Billy and the Bush Ax

Sorry, I missed posting last week. Life got in the way. Not much to say about this story except that it is true, bizarre as that may seem. It is one of the few stories from my time in college I can tell. Statute of limitations and all that. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Billy and the Bush Ax

(caution: contains underage drinking and partial nudity)

Back in the 1970s I went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’ve heard people speak of their ‘misspent youth’. Mine was definitely not misspent. I had a helluva great time. I came out of my shell and became a hardcore party boy. I raised hell with the best of them and still managed to graduate with honors. You just have to pace yourself.

While at UNC I joined a fraternity. I didn’t come in thinking I would join one; I didn’t really know what they were about. It just kinda happened. Has to be one of my better decisions.

I lived in the fraternity house for 3 years. Now that gave me plenty of stories, most of which I can’t print. Most of the degenerates I hung out with are now pillars of their respective communities, which still boggles the mind.

My fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, was on a little side street in Chapel Hill. We had four fraternities and two sororities in our little two block area (plus a small daycare and a Lutheran Church. Go figure.)  Our house, a huge Victorian with a wrap porch was on a corner and faced onto a little street, which connected two of Chapel Hill’s main thoroughfares. To our right was the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. We called them the Lambchops; they were our buddies. Behind our house, facing on a main street were the Tau Epsilon Phi’s, the Teps. We did some service projects and street parties with them. Great guys. Across the street to our left was the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. The Thetas. They looked upon us with the sisterly affection and tolerance one has for a wayward little brother. Diagonally behind us, between the Lambchops and Teps was Kappa Delta sorority. KD. These were the hardcore 70s preppies. You know the kind. All about pink and green, sweaters around their shoulders, adda pearls and lavaliers and way too much makeup. They pretended that the Delts, Teps and Lambchops didn’t exist. The final fraternity in our little neighborhood, across the side street from the Lambchops were the Alpha Tau Omegas, also known as ‘the Enemy’. I’m not sure why the other 3 fraternities and Thetas disliked them so much. The KDs just hated everybody. It could have been because the ATOs were mostly lacrosse players or mostly from New Jersey. My guess is that is was because they were mostly arrogant pricks. But that’s just a guess. It was an established hatred when I came into the fraternity and who am I to buck fraternity traditions?

Directly across the street from us was a Lutheran church. All three years I lived there, I had a room with a window overlooking the church. When that bell started ringing at the crack of eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning, it could be sheer hell. I, like most of my compatriots, was usually a hungover mess on Sunday mornings. More than once I cursed that blasted bell. And if you stood in my window and looked closely, you could just see the red and green fletching of two of our darts sticking in the wooden statue of Mary on their second floor.

The Delts, Lambchops, Teps and Thetas got along fine. We did things like the aforementioned service projects and street parties together. The Thetas would call on the guys if something needed fixing or if a girl needed an escort after dark. Their pledges made us chocolate chip cookies, our pledges cleaned their house, we booby trapped their door with saran wrap or a pyramid of beer cans. That kind of thing. The KDs had their noses in the air and were above it all. The ATOs just grunted and scratched their genitals.

One of my favorite brothers was Billy. We roomed together my junior year. He was full of life and a boundless source of energy, fun and stupidity. If there was a bad decision to be made, he had probably already made it. Like the time he was at a local bar and, in his words, “this short dude on crutches was mouthing off at me.” He said, “I figured, you’re short and on crutches. You don’t need to be mouthing off at people. That’s probably why you’re on crutches.” So the guy keeps it up and Billy finally has enough and pops the guy in the jaw. It turned out the guy was on the UNC football team. The rest of the team was in the bar. The night did not end well for Billy. The other brothers and the townies joined in a general brawl. Some of the brothers managed to grab Billy and drag him out while the team was busy with the townies. Such a character, just fun to be with. But not at a bar with the football team.

Billy had a special hatred for the ATOs. It stemmed back to a time he got a black eye when hit in the face with a snowball thrown by an ATO. There was a rock in the center of the snowball. He was ready to brawl but we held him back. But the seed of enmity was sown.

I believe it was just before school started in 1977, maybe ’78. We had arrived early to work on the house. There were grouting guns and putty knives and other implements of mass construction laying about. We also had several large slabs of sheetrock propped up against the wall in the hallway to replace the wall in a bedroom. There were a couple of rocking chairs and a sofa on our porch. We liked to sit there on afternoons, drinking beer, rating the girls who walked by. Well, one morning we found that one of the rocking chairs was missing. Billy immediately said, “It was the ATOs. Let’s go get ‘em.”

Our president was more prudent. First he asked the Lambchops, Teps and Thetas if they had seen anything. No one had. He talked with the ATOs but they claimed to know nothing. Billy just ‘knew’ they were lying.

A day or so later we awoke to find our sofa missing from the porch. We were pissed, but Billy was livid. He said our honor was besmirched. Our president once again asked around with the same results. Billy wanted to force our way into the ATO house and search it. Our president counseled against starting a war. Billy could not be mollified. It was a matter of honor. He was a volcano ready to explode.

I’m not sure if it was the following night or later, but Billy and I sat up drinking, as we were wont to do. At some point, after many beers, he became convinced the ATOs were going to come that night and steal the remaining chair. I reminded him we had moved it indoors for safe keeping. Not good enough. He had a plan. He went downstairs and put the rocking chair back on the front porch as ‘bait’. He was going to wait and catch them in the act. He was kind of fuzzy on what was to happen then. He decided he needed a weapon to protect himself. He went looking through our garden tools. He came upon an old bush ax. If you are unfamiliar with the tool, it was a wooden handle about four feet long to which was attached a two foot single edge blade. Kind of like a machete on a stick. It is used mainly for clearing ditches of undergrowth. I should have been concerned that he had picked up such a deadly weapon, but I refer you back to the beers mentioned above. I went to bed. The rest I pieced together from various witnesses.

Billy came down to the living room near the front door to wait. He brought a sheet to wrap up in and he was wearing his usual sleeping attire – his tighty whities. However, these were no longer tighty, nor very whitey. I can attest that these had seen better days. But, he rolled up in the sheet on the sofa and laid in wait.

Meanwhile, another brother, Bubba, had scored a date with a Theta. He and the Theta  had come back from a club and Mick asked them up to his room to share a joint before Bubba walked her home. Now, Mick was a big guy, about six feet tall, three feet wide, mostly muscle and at this point, already three sheets to the wind. Bubba was talking about his summer job selling Bibles door to door. He was bragging about how he could go into poor areas and convince people who had virtually no money to shell out what they had for a Bible. The Theta exclaimed that it was despicable and how could he and that he was awful. That kind of thing. She stormed out, down a flight of stairs, clip, clip, clip, a 180, down the hall and out the front door. Bubba was hot on her heels, down a flight of stairs, clop, clop, clop, a 180, down the hall and out the front door, apologizing all the way. Mick, barely cognizant at this point, figures they’re all going somewhere. So he went down a flight of stairs, clump, clump, trip, tumble, tumble, crash into a pile at the foot of the stairs. The old adage that God looks after drunks proved true. Giggling, Mick sat up, and grabbed the sheetrock leaning against the wall to pull himself up. He overbalanced it and the slabs of sheetrock propped against the wall fell over. Luckily it missed Mick. But the crash was loud and shook the entire house.

This finally woke Billy who was lying in wait in the living room. He leaped to his feet shouting “ATOs!” He raced to the front door waving his bush ax in the air with his war cry. As he reached the front door, it opened and the Theta ran in to see what the noise was. She ran headlong into Billy, nearly naked in his not so tighty whities, murder in his eyes, waving a bush ax and whooping. She screamed, turn and ran from the house, knocking down Bubba in the process. Billy also screamed and ran the other way. He tripped on Mick who was lying on the floor giggling. He went airborne and did a belly flop beyond the pile of sheetrock. The bush ax flew from his hand, skidded along the floor and buried its point in the back door. Billy apparently decided the tile floor was comfortable because he just laid there, passed out.

A few moments later, Dan and Jeannie were coming back from a date. They tried to come in the back door but Dan had to push mightily to get it to open. Once inside, he found a bush ax stuck in the door. Looking up he saw Billy laid out on the floor, his underpants slipped down showing half his butt, a pile of fallen sheetrock, Mick laying on the floor giggling and Bubba standing at the front door, bent over laughing his ass off.

The next morning there were two very hungover brothers feeling a bit sheepish. The other rocking chair was gone. But the sofa was back. And the Theta was never seen at our house again.

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