That evening the president summoned the pledges to the fraternity house, where he instructed them to sit on the floor. One of the fraternity members then distributed to each pledge two gallons of apple cider and two of the smelliest cigars the brothers could find.
“Your instructions are simple,” said Alex. “Smoke these cigars and drink that cider before I finish my presentation, which will last about forty-five minutes to an hour.”
Groans arose from all the pledges except Bobby Joe.
“No complaining,” continued the president. “You must prove yourself worthy to be called a member of our fraternity. Gentlemen, light up.”
Several brothers walked about the room with lighters and lit the cigars for the pledges, while another brother brought in an old-fashioned movie projector and screen and set them up. By this time most of the pledges were hacking and choking.
“I am going to give you a zoology lesson this evening,” said Alex. “We are going to study marine life. Brother Robert, would you turn out the lights and start the projector?”
Brother Robert did as instructed and the ocean appeared on the screen, shot from the deck of a ship, which rolled up and down with the huge waves.
“This was taken by a brother of one of our fraternity brothers when he was in the Navy,” said Alex. “Watch and I’ll say things as I think they need to be said.”
For approximately the next 50 minutes the pledges watched the silent movie. Over and over the ship rose and fell in the sea swells. Occasionally Alex made a brief comment, but mainly it was a silent movie. Alex failed to explain why the person had made the home movie in the first place, but for the past few years it had been used for this same purpose, and it produced the same effect each time.
One by one the pledges vomited and left the room, all that is, except for Bobby Joe. Even a few of the brothers excused themselves at times. When the lights returned he was the only pledge remaining.
“Congratulations, pledge!” shouted Alex. “You are the only pledge who has ever made it through the entire movie.”
“I have to admit,” replied Bobby Joe, “that movie was pretty dull. If you fellas wouldn’t have been nice enough to give us those cigars and cider, I probably would’ve fallen asleep.”
“Do you feel all right?” inquired Alex, looking dumbfounded.
“Yeah, I feel fine. Lucky for me I didn’t eat at the dormitory tonight like everybody else. They must’ve gotten food poisoning or something.”
All the brothers left the room shaking their heads.
The next day they met in the morning. The brothers singled out Bobby Joe because of all the pledges he was the only one not to have lost his cool yet.
“Pledge!” yelled Alex while looking directly at Bobby Joe, at which command Bobby Joe began his ritual. “Be quiet and listen to me,” interrupted the president. “Listen carefully. As you know, we are an organization devoted to the betterment of mankind. We are always looking for ways to be charitable, and we have such an opportunity before us. Are you listening?”
Bobby Joe shook his head affirmatively.
“Good. The brothers have chosen you for this job because you seem to be a good man and this will be a good test to see if you’re worthy of being a brother. As you know, this area is infested with mosquitoes. Chancellor Carter’s house seems to get them worse than any other place. So we want to do something about that, but we want it kept a secret. There’s no way we want the chancellor to know about this. Understand?”
Bobby Joe nodded.
“OK, then, here’s what we want you to do. The only thing that seems to help keep the mosquitoes out is if all the house is coated with petroleum jelly. This means doorknobs, keyholes, windows, shutters, everything. We want you to go over tonight and grease the entire house, which will save the chancellor a lot of money because a professional exterminator is expensive.
“You’re going to have to go sometime after midnight, and you’re going to have to be careful. We don’t want the chancellor to know it was this fraternity that helped him. Any questions?”
Bobby Joe had none.
“You do that and report back tomorrow afternoon,” said Alex.
When the pledges reported back the next day, everyone had heard the reports that Chancellor Carter was furious and was seeking out the individual who was responsible for the deed. The group was in high spirits and everyone patted Bobby Joe on the back and told him he had done a wonderful, helpful deed.
“What do you think?” one of the brothers asked Bobby Joe. “How do you feel?”
“Pretty swell,” answered Bobby Joe. “I never knew that by doing such a good deed that everyone would be happy, especially because no one outside of us knows.”
Pledge week continued and the pledges were forced to do numerous embarrassing things, with only Bobby Joe seemingly unaffected. He seldom said anything, but when he did the brothers laughed, and he would certainly be voted in if he could survive the final two days.
The brothers once again designed a scheme using Bobby Joe, but this one was dangerous, and if Bobby Joe were caught it would cost him his football scholarship, his enrollment at the university, and possibly even his freedom, but no one told him this.
“Bobby Joe,” said the president, “you really do want to become a member of this fraternity, don’t you?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m here doing this,” Bobby Joe replied.
“OK, then, listen.” The rest of the members and pledges gathered closely. “We’ve got something for you to do that is very, very important. You absolutely cannot let anyone outside of this fraternity know about this.
“This fraternity has gotten some very bad things said about it and done to us over the past few years, mainly by the faculty. One of the worst things they’ve done is they’ve cheated some brothers out of decent grades in certain classes. In particular there is a biology professor who always fails brothers. We’ve taken complaints to the proper people, but we’ve gotten nowhere. What we need is proof that we’ve been cheated.”
“What can I do to help?” asked Bobby Joe, a puzzled look filling his face. “I’m new here. I don’t even know any professors, just football players and coaches.”
“We know, but that’s not important. You can help us without knowing any professors. What we’re wanting you to do could not only help the brothers here, but a lot more people on campus who’ve gotten bad grades from certain professors. Because you’re new here, you’re the perfect person to do it. And remember why this fraternity is here—to help people, and that’s just what you’d be doing.”
Bobby Joe sighed, while the rest snickered in suppressed sounds.
“Here’s exactly what we need you to do,” said Alex. “At the administration building they keep all the records. Everything is stored there on the main computer. We need access to that computer so we can get hold of some of those records so we can prove our case. But before we can use the computer, we need to know some passwords, and the master password list is stored in Chancellor Carter’s office, locked in a drawer. We’ve gotten hold of that key and made a duplicate. What we’re asking you to do is go in there late at night and get that list, make a copy of it, and bring it to us.”
Bobby Joe’s countenance grew perplexed.
Some of the members called Alex to the side and talked to him quietly.
“We’re thinking more about this, Alex. Some of us think this is going a little too far. We didn’t talk about actually stealing. If he gets caught, he’s dead. Probably us, too!”
“Shut up! Some of you are on probation and are likely going to get expelled at the end of the semester if we don’t get those records changed. What better time than now, when we can use this buffoon?”
The discussion continued for a few minutes, and then the group summoned Jack. They explained the situation, the obvious dangers, and their desperation, and then asked his opinion. He told them to go ahead with it, and that he would help Bobby Joe not to get caught.
“What do you think?” Alex asked Bobby Joe a few seconds later. “Are you going to help us fix this injustice?”
“I’m confused,” replied Bobby Joe. “Something doesn’t sound right about it, but you said it would help a lot of people?”
“That’s right!” yelled a brother. “A whole lot of people!”
“Then I’ll do it.”
“Excellent!” said Alex. “Report back to us tomorrow night after you’ve got the list. That’s the final night of initiation, and that will make a perfect end of things.”
The next evening Alex met Bobby Joe at the front door of the fraternity house.
Recall that even though Bobby Joe was as green as they come when he arrived on campus, he was nonetheless a good learner. He had been thinking about his future and had done some planning.
“Did you get it?” he asked excitedly.
“Yes, I have it.”
“Great! Let me have it!”
“No, wait a minute,” replied Bobby Joe. “I’ll give you this list when I’m an official member of the fraternity, not until.”
“I said I’ll give you the list after you’ve made me an official member and my initiation time is finished.”
Alex pondered and then laughed. “Oh, I see. You think I’ll take the list and then we won’t vote you in. You don’t have to worry about that. All the brothers will vote for you, that’s for sure.”
“Nope. I won’t give it up until you make me a member right here and now.”
Alex looked around at the brothers, who unanimously gave their approval.
“OK, then. Listen. I declare that you, Bobby Joe Childress, by the authority I have as fraternity president, are now an official member of Alpha Mu Mu Fraternity. Congratulations, Bobby Joe. Let me have the list.”
Bobby Joe took a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Alex, who immediately ran upstairs to his room and accessed the school’s main computer from his laptop.
“Pledges,” said a brother, “the final part of your character test is to pass through the initiation line.”
The brothers formed two parallel lines a couple of feet apart, and each member had a paddle in his hand. Each pledge was to pass through the line and receive one stroke from each member. Bobby Joe stood in the front of the line, and the brothers told him he did not have to participate, since he was already a member, but Bobby Joe insisted.
“I want to say something,” said Bobby Joe after he had persuaded them to let him run the gauntlet.
“OK, what is it? Make it quick!” one of the brothers replied.
“It’s just this. Ever since you started the pledge week, you’ve done nothing but make fun of me and insult me. You’ve told me to do things that really made me look stupid and some things that were dangerous and illegal. Well, I’m getting the last laugh.”
With that Bobby Joe Childress took off running straight at the lines. He tackled outright the first three of each side, and the others scrambled to get out of his way. It was a massacre. He grabbed some paddles and chased the brothers around the house, and after seeing how things were shaping up, the rest of the pledges joined him. When all was finished, about half of the brothers were lying around the yard, beaten and bruised, while the remainder had fled into the darkness.
The president heard the commotion and ran down the stairs, yelling to find out what was the matter. However, after viewing the scene, he, too, attempted escape, but was stopped by police who had just pulled up to the house. Also emerging from a cruiser was Chancellor Carter.
“Arrest him!” yelled Alex, pointing at Bobby Joe.
“Sorry, they didn’t come for me,” replied Bobby Joe, “but for you.”
“Me? Why? What have I done?”
“Even a person you think is a hayseed like me can only take being made fun of for so long. All this time you thought you were using me to pull your stupid pranks and to get illegal access to the school’s computers, but in reality you’ve been set up. You didn’t know this, but I have a relative here at school. He’s my uncle, Chancellor Carter.”
“Hello, young man,” said the chancellor, approaching Alex. “I believe you and me have some serious talking to do. Well, our talk may have to follow your talk with the police, but I’m sure we’ll get around to it sooner or later.”
Alex profusely sweated, unable to get a single word from his mouth.
Bobby Joe continued, “When you first told me to grease his house I went and told him. He said to pretend like I did it because the university has been looking for a way to close down this fraternity because of all the trouble it’s caused the past few years. When you wanted me to steal the passwords, that was just what my uncle wanted. They’ve been monitoring you on the computer and have recorded everything you’ve done to the records.
Alex grumbled as the police took him.
“I think I’ve reconsidered,” said Bobby Joe after Alex had walked past him. “I don’t want to become a member after all, but thanks for the invitation. You thought I was an idiot—what was the term you used the other day, a buffoon? Looks like you may be the real buffoon.”
The outcome was as expected in that the university expelled every member of the fraternity, not that it made much of a difference anyway, for most of them would have flunked out at the end of the semester. The fraternity officially disbanded, but a new fraternity formed the next year, and Bobby Joe was elected to serve as president until he graduated.
Jack, Bobby Joe’s roommate, knew of the entire situation as it unfolded and helped Bobby Joe in setting up the ones who had abused them. He served a vice-president of the fraternity under his friend.
Bobby Joe Childress, formerly a straw foot, had a brilliant college career, helping the team reach lofty heights