Jumper proved to be a good football coach. The boys loved him. They worked hard for him. They played hard. Phil Stevens told us that they worked much harder than they had for their previous coach, even as he pushed them harder and harder. The key to Jumper's success seemed to be that he pulled the team, rather than pushed it. They would show up for practice and find him kicking field goals, running the track, pushing the blocking sled. He wore full pads, and constantly proved to the players that he was as good as all but the best of them. He was twenty years their senior, but was tough, quick, smart, and vastly more experienced. The practice squad that claimed him, was likely to win the scrimmage.
Jumper taught every position by example. His goal was to have a team of boys all of which were as good as he was. He was convinced that such a team could beat all comers. His players spent hours becoming, "As good as Jumper," or better. Actually, most of them got better at their single position assignment than Jumper was, but he was good at more than a dozen different positions.
Jumper's and the team's first game was at home. It was against the St. Cloud (Minnesota) State Huskies. We finally learned why Jumper was called Jumper. As Nate put it, "You know you aren't doing well when Coach stays on the ground." During every good play Jumper leaped from the bench and flew into the air. The better the play, the higher he flew. He got more exercise than the boys on the field.
Tim remarked to me as we watched the game from the second row of the stands, right behind Jumper, "No wonder he's as fit as his players. Ten games like this and he's had a year's worth of exercise."
That first game gave Jumper a lot of reasons to be flying off the bench. His boys did well. Al Beck proved to be a worthy quarterback, and completed several spectacular passes, one for a touchdown, and ran for another touchdown. The second half began with Nate as quarterback, and he did as well as Al, except that he ran for both of his touchdowns.
The defense, led by Roger Springer, held the Huskies to one touchdown and two field goals. Final score, Fighting Sioux 31, Huskies 13. Jumper had kept his word about who would play. Every single player got significant playing time. Players moved in and out of the game with ease, and the team seemed to play as one regardless of which players were on the turf at any given time.
The next week was a repeat performance, with a final score over the Mavericks in Omaha of 27-10.
The next week was an out of conference game with the Dragons of Moorhead State University, who traveled north and across the Red River to beat us on our home turf, 24-21, thanks to a field goal scored with less than a minute to go in the game. Jumper didn't jump on that play, but was amazingly high spirited in the locker room after the game. He gathered the team around him and told them: "Look guys, you don't win them all. You played well; got three touchdowns; and have nothing not to be proud of. Could we have done better? Of course. But that was true of the last two games when we won. We can always do better. But this week Moorhead was better than us. Next week we're going to be better than the Vikings (Western Washington University). Now, no crying over bad plays or missed opportunities-that's part of life. And no bad mouthing our guests. They played well and deserve our congratulations."
Tim and I had stood in the background during that speech, of which I have provided a somewhat shortened version. Tim turned to me and whispered, "I told you I hired the right football coach. I couldn't have given a better speech, even with a team of professional writers. God bless Jumper." Tim then added, "I don't think he's going to be giving that speech very often."
The news from Bellingham the next week was terrible. We'd won by a landslide, but Al Beck had broken his leg late in the first half. He'd been tackled by two Western Washington linemen at the same time. Jumper insisted that the tackles were fair and not particularly rough. But the combination of being hit from two directions at once had twisted Al's leg into a serious fracture. He was in the hospital, and an orthopedic surgeon was studying his leg, consulting with experts in Seattle and Vancouver, and would make a recommendation the next day. In the meantime Al was sedated and his leg immobilized. Tim was on the next plane.
Nate and the rest of the team had played a superb game, not knowing of Al's condition after he'd been removed from the field by ambulance-which they had brought right onto the field after the team doctor had forbidden him from being moved until the ambulance crew was there to do it. Nobody cared about Nate's game, most especially Nate. When he heard how bad Al's leg was, he'd cried, "We should've stopped the game, forfeited if necessary."
Jumper told him, "I know how you feel. But Al would've wanted the game to go on; you know that. Just as you would if you'd been in his place. He's going to be out for a while-probably the rest of the season. Are you ready to be the first string quarterback?"
"Yeah, Coach, I am. But now let's go see Al."
Jumper let Nate and Al have some time alone. Of course, Al was sedated, but he was conscious. Nate came out in tears, and never talked about their conversation. It hit him pretty hard. But his words to Jumper were, "I'm ready to play. For Al. Only for Al. And you, Coach."
Tim got to Seattle the next day and learned that Al was being transferred to Vancouver where an orthopedic specialist, and a whole operative team, were standing by. Tim found a commuter flight to Vancouver and got to the hospital just as Al was getting ready to go into surgery. They had time to exchange a few words. Al couldn't believe that Tim had flown out just to see him. Tim told him, "One of the perks of the presidency is that I can fly around in airplanes when I want to. I wanted to be here for you. Now get into surgery and get your leg taken care of. We'll all be here when you wake up."
The team had had to head home, keeping their reservations for the night flight home from Seattle to Fargo. Jumper stayed behind, as did Nate and Pat. Jumper had told them to go home with the team, but nothing would move Nate, and Pat simply said, "I'm with Nate." Jumper was wise enough not to push the point, and decided that it would probably be good for Al if Nate and Pat were there to give him support. Al's operation began Sunday evening, and they didn't come out of the operating room until 4:30 a.m. Monday morning. The surgeon looked exhausted, but gave the waiting group from UND a thumbs up as he came out of the operating room and headed to clean up. He was soon back with word that they'd had to remove some of the twisted bone, but had replaced it with a graft from Al's hip. It was then pinned with two titanium pins. If all went as expected, he should be good as new-but not for six months. A week in the hospital. Twelve weeks in a wheelchair with his leg sticking out straight. Eight more weeks on crutches. A month of physical therapy and he'd be substantially as good as new. It would probably be another six months before he was walking without a limp and running at all. But he was lucky. With just slightly different twisting he could've lost the use of his leg permanently.
Al was from western Montana, where his family had a ranch. They hadn't been able to make the quick airline connections that Tim had. It did mean that before they left they learned that they should head for Vancouver not Seattle. They arrived about breakfast time on Monday, and found Tim, Nate, Pat, and Jumper in the hospital cafeteria. Al was still unconscious in the recovery room. They were surprised to find Tim there; in fact they'd expected only to find a trainer or assistant coach with Al. His mother said, "Dr. Tim, I can't believe you're here, or you Coach. And Nate. Nate, Al's told me about you; he says you're already a better quarterback than he is. I know he'll be pleased that you stayed with him."
Jumper said, "Nobody on the team wanted to go home. But we had to put them on the plane to get them back for classes. Now we're talking about how we're going to get Al home."
Al's father said, "I've been talking to the surgeon. He's not sure how soon Al will be able to travel. But he recommends that he go to a city with a good orthopedic hospital that can monitor his progress. There's nothing like that near our ranch. We think he'd better go back to Grand Forks, if the University can deal with a student in a wheelchair and a leg sticking out straight."
Tim said, "We'll deal. I don't think dormitory living will work, but we have an infirmary where he can live. We have plenty of students on work-study programs that we can assign to move him around campus as needed."
Nate spoke up, "Why can't he live at our house? We just put a bed into storage that we could move into the library on the first floor. There're seven of us in the house, we can give him all the care he needs. We'll get him to classes and everything."
Pat said, "That's a great idea. But, Tim, we'll take you up on your offer of work-study students to help get him around campus. Without help we'll run into impossible scheduling conflicts."
Tim was flabbergasted. "Do you guys realize the kind of commitment that would involve?"
Nate said, "Of course we do. And we have to get him to home football games as well. He's going to be our first and only benchwarmer."
Jumper laughed. "We don't usually have benchwarmers; it's my rule. I think I'll have to make an exception."
Al's parents spoke up. "We can't allow Al to become that much of a burden on either the University or his teammates. We think he should just drop out of classes this semester, live in the infirmary, and make it his business to get healed."
Tim said, "I don't think you're going to dissuade these two from taking care of Al. I know these young men, and I know the other five in that house. There isn't a group anywhere that'll take better care of Al, and there's no way that you, me, Jumper, or anyone's going to stop them. Our problem now is to get Al to Grand Forks. We need to talk to the doctor and find out how soon he can move. Then we'll see about flying him to North Dakota."
Al's mother asked, "How're we going to do that? He won't fit in an airline seat, even first class."
Tim said, "I think this is a job for Fred Milson."
"Who's that?" Everyone asked something like that almost simultaneously.
"A good friend, and my first string problem solver."
Al came through the surgery in good shape; well, as good as could be expected. The surgeon said he could fly as long as he had oxygen, an IV inserted, and could be flat on his back. A tall order. It took Fred exactly six hours to fill the order. Al would be transported by ambulance to Seattle, where he would board a Northwest Orient flight on its regular run to Fargo. They would remove the twelve seats on the side of the plane opposite the rear door (planes had two doors then, remember?). An elevator truck from the food service would run his gurney up to the door right from the ambulance. A nurse, Tim, Jumper, Nate and Pat, and Al's parents would ride in the seats opposite him, in front of and to the rear of the door. All courtesy of Northwest Orient Airlines. Fred told us that he'd assured the airline that Tim would publically thank the airlines, loudly and frequently. Tim assured Fred that that would be easily taken care of. Tim and Fred both spoke the same language.
Thursday Al was ready to roll, and by Friday morning had been checked out at United Hospital, where their top orthopedist reviewed his X-rays, took new ones, hemmed and hawed a bit, and pronounced him in good condition. "He had good care in Canada; the pins are perfect and I concur that he can expect a full recovery."
Al immediately said, "Good, then it's time for me to head out of here."
"Oh, no. You need hospital care for at least a week."
"And just what're you going to do for me that my good friends can't do for me at Tim's house?"
"Monitor your vital signs, keep up your IV, take care of your catheter, help you with the bathroom. There's a lot to taking care of someone in your condition."
"First, my vital signs are fine-they have been since right after surgery. Second, I only needed the IV for the flight; it's over, take it out. Likewise the catheter. The big guys at Tim's house can move me to the bathroom when it's needed. I expect to be back in classes next week. And nobody's going to be in my way."
The doctor replied, "Son, I'm not going to sign your discharge from this hospital."
"I don't really care, but the fact is that I've never been formally admitted to this hospital, so I don't need to be discharged. I appreciate your consultation, and I hope that you'll continue to monitor my leg. Now as soon as Tim can arrange a wheelchair, I'll be on my way. I'd appreciate it if you'd have a nurse remove the IV and catheter, but if necessary I can arrange for that to be done at home."
The doctor was flabbergasted. He wasn't used to patients talking to him like that; he was used to patients who took orders and didn't ask too many questions. He turned to Tim, looking for support. Tim shrugged and said, "He's of legal age, and everything he says seems to be correct, medically and legally. I'd very much appreciate it if you would accommodate his requests about the IV and catheter, and would continue to monitor his recuperation. We'll need to arrange physical therapy as soon as he's out of that cast."
By Friday afternoon Al was established in Nate's old single bed in the library of our old house. We were all exhausted, and ready to head for bed. Al's parents were offered the choice of staying with Tim and me at Dakota House, or in the second floor guest room next to Nate and Pat. They chose to be in the house with Al.
Nate and Pat had missed football practice all week. However, Jumper came by the house and assured them that he expected them to play on Saturday, and furthermore reminded Nate that he was the starting quarterback. Jumper's policy of always using all of his players meant that Nate was ready for the assignment.
During the week of practice, which had been led by Jumper's first assistant, the former third string quarterback had taken that position in practice. He had, prior to that, also played another position, and had only been in one game-for a very short time-as the quarterback. He was glad for Nate's return, and insisted that he wanted only minimal playing time on Saturday.
Saturday was Nate's big opportunity. He started the day at Al's bedside, where they'd each given the other a pep talk. Nate told Al that he would only play if Al was on the sidelines cheering. Al wasn't sure he was ready for that much adventure, but Nate, Pat, Toppy, Murray, Arnie, and Fyn, led by Margie, hoisted him into his wheelchair and rolled him into the dining room for breakfast. Breakfast was disturbed by banging at the front of the house. Toppy went out to check, and reported that the workmen that he had engaged were installing the ramp we needed to easily move Al in and out in his wheelchair. Mid-morning a university van arrived, driven by a young man from the transportation pool who advised us that he'd be on call, as needed, for the next six or so weeks, to transport Al. To that Al had responded, "Today I'll gladly accept your offer. But I have very healthy arms, and I intend to move under my own power as soon as possible."
The driver replied, "I think you're going to find that very difficult. There's been a lot of talk about making the campus and community handicapped accessible. But I just counted, and you'll find that between here and campus there are six curbs that contain no curb cut, and rolling a wheelchair along that route, whether you propel it, or someone pushes it, will be difficult, and with your leg elevated, is dangerous. Once you get on campus, curb cuts are not an issue, but you'll find access to some buildings is challenging. I'm just one part of the support team you're going to need if you want to get on with being a student."
"Being dependent has never been my style," replied Al. "But it looks like I am going to have to get used to it. I really appreciate what everyone's doing for me."
The young driver said, "My name's Alexander, and, thank goodness, they call me Alex and not Al. We need to get you to the football stadium pretty early. I'm going to drive right onto the field to get you to the team bench. We'll have a chair there that'll be more comfortable than a wheelchair. Everything's going to go smoothly. At least for today, just relax and let your support team make all the decisions. By Monday you'll be able to take charge."
"OK, Alex. You're making sense, and it appears that I don't have any choice anyway."
Nate and Pat weren't part of the team that moved Al. They had to go ahead and work out with the team. They did join the crew that off-loaded Al from the van and established him in a chair at the end of the team bench. They had enough blankets over him to brood a hen, but he seemed content to relax in the warmth-of both blankets and friendship.
The game was an anti-climax. I'm not sure I even remember who we played against. Nate was like a man driven. He was in the mood to win the Super Bowl, and he carried the team with him. Victory was never in doubt, as they moved the ball down the field for a touchdown on their first possession. Nate was the hero of the day, and no one cheered him louder than Al. Al's only comment on the game was, "I should've broken my leg sooner, we could've avoided our one loss."
Nate did face one more loss that year. In the seventh game of the ten game regular season they posted a 3-point loss to the Coyotes of South Dakota. It was disappointing, but the team, led by Jumper and Nate, took it in stride. They came back and won the last two games of the season. Their second loss kept them out of postseason play that year, to the disappointment of many. However, Jumper confided to Tim, "I'm just as glad we didn't make it into the postseason. I don't think the team's ready. We will be next year."
Tim replied with, "You accomplished exactly what I hoped you'd accomplish this year: a winning season and a two-game winning streak to start next year. Keep it up, Jumper."
"I'm really looking forward to next year with a seasoned quarterback, and a team that's been working together with me for a year."
"I'm looking forward to it as well, Jumper."
As the football season had progressed, so had the relationship between Nate and Pat. Pat was a defensive end, so they didn't play together much, except in scrimmages. However, they spent a lot of time together when they weren't in class. The got in the habit of cooking together when either of them had meal duty at the house. They often went to the movies together, and met for coffee almost every afternoon on campus. To the outside world they were just good friends, but to the rest of the Circle, which is what the seven inhabitants of Tim's house were beginning to call themselves, it was pretty clear that they were witnessing a budding romance.
Bedtime activities progressed as well. Both boys were in their first gay relationship. Actually, that statement could be broadened to note that both boys were in their first sexual relationship, gay or straight. That first semester together was that exciting time when almost every time you get naked with your partner something new happens. They explored every possible option with their hands, meanwhile learning to explore the possibilities of how the tongue can be employed in kissing. It was more than a month before kissing progressed down to the groin area, and oh, wow, was the first kiss on the end of Nate's penis exciting-for both of them. When Nate reciprocated, he got a load of spunk-Pat's term-on his face, and tasted it for the first time.
Neither of them was comfortable with ejaculate in their mouths, and that kept oral sex to a minimum. They tried warning each other, but that led to a lot of accidents, as well as premature withdrawals when the ejaculation had to be aided by the hands. But both of them decided that they really liked being sucked, and their solution was to accept the cum and spit it into a handkerchief. They talked about that, knowing that for many gays eating the cum was part of the experience-but it didn't work for them.
They talked about ass-fucking, as they called it. They did play around with fingers in each other's anuses, but avoided penile penetration. They didn't find each other's prostates, so missed that experience. They found contentment with those activities, and indulged virtually every night as they went to sleep. On mornings when neither of them had an early obligation, they indulged before breakfast.
When Tim and I had returned from Pike Lake the previous summer he had put in motion his plan to host a high school diving meet for northern tier high schools that had 5- and 10-meter platform diving. Since most high school diving is limited to the lower springboard events, this was a pretty limited group of schools-including Iron River, Michigan. All of the schools that Iron River competes with were eager to participate, as it was an opportunity to expand their horizon of competitors. These included Manistique and Ontanogan, Michigan, Ashland, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota. In addition Fargo and Grand Forks would be competing, as well as Moorhead High School, and Tim's alma mater, Southwest High School in Minneapolis, which Tim had invited for sentiment's sake, even though the urban areas of Madison, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities were not usually considered part of the "northern tier."
The university arranged to house all of the divers and coaches, and provided a transportation subsidy to the schools that had to travel the furthest. Billy, with his entire family, would be coming, and he, Larry and Bess would be the judges for the meet. Tim would be the official host and would award all the prizes. For the divers the congratulatory handshake (with obligatory photo) from Tim was a greater prize than any trophy or medal.
Tim was delighted to see Coach Harry Wilson from Iron River again. Harry had been a wonderful host to us on two different occasions, and Tim was delighted to return the favor. Equally important for Tim, this was an event that would spread goodwill for the university widely across the region we were most interested in, and with especially important high schools in that region.
The meet was scheduled for Saturday, and on Friday Tim, Billy, Larry and Bess offered a diving clinic for all who could arrange to come-virtually everyone did. They divided the divers into eight groups of approximately ten divers each. Each group rotated through four rest sessions and a session of about a hour with each of the four coaches. Top level college divers around the world would have given their eye teeth for that opportunity with Tim and Billy. For many of these kids it was the thrill of a lifetime.
I sat by the pool, watching my kid in a role that he loved, coaching really eager young divers. For me, I was delighted that, for some reason, the diving world had decided that the skimpier the swimsuit the better. I got to ogle over one of the most beautiful collections of babes and hunks that you can imagine. Regrettably they were all off limits. Thank goodness Billy and Sara weren't off limits in the evening!
Willie and Bob were big hits with the divers as well. They were both comfortable diving off platforms and springboards of any height, and loved to show off. The reaction of the divers was summed up by a girl from Manistique, herself a very good diver, "I don't think it's fair to bring out a seven and five year old who are as good or better than any of us!"
It wasn't true, but for their ages Willie and Bob were truly exceptional. They were also really great kids, who managed to get along with the high schoolers almost as equals. Something really special ran in the Carson blood.
The meet was a huge success. The diving was of remarkably high quality; the boys and girls participating really enjoyed both the diving and the opportunity to meet fellow divers; and several of the divers were definite prospects for Larry and Bess in the coming years. Before the competition, the Fighting Sioux divers performed, and did very well indeed. It might have been embarrassing if the high schoolers had been better, but they weren't. Tim was really proud of the success Larry and Bess had had with the program.
Following the meet Billy and Tim put on their, now standard, routine. It included individual diving as well as their tandem show. For most of the high school kids this was their first live exposure to top international level diving, and they were seeing the best in the world.
Sunday was the travel home day, and after feeding them a really great breakfast in a special dining room with the Fighting Sioux divers they all set off for home. We promised Harry that we'd try to visit him in the coming summer. We couldn't know it then, but we wouldn't make it the next summer.
Nate and Pat, and the others of the Circle, had been a big help with the meet. Tim needed a solid support group to help with the arrangements and the hosting, and all eight of them volunteered. They also hosted four of the divers at their house. It wasn't necessary, but we did warn them that high school kids were strictly "hands off." We needn't have worried.
Nate and Pat hadn't gotten sexually involved with any of the others in the house, though every now and then someone would walk in on them while they were active in bed. It didn't bother them, but it never led to anything. The surprised visitor would simply say something like, "Oh, didn't mean to interrupt," and leave.
Eventually, Nate raised the subject with Pat, saying, "You know, Pat, the others in the Circle would probably like to join us in our sexual goings on."
"Yeah, I suppose they would. Certainly Toppy and Murray would-they've hinted, but nothing more."
"I've picked up their hints. They seem to be saying that they're available if we're interested, but there's no pressure."
"What do you think? Might we be interested?"
"I don't know. I honestly don't. I'm not sure I want to cross the line into group sex."
"Group sex is a strong term. It makes you think."
"I know. I deliberately chose the term to make the point. To me, group sex means more than two people, not just an orgy with a dozen or so people in the room. And if we invited Toppy and Murray in here with us, it would certainly be more than two people. Are you ready for that?"
"You brought the subject up. Are you ready for that?"
"I'm back to, 'I don't know.' I'll admit it's tempting. Toppy and Murray are sexy boys, certainly have been good friends, are clearly willing, and would be fun to play with. But it's crossing a pretty clear line. Are we ready and willing?"
"I'm not sure."
"I think I'd like to get some help thinking this through," said Nate.
"And just where would you go for such help?"
"To the most out gay couple on this campus: Tim and Charlie."
"You're suggesting that we go talk to the President of the University about having group sex in the house he owns?"
"I know he has an open door policy, but don't you think that'd be pushing things?"
"Well, first of all I wouldn't want to be doing anything in this house that would upset either Tim or Charlie. But I know that Murray and Toppy report everything about the house to Tim, and I'm sure that that includes what they know about the goings on in our bed. Remember, Tim, acting through Toppy, bought the bed. You don't think that there was much thought that it wouldn't be used as it has been, do you?"
"No, of course not."
"Tim has faced all of the issues that we're facing and more. I'll bet talking to him would be helpful."
"Maybe we should asked Murray and Toppy to come with us. They know Tim and Charlie a lot better than we do."
"The problem with that is simple. If, after we talk with Tim and Charlie, we decide-for any reason-that we aren't going to have any kind of group sex, we have needlessly opened the door with Toppy and Murray. That might not be fair to them."
"I hadn't thought of it that way."
"Let's just the two of us talk to Tim and Charlie."
"I know Tim better than you do. I'll stop by his office and see if I can set up a time."
The next day Nate headed to Twamly and Tim's office. The secretary said he was welcome and he went right in. After pleasantries, Tim said, "Are you here for something specific, Nate?"
"Yeah, I am. Pat and I have some sexual issues that we need someone to talk to about, and we were hoping that you, or better yet, you and Charlie, might be willing to help us out."
"Are you and Pat encountering some rough spots?"
"No, no. Nothing like that. It's just...."
"Hard to talk about?"
"You're the president, sir. It's not like talking to Toppy or Murray."
"I understand. Maybe you should talk to Toppy and Murray instead of Charlie and me."
"That won't cut it, sir."
"Where did this, 'Sir,' come from?"
"It's just what I learned, way back in elementary school, I think."
"It's fine, Nate. I'm just not used to the formality. Listen, Charlie and I would love to talk to the two of you. Come to Dakota House for dinner the day after tomorrow. We'll feed you, and we'll chat after dinner."
The four of us did have a nice meal; glazed pork chops if I remember correctly. We waited until after dinner for serious conversation. Well, that's not quite right. Tim loved informal conversations with students; they provided him with some of his most important insights into what was going on on campus. But now we were in our den; Tim and I had Cokes and Nate and Pat had coffee. "What on your minds?" asked Tim.
"Hey, we're randy teenagers. Sex is on our minds."
Tim said, "Great, let's all go upstairs and see if we can work some of the randiness out of the two of you."
Nate looked shocked. Pat looked even funnier.
Tim said, "OK, that seems to have gone over like a lead balloon. Charlie, it looks like you and I are on our own tonight."
"We'll survive," I replied, just barely repressing a laugh.
Tim said, "I think you boys are going to have to open the conversation; Charlie and I really don't know what the issue is-or issues are."
Both boys were hesitant to start.
I said, "Look, Tim and I aren't that much older than you. We've faced all of the issues you have. We know all the language, and we aren't offended by it. Just spill it like you were talking to each other."
Nate spoke up. "OK. You know we're living in a house where there's quite a bit of sex going on. Toppy and Murray are gay, and active. Arnie, Fyn and Margie have a strange relationship, but it isn't puritanical. The same is true for Pat and me. Everyone's comfortable being naked around the house, though I don't think it's particularly overdone. Toppy and Murray have joined the three upstairs some; I'm not sure just what's been going on there. They've also hinted to us that we'd be welcome in their beds."
Pat said, "More than hinted. But they haven't pushed."
Tim said, "And you're a little uncomfortable in that situation?"
"No, not really. Nobody has made us uncomfortable. We're struggling with the question of whether we want to join in."
I said, "In other words, is monogamy the way to go, or should it be cast aside with other changing societal norms."
Tim said, "Spoken like a college professor."
"I am one."
Nate said, "However you phrase it, that's the question."
Tim said, "OK, let me ruminate a while. "First, I want to compliment you two guys for raising the issue. I think the vast majority of students on this campus have rejected a good part of the monogamy norm without even thinking about it. Fucking anything in skirts, or letting any loose dingle-dangle inside you, is far too common these days." I was certain that Tim had chosen his words with care, specifically to put the boys at greater ease in a difficult conversation.
Tim continued, "You're raising an issue that Charlie and I debated long and hard. We know there isn't an easy answer, and the answer will be different for each couple. I think that people who are certain that there's only one right answer to that question are mistaken; seriously mistaken. Charlie and I have good friends that come down on different sides of the question, and both have seriously considered it, and found an answer that's right for them. There's no 'right' answer.
"I'll go on to point out that the two of you, in deciding that a homosexual relationship, whether physical or emotional, is moral, have rejected a widely held societal norm and broadly accepted religious teaching. Having made that leap, the leap to rejecting monogamy isn't too difficult. But that doesn't make it right. Certainly there are sexual norms that the society got right, and that we all respect: hands off children being the most obvious."
Nate said, "We're with you. But you haven't helped a lot yet."
"Hey, I'm not going to answer the question for you. You have to do that for yourselves. My answer isn't your answer."
Pat said, "I'm interested in your use of the word monogamy. Nate and I are a monogamous pair, even if we decide to have sex outside of the relationship."
"It's a matter of definition. I'm thinking of monogamy as meaning a single sex partner. If we want to think if terms of legal marriage, then I guess a man having sex with both a wife and a mistress is still monogamous. But in my mind, he's rejected being monogamous. It doesn't matter. We both know what we're talking about. Monogamy is just my shorthand for 'having sex only with one's life partner'."
I said, "I take it from the conversation that Toppy and Murray aren't limiting themselves to each other?"
"No. But I'm pretty sure they never do anything behind the other's back."
Tim said, "I take it as a given that we're talking about open relationships, not sneaking around behind the back of your partner, or having sex with someone who's betraying his partner."
"Not, 'Of course.' There's a lot of that going on, with the justification that what you don't know won't hurt you. That's bullshit." That was Tim, and he was a little emphatic.
I said, "Let's look at this another way. It's been very difficult for our society to define what's acceptable in sexual relations. But I think that we can find a fairly broad consensus about what's unacceptable."
"In what way?"
"OK. I think the society's pretty much in agreement that force isn't acceptable in sexual relationships. As soon as I say force, you think of rape. But force takes a lot of forms. It can be the exercise of position: employer and employee, teacher and student, counselor and counselee. It can mean taking advantage of lesser capacities: adult and child, mentally able and mentally deficient, wealthy and poor. Society has pretty much agreed that sexual relationships across those lines is unacceptable. Sure there are minor quibbles: Some will accept prostitution, others won't. We can argue about the ages of children. What about teachers in a school who don't actually teach the sex partner? All debatable, but there's general agreement around the idea that force is unacceptable."
Tim said, "Then there's the broad concept that sex should be limited to your spouse. Whether this is accepted by society or not has changed over the years-and not in any kind of straight line. We can point to times in history when that concept was pretty broadly rejected, and to other times and other societies where it has been pretty broadly accepted (if often ignored). I suppose that right now we're in the midst of a major societal change on this issue. Fewer and fewer people are willing to conform either their beliefs or their actions to that norm. And you two guys are caught in that changing norm, trying to figure out what to do. Am I right?"
That was Pat. Nate added, "I think there are basically two ways to establish a moral norm. Either we can talk about who gets hurt and who benefits, or we have to go to some external code or standard."
I said, "And that usually involves religion or law. And neither of those are particularly helpful here, as all four of us in the room have rejected both. We've rejected the religious teachings about homosexuality, and we've rejected the legal strictures against sodomy. So you're on your own, and, yes, asking the questions about who gets hurt and who gets helped are a good starting point."
Tim said, "Have we helped you guys any? Because I don't know what else we can really offer."
Nate said, "Well, yes. I guess we have one very specific question for you."
"We live in your house. You're the president and chancellor of this university-our university. Are we violating the understanding that we have with you regarding our behavior in your house, if we have a sexual relationship with the others in the house?"
"That's a pretty specific question," said Tim. And you have no idea the respect that I have for you because you asked it. If affirms Charlie's and my decision to invite you to be our house guests. The answer is simple, 'No'. However, I'd like to make one request. Be discreet. We'd rather not have conversations going on around campus about the orgies at President Tim's house."
We all laughed at that, but Nate and Pat understood the underlying seriousness of the comment. Pat said, "We completely understand, Tim. What goes on will always be private among the participants."
Tim said, "I understand that you seven are calling yourselves the Circle."
"Where did you hear that?"
Tim said, "I was told once by a wise lady in Washington that wise folks never reveal their sources of information. I take it I'm right?"
"We kind of like it. We know that you call your intimate group the Gang. They talked about widening the circle when you invited me, and then Pat, to live in the house. We just sort of started calling ourselves the Circle."
"I like it," said Tim.
"So do I," I said.
Toppy told us the rest of the story. The next evening after dinner Nate had knocked on Toppy and Murray's door asking, "Do you guys ever share that wonderful shower stall you have?"
Since Pat and Nate had been invited to use the shower whenever they wanted, and had often done so, Toppy assumed, correctly, that more was implied. "You mean as in, 'Shall the four of us take a shower together?'"
"As in, maybe we wouldn't just scrub each other's backs?"
"Come on, there are lots of parts of me that would love to be scrubbed."
Well, getting into the shower was easy, but just where they were going from there was a little more complicated. For Nate and Pat it was a completely new experience. Toppy and Murray were more experienced-not a lot more-but were completely uncertain what the other two boys wanted or expected.
Toppy opened with, "Let me scrub your back, Nate." With that he took a wash cloth and soaped it up thoroughly, moving behind Nate and scrubbing his back, slowly moving down to his buns and crack. Murray followed suit with Pat. Then, Toppy leading, they moved up and around the front, scrubbing nipples, and tickling them with fingers as well. They moved down and were soon massaging "down there" and encouraging both boys to stiffen as their dicks were caressed. Then Murray said, "Time to rinse," and took one of the hand-held shower heads and aimed it at Nate's genitals. It really tickled and quickly Nate was fending off the spray with his hands. Meanwhile, Toppy was giving the same treatment to Pat. The melee that followed got them all pretty aroused, but involved nothing but hands. Then Toppy got on his knees in front of Nate and started sucking. The others watched, and soon Nate was exploding in Toppy's mouth. Both Nate and Pat seemed startled when Toppy enthusiastically swallowed all of Nate's cum.
Pat said, "Wow, we don't eat it, ever."
Murray said, "Everybody does what feels good to them. You want to suck me?"
As Murray was getting sucked he said to Pat, "You don't have to swallow it, but kiss me and pass it to my mouth."
"Eeww," said Pat, as he took a break from his efforts.
Toppy said, "Not, eeww. We like it. But you don't even have to get it in your mouth. Murray will warn you."
Nate spoke for Pat, "We just spit it out, no need to warn him."
It was too late for a warning anyway, as Murray exploded into Pat, who quickly stood up and kissed him, letting him have all of the cum.
Murray said to Pat, "I have something different for you. He soaped up the washcloth again and really lathered up Pat's dick and balls. With plenty of soap on his hands, he stood behind Pat, reached around and started jacking him off, using the soap as lubricant. Toppy soaped up a washcloth and used the lather to resupply lubricant to Pat's organ. It wasn't long before semen was added to the soapy mess.
That left Toppy. Murray took one of the hand-held shower heads and gave the other to Nate. "Help me out here." The two of them sprayed Toppy's dick, Murray being careful to move slowly up and down the underside. Toppy just stood still and sort of swooned, and fairly quickly came, with the cum being instantly washed away by the two shower sprays. Murray said, "We call that a 'hands-free'."
Thus began a fairly regular group experience for the four-often in the shower, but just as likely in either Murray and Toppy's king-sized bed, or in Nate and Pat's queen. It was much too cold at that time of year to explore outdoor venues, but that would follow in warmer weather. Murray and Toppy never pushed Nate and Pat into new frontiers unless they were asked. Two things remained off the table: ass-fucking, and Pat and Nate didn't enjoy eating cum. They did explore prostate glands with their fingers, but that was as far as their anal explorations went.
This all got reported to Tim and me in snatches from all four of the boys. They all had become very comfortable talking about their adventures. Tim and I chuckled as we learned how differently they'd drawn the lines limiting their actions. We weren't critical; we knew that we had a line that we couldn't defend by logic any more that the four boys could theirs. To each his own.
It was winter, which in Grand Forks meant temperatures frequently dropped below zero. Tim and I enjoyed sitting at home with a fire in the fireplace, reading either the newspapers, books, or papers brought home from the university. We both would admit that we liked not having the pressure of homework to be done for classes. Though we worked harder as administrators than we ever had as students, as administrators we worked to our pace, not some professor's.
One evening in mid-February we were sitting, enjoying a fire, enjoying being alone together, and reading. I was reading papers for a forthcoming faculty meeting and Tim was reading some newspaper. All of a sudden Tim blurted out, "Oh, my God..." Before he could continue he was almost doubled over with laughter. He couldn't really speak. I looked over, immediately determined that he wasn't choking or otherwise in trouble, and simply waited for him to calm down enough to tell me what it was all about. "Charlie.... You won't believe this. Here read this headline."
He handed me the newspaper that he'd been reading. I noticed that it was the little weekly paper from the county where the Pike Lake cabin was. We subscribed to it so that we could keep in touch with what was going on. It didn't take me long to find the headline he was referring to. There it was on page 13 B, the local news and sports section:
"Great Northern Jerk Off contest scheduled Feb. 16 at Club 45."
Now it was my turn to burst out laughing. What the Hell were they printing in the paper?
Tim took the paper back, saying, "Here, let me read it to you. Every word is from the article, but I've left some out."
"Great Northern Jerk Off contest scheduled Feb. 16 at Club 45.
"The 14th annual Great Northern Jerk Off...will be held Saturday, Feb. 16, at Club 45 in Amasa. The contest is open to amateurs and all ...prepared ...participants.
"Contest entries will be accepted in two categories....
"Judging will begin at 7 p.m. with winners in each category. Judges will be local community leaders, business representatives and sponsors. Judging will be based on a point system and each contestant will be allowed to win only once in a category.
"Contest organizers request that contestants precut...small samples...since with the number of entrants, cutting...on-site has become difficult. However, if entrants are unsure how to cut...contest officials will cut pieces on-site.
"Proceeds from the contest will be donated to Warm the Children. For more information, call...."
I was literally rolling on the floor. By then I'd figured it all out, but Tim's reading kept me in stitches. If you haven't figured it out, let me give you the complete text of the second paragraph:
"Contest entries will be accepted in two categories. One category will be jerky made from beef or venison and a second category for jerky made from poultry or wild game."
Oh, and in case you wondered, it was the jerky, not something else, that had to be cut!
Tim was so enamored by the headline that he cut it out, blew it up on a Xerox machine and framed it. On the back of the framed headline he pasted the original article, headline and all. It hangs in Gangland to this day.
Author's note: I'm not making this up! And it's not an urban legend. Here are three source articles: "Great Northern Jerk Off contest scheduled Feb. 16 at Club 45," Vilas County News-Review, Feb. 13, 2008, page 13B, Eagle River, Wisconsin. "Great Northern Jerk Off contest planned Saturday at Club 45," Vilas County News-Review, Feb. 14, 2007, page 15B, Eagle River, Wisconsin. "Winners announced in jerky contest," Vilas County News-Review, Feb. 28, 2007, page 15B, Eagle River, Wisconsin-This article is accompanied by a photograph of the winners, standing in front of a huge sign which reads, in its entirety:
OK, I'll admit I moved the date about 25 years, and the location about seventy-five miles. I still chuckle over those headlines and photo. I swear it's legit. You can read the papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library, located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. See if you can get your local paper to give that kind of coverage to your next jerk off.
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