: Chemistry, EE, mechanical…..  Firing up the 350 Chevy or was it Ford “heat” engine to determine its torque. Throwing the juice to some large motor. Stressing or straining some material until it broke.


Rope climbing in Cameron, which was not my specialty.

Running the upper track in Cameron and thinking what a sprinter I was.

That funny little shower cap cover for the hat when it rained.

Stopping a Rat on the stoop as he past by my room just to mess with him. Surprised how many did not want to stop!

Do not remember ever having to give a "speech" in class. Did anyone?


Those concrete stairs beside new barracks, which lead down and down or worse, up and up.

Rat handball, which I had never heard of until we played it, sort of.

Know we must have had tennis shoes of some type but can’t remember them at all.

Beginning introduced to Motown.


The Fluid Dynamics professor who always throw a piece of chalk out the window  before he started each class session.  Finally, one day, he yelled out, “Been aiming at that birdbath all semester and finally got it.”


Being told by, now forgotten name professor, that only answer to question, “Why?” is “because.”

How awful I felt when I failed a class and knowing it was my own fault for not studying.

Why can’t I remember snow on the ground?

Trash in trash can demerits. Cute.

The strong rubber smell of the rain poncho.

General Shell in his white uniform. He looked like a general should look.

How I had to always get my blouse cleaned immediately after guard duty.

“The Bricks”.

2 fingers off the nose.

Military science professor, Army Major, who had been too near way too many 155 shell firings and could not hear worth a damn.


Never seeing any weed at the “I” myself but either in a dream I had or some actual memory about rumor of pot and band company and a "bust" of some kind.  Remembering correctly?


Those “pink slips” (were they really pink and what were they called?) you got to announce a visitor or to query if you were in a formation or not.


Was it 10 and 5, meaning 10 demerits and 5 penalty tours?  Can’t remember.

Having a “runner” toe stepped on.

Dr Old. He wear a bow tie all the time?

“Food on blouse” demerits.

Never feeling any richer or poorer than any other Keydet. In fact never thinking about it at all when I there.

The weight room.

Shower before the pool.


What a madhouse my room could be if everyone had a class just before Friday inspection and parade but everyone helped one another and we always, or usually, made it on time.


Completing all the paperwork and getting all the approvals to change majors to Biology in pursuit of being a psychiatrist and then interviewing at a halfway house and deciding, better not. Not that good with people.


The hill behind barracks, which held the rifle range and many a private party.

How crisp the air was and how the light was so pure in September and October each year.

Rumors of a Tac low crawling the stoops, after taps, in fatigues.

Fused knee AF Captain West. One armed, Colonel Wise.

When a face shave used to last me 2 days. Not any more.

Being able to stand at attention, perfectly still, for long periods of time. Can’t now.

When I had a 32inch waist and weighed 170 pounds.

Losing 20 pounds in the first month.

Wearing just a collar and cuffs with the overcoat, no blouse underneath.

Never using a clip-on tie but seeing others do so, now and again.

The old, wooden? telephone booths in old barracks.


Calling my dad to come get me and he saying “Stay the day and if I felt the same way tomorrow, call, and he would come.”  I never called again. He buried with my class ring.


Did we really have to sign something each year that we were not married?

Shoe trees.

Going to Rat basketball games in the field house.

What could be done with a virgin jar of peanut butter and a knife.

Lucky I was not the BR who had to eat a big heaping spoonful of mayonnaise at SRC

"Sergeant of the Guard?"

Don't remember one roommate ever talking about leaving, ever. Sure that helped me stay.

Being asked by EE Department head, if I wanted to return after graduation and be assistant professor for one year. NO WAY!


The sound it made and the feel you got when your left hand grabbed the rifle with speed and conviction after it had been inspected. No half-ass to it. Another lesson learned.


“Honor above Self”.

The rush of throwing my gloves and shako into the air at graduation.

The confidence I gained and have never lost.


The pride it took a while to feel but, which now hangs outside my house every fall in the way of a Spider flag.


The sheepskin diploma, which still looks impressive, compared to those of other colleges. Hope it does not end up in some antique show for sale someday. Really sheepskin?


I light another cigarette. Really should get on with the day but still lost in the downpour of memories. Definitely a special time and place, the “I”. 


I have wondered sometimes over the years, if I missed anything by going to the “I” instead of a “regular” college?  But now, having had 3 children go to and graduate from college, I know I did not miss a thing. A long time ago and yet, as close as the rain in my driveway. With no let up in the downpour, “PT on the Stoop” today for sure.




VMI: All Things Related


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