Shortly after Peter and Norma's visit we got a completely expected call from Franklin. He got us both on the line. "OK, guys, we need to talk."
I said, "Are you upset, Franklin?"
"Hell, no; jealous."
"Yes, you two guys have had it on with my folks and Ronnie's folks; maybe others that I don't know about. Nobody else in the Gang has had that chance."
Tim said, "Franklin, are you talking about you having sex with your parents?"
"No. But if the parents are going to start getting in on the action, I don't think it should be limited to you and Charlie. I'd love to have Frank and Adele sleep with Phil and me."
"So ask them. Invite them."
"What about the other parents? What do they call themselves, POGs?"
"Yes, POGs. Parents of Gang. You know as much as we do about who is doing what with whom."
"What about your parents?"
"Maybe," said Tim. "Your guess might be as good as mine."
"Do most of the Gang, and the POGs, know about you and Ronnie's and my parents?"
"I think so. Certainly the Gang does. Tim's parents do, and they would know about the other POGs."
"I'm going to call them. Then I'm going to send a letter and try to get this out in the open. Things in the Gang shouldn't be whispered from person to person, but shared with all."
I said, "I agree. Write it carefully, but send your letter." He did, and it led to considerable correspondence among the Gang. I think it would be best if that correspondence got an episode all to itself. Coming up.
Franklin's call was followed by another, equally unexpected, call; this one from Bo Schembechler, inviting Tim to another lunch. Tim thought, correctly I might add, that I might like the chance to meet the big name coach, so he asked if I could come along. The response was, "Sure," and the date was set for the next week, now late October, 1971.
We met at the Faculty Club and discovered that we were joined by a fourth person, Jim Friedman, the Director of the Michigan Marching Band. Tim was cordial, but immediately sensed that something was in the air. "OK, guys, right up front, what's on your minds; spit it out." He wasn't known for beating around the bush.
Schembechler replied, "Obviously something, but how about our ordering first?"
I don't know where Tim got his nerve, but he responded, "No, no. I need to know whether I should be ordering steak or hamburger."
Schembechler laughed and assured Tim that he should not only be ordering steak, but shrimp cocktail besides. Fine wine was also suggested.
I jumped in with, "The steak and shrimp he'll take you up on. But we are both Coke drinkers."
We did order. We bought into the shrimp, but roast beef sandwiches were really all we wanted for lunch. Then came the proposal from Schembechler. "We want you to perform as part of the halftime show at the last home football game of the year, the second Saturday in December."
"Just what do you have in mind for me to do?"
"We are very open in that regard. We'll be honest, we will be trading on your name and reputation. But I have heard that you put on quite a show; that you have performed in a circus; and that you draw good audiences for both your diving and your gymnastics. We can work out something appropriate for a halftime show, working around the band. That's why Jim is here."
Jim said, "You know, half-time shows are pretty much the same from week to week, even with the band putting on a pretty darn good show. We are always looking for ways to spice it up. We have a track record of filling the stadium, which seats one hundred and one thousand and one - or at least that is the official number. Attendance is usually more than that. We have to keep working every angle to keep up that kind of an attendance record. Of course, having a winning football team is the first prerequisite."
I said, "Tim, be honest, you wouldn't mind the biggest live audience you ever had, would you?"
"Charlie, do you think that would ever enter my mind?"
"So what do you think you might do? Bounce on the trampoline?"
"I don't know." He turned to the other two, "How are people going to see me, when I'm so small and the stadium is so big?"
"They come to see the football players, and you are basically the same size, though with pads I guess the average football play is about two of you."
I said, "More like three."
Schembechler said, "Let's talk about what you might do that's showy. Trampoline? A gymnastics routine? Diving seems to be out in a football stadium."
I said, "His routine on the high bar is his most spectacular. How about this for an idea? The high bar is usually ten feet off the ground. What if we rigged one that was about thirty feet off the ground. That's about the usual diving platform height, so he's used to that height. He could be quite spectacular up there. Use a colorful circus costume; use the band as musical background; it could work."
"Just how would I get up there, climb a ladder?"
Jim said, "No, you ride a ladder. We'll get a big hook and ladder fire truck, and you ride in on it. They raise the ladder, and there you are on the high bar, ready to go."
I asked, "How would he get down? He can't just jump onto a mat and stick a landing from that height."
Tim jumped in, "I come down on a trampoline."
Bo thought for a while and added, "We'll build a platform and make it just the height of a trampoline. We have a big crew, we easily build stages and the like for halftime shows. Your bar is above that. Right underneath you we leave a hole in the platform which we fill with the stuff pole vaulters fall into - as a sort of safety net. But in front of that we put a trampoline. The audience won't know its there, so when you dismount, and fly onto the trampoline your bouncing will be completely unexpected."
Tim said, "I love it. Let's do it."
And he did. The Michigan-Minnesota game was one of the games that got national television coverage that Saturday. There was a lot of TV hype about Tim being in the halftime show. The stadium was its usual sellout; there were several million more fans watching on television, and the other games being covered that week planned to cut to Tim's show live, or show it with just a few minutes delay. Tim asked Schembechler to bring in Mr. Sutvan and one of his better performers to coach him and help him develop an appropriate routine. Transportation for two and consulting fees were a drop in the Band budget for halftime, so they were glad to accommodate him.
It became old home week for Tim and his friends from the circus - about six of them came, the rest at their own expense. True to form, Tim worked ten hours a day designing and perfecting his performance. In no way was this going to be a gymnastics routine, it would be pure circus - starting with the fire engine. To make that clear, they used the theme music from the movie "The Greatest Show on Earth" played beautifully by the Michigan Band. Tim's movements were perfectly timed to the music, and the whole thing worked perfectly.
Tim insisted on keeping the choreography under wraps, so even the band was not allowed to see him practice. They recorded the music, and he worked with the recording. He timed the piece during eight of their rehearsals to insure that their timing was consistent. They didn't vary more that 1.7 seconds from the recording he used. If Tim was good, so was the band.
There were several interviews before the performance, the biggest being on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Tim primed Carson to ask about sticking his landing from thirty feet in the air. Tim spilled the beans about the hidden trampoline and lamented the fact that this would be his first public performance in which he couldn't stick a landing. That had prompted more questions from Carson about sticking landings, and a series of film clips of Tim consistently sticking landings - in all of the different gymnastics events.
Back in Michigan people were a little upset that he had spilled the beans about the hidden trampoline. Tim just smiled and apologized. I was pretty sure that he had something in mind, but he didn't even share it with me. Nor with Sutvan. But I had my suspicions, and they turned out to be right.
The day arrived. After the first three band numbers, he made his grand entrance on the fire engine. He didn't just ride in. They had the ladder raised about half way up to where he needed to be, and he pranced up and down the rungs like he was on a stage runway. Then the engine backed up toward the high bar, which Tim had decided should be fifty feet above the platform, fifty -three feet, six inches above the ground - right on the fifty yard line. As the engine backed toward the bar the band started to play and Tim ran up the ladder as it rose the extra twenty feet it needed. He flew through the air at the top and caught the bar with ease, while making it look like he just barely caught it - a move designed by Sutvan and rehearsed at some length that morning when the fire truck could be available.
His routine was spectacular and flashy. Then he swung around the bar and let go as he swung up and ended up standing on the bar! He used it like a tight rope for a few minutes, scaring the dickens out of everybody. Only four people had known that was coming: Tim, me, Sutvan, and Peppy, the coach Sutvan had brought along. Then he dropped down and caught himself with one leg - an old trapeze stunt. Then he flipped around and was hanging from the bar by his toes - another trapeze stunt. Then it was back to a final routine and a quadruple somersault dismount onto the trampoline. With fifty feet doing the quadruple was easy - he assured us. Maybe for him. It was why he had raised the height from thirty to fifty feet - it gave him time for the fourth flip.
Then he hit the trampoline and was ready to bounce up and start a new, short routine on it before the show ended. But that never happened. He hit the trampoline and instead of bouncing high up - which is what would be expected after having hit it from fifty feet in the air, and which is what the entire audience was expecting as a result of the Johnny Carson interview - instead of bouncing, he bent his knees with perfect timing and stuck the landing! He ended up standing, stock still, right in the middle of the trampoline. The band had been informed just before the show that when he dismounted they should be prepared to stop playing instantly on the Band Director's signal. And Jim Friedman had been instructed to signal stop when Tim was three-fourths of the way to the trampoline surface. Nothing is instant, and the timing worked. The music stopped mid-phrase just as he hit and stuck.
One hundred and one thousand and one fans were on their feet almost simultaneously. Without moving his feet from the stuck position, he turned and waved to the crowd. The he bounced briefly on the trampoline, doing just a couple of flips that in any other circumstances would have been called spectacular, but that day were an anti-climax. Then he trotted across the platform, jumped to the ground, ran over to Jim Friedman, shook his hand, waved to the band and the crowd, and then ran off doing a series of hand to foot somersaults as he left the stadium.
I don't think there was a sportscast for the rest of the weekend that didn't show the instant replay of Tim's landing.
Tim had gotten to know one of the photographers at The Michigan Daily and liked him. He had tipped him off to be sure to get a picture of Tim's landing. He had a camera that could take a quick series of about eight shots over a period just longer than a second. One of the shots was perfect, and became Tim's seventh Sports Illustrated cover.
After all of the hullabaloo was over, Tim did admit that he had really put himself on the spot. After all the talk, the Johnny Carson interview, the stunt on the trampoline, the SI cover, and the ongoing commentary, he had set himself up for a terrible fall the first time he failed to stick a landing, any landing, anywhere, anytime.
"Charlie, I always stick my landings," was all he'd say. Well, so far that had been true. Would he really be able to say that when he finally retired? Only time would tell. "Charlie, I even stick all my practice landings!"
Cocky little son-of-a-bitch. I told him so, and he just grinned. He was entitled to as far as I was concerned.
The Sutvan crew all stayed with us at the North Campus house. It was a time of wonderful renewed friendships for Tim, and a chance for me to spend a little time with a group that had been important to Tim during the infamous forty months. I had met them at the time of Tim, but that had been a rushed time, as they were putting on their circus as well as helping Tim. They were a nice group of people and I understood why Tim had so enjoyed his summer with the circus. Watching his delight in preparing for his performance, I wondered if perhaps Tim had really been cut out to spend his life with the circus. I asked Tim that, and he responded, "I think I could have enjoyed that life, but I wouldn't trade. I get you this way."
Had he really given up a life with the circus to have me? I don't think so. Deep down he really wanted to be a university president.
That night the phone rang at the house. I answered it and was greeted with a booming, "Charlie, this is Lyndon. Put Tim on."
I signaled and Tim picked up on an extension, "Hello."
"Tim, this is Lyndon. Saw you on TV. Spectacular. Your red herring on the Carson interview was brilliant. The kind of thing I like to do. You pulled it off great."
"Thank you, sir."
"Don't sir me."
"Thank you, Tex. Your call means a lot."
"That's better. Well, you keep it up, kiddo. You've got the world eating out of your hand. If only you were thirty-five; I'd tell you to run for President. You'd sure as Hell do a better job that the current jerk."
"Thanks again, Mr. President."
It was only then that the Sutvan crowd realized whom Tim was talking to. The call ended, and the questions began. "You really called Lyndon Johnson, Tex?"
"Well, yes, in that setting it seemed appropriate."
"How often does he call?"
The questions continued, and we eventually rehashed most of our relationship with Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Our guests were impressed.
All of a sudden Tim's face was as well known on the University of Michigan campus as it had been on the University of North Dakota campus. He could hardly move without someone coming up and wanting to talk, just say, 'Hello," or get an autograph. Tim was used to it, but it did use up a not insignificant amount of time. He accepted it as part of the game. For Tim, it was the game of life. Alice had been right; he was a grand master of the game.
The next day Alice called. She wasn't much at watching sportscasts, but Warren had told her to be sure to watch Wide World of Sports which had carried his entire performance on its Sunday show. Alice had watched, and "simply had to call." Warren was on at her end, and the four of us had a wonderful conversation. Before Sunday had ended most of the Gang had called, Fred called, Prexy and several others from UND called, and many others as well. Tim turned to me and asked, "Will it ever end?"
"You asked for it, kid. As long as you keep up stunts like yesterday's, no, it'll never end."
With true insight he replied, as he gave me the last wiggle of the night, "I guess I don't really want it to."
For that he got his balls gently tickled, and we drifted off to sleep.
For Christmas we went to Tim's folks in Minneapolis, and Fred joined us. Carl was involved in a major design project and didn't feel that he could leave Bismarck for any length of time, so he and Carol had decided to stay put for Christmas. Hal and Sue came home from North Carolina for the holidays, and we saw a lot of them. But essentially, this was a quiet Christmas for us, with Norman, Betsy and Fred.
Tim looked up a number of his old high school friends, but most of the ones he was closest to had moved on and were no longer living in Minneapolis. Most important to Tim was looking up Nelson Waters, his old high school diving coach, and John Fenton, his gymnastics coach at the St. Paul Gymnastics Club. Tim had, of course, kept in touch with both, and both were still active in coaching. Both insisted that they had never had an athlete quite like Tim, and never expected to again. Tim just laughed at that, but we both knew they were right. We took the two of them to dinner, along with their wives. For old times sake we went to The Western - though that was probably more appropriate for high school students than for graduate students and coaches. But Tim had fond memories of The Western, and they did have pretty good steaks. One of the waitresses recognized Tim from high school - not the TV - and that certainly pleased him. A lot of menus were signed - I am afraid that The Western may have had to reprint menus, but the manager didn't seem to mind; he wanted his signed along with everybody else.
Nelson asked Tim, "Are you happy? I know you're successful, but are you happy?"
Tim answered, "Deliriously happy. Coach, I live with Charlie. Nothing could make me happier. But my life is happy. I really like being Tim."
John said, "Then keep right on doing what you're doing. And we'll both be happy to think that we may have had a small part in contributing to your happiness."
Tim said, "Not a small part. You both were a major part of my life in my formative years. But not only did you support me as an athlete, you supported me as a boy, a boy in love with Charlie. And for that support I will love you both all my life. Thank you."
"Thank you from me, as well," I said.
It was a good dinner and good conversation. And the most important thing for Tim was that both Nelson and John, and their wives, seemed to be happy as well. Being coaches was fulfilling to them. Nelson's wife was a school secretary, and John's wife was a nurse. They seemed equally happy, and they were happy with their husbands. I couldn't help but wonder how Tim had been so lucky to have the support of these wonderful people. Certainly with a divorce rate over 50%, and the other ills and woes of our society, these two couples were the exceptions - and Tim had encountered both of them - at a key point in his life. How lucky could he have been?
We stayed in Minneapolis for the week between Christmas and New Year. The five of us spent a lot of time together, and Fred had a chance to get to know Betsy and Norman pretty well. There was one incident that was pretty funny, though a little embarrassing when it happened.
One night, pretty late, Betsy had wanted to tell Tim something. She had walked over to our room to talk. She was naked, but she didn't think anything of that, either forgetting that Fred was in the guest room down the hall or thinking he was settled for the night. We were all ready for bed, so we were equally naked. Mom had her conversation with Tim and walked into the hall to find Fred coming toward her going to the bathroom. Both he and she let out a little gasp and both Tim and I headed for the hall to see what was going on. That brought Norman out, equally naked. Fred was the only one not naked - he had on a bathrobe. Betsy started to cover up, but she only had her hands. She couldn't really go anywhere, as Tim and I were behind her, and Norman was blocking the path back to her bedroom. Norman started to laugh, followed by Tim and me, and finally by Betsy, who by this time had decided that covering up simply wasn't going to happen.
I'm not sure what startled Fred the most, encountering Betsy naked, or seeing that she and I were comfortable together naked. Norman said, "I think we might like to talk a little. The question is, should we change our clothes before we go downstairs and talk?"
Tim said, "I'm comfortable, no need to change," and he headed downstairs. I followed, as did Betsy and Norman. Fred didn't have much choice, but the bathrobe stayed in place.
Betsy headed to the kitchen to fix coffee, and I followed her to fix Tim and me Cokes. Betsy and I returned to the living room, and by this time Fred had removed his bathrobe and was naked as well. He said, "Norman and Tim gave me a little background, and I decided that I had better get in the spirit of the family if I want to be considered part of it."
Betsy laughed, and then told of her initial conversation with me about nudity around the house. She apologized for not remembering that Fred was in the guest room, but he insisted that he was delighted to be thought of as family.
We drank our coffee and Cokes and soon headed for bed. There were certainly some heavy sexual overtones to the moment, but it wasn't basically a sexual experience. Fred got kidded every time he was spied going to the bathroom in a bathrobe, and eventually he became comfortable heading to the bathroom at night naked. Only twice again did he encounter Betsy in the hall, and by the second time was able to pass her and stay soft. Seeing Tim and me never seemed to arouse him!
The day after Christmas I commented to Tim that the New Year would bring 1972, the year of the XXth Olympiad. Tim's immediate response was, "Let's have an Olympiad Eve party and invite Hal and Billy - I am sure that they are both planning on going to Munich."
"Do I need to remind you that Billy is in North Dakota?"
"Believe me, he'll come. So will his folks. The coaches, too. Hal will be here, his parents, Herb and Phyllis, Frank and John and their wives, We'll invite them all. And I'll bet they all come."
"And just where are you going to put this crowd?"
"That can be Fred's problem."
"I don't believe you."
"Fred loves problems like that. He would be really pissed if we didn't think of him first in situations like this."
"Tim, this isn't a situation. It's just a dream."
"No, it's not. We have a party to give. It is so late the invitations are going to have to go by telephone this evening, after all this is the day after Christmas. Charlie, why didn't you get this idea a month ago?"
"It's not my idea. I just mentioned the Olympiad."
"Well, you knew I would want to celebrate an event like that."
"This summer, yes. New Year's Eve, no."
"Charlie, get with the program."
Everybody came. Even Ralph Billings and his wife flew up from Bloomington, profuse with thanks that we had thought to include him. Fred had, of course, had a charter plane fly down from Fargo, bringing that contingent, which included Jim and company. When Tim called Jim he said, you have to invite Big Paul. We did, and Fred shipped him tickets for himself and his wife.
Fred had been given quite a challenge. Space for a big party on New Year's Eve is impossible to find at the last minute. But Fred's no dummy, and thinking outside the box was his norm. He called John Fenton at the St. Paul Gymnastics Club. John and his wife were invited guests; Fred convinced them to play hosts in the club facilities. Today we would simply make a trip to the party store. Then we went to Woolworth's and bought a lot of gay (pardon the pun) decorations, and made the place look cheery. It was quickly decided that we didn't need live music, and records were collected. Fred somehow found a caterer who could put on a buffet. In record time we had a party.
As guests were arriving, I said to Tim, "All that is missing is Alice." Tim looked at me like the cat who had swallowed the canary.
"You didn't.... She isn't...."
He did and she was, and she soon marched in on Warren's arm. She walked right up to me and said, "You didn't think you were going to have a party without Alice, did you?"
"Don't 'ma'am' me. Now give me a big kiss."
I did, right on the lips, and Tim followed just as enthusiastically. That set the tone for the whole night, and I do mean night. It was six a.m. before Tim and I said "Good night" to Big Paul and Amanda, the last to leave. As he left he said, "We fly back in about three hours. This saved a hotel bill. Great party."
What a night! John had left all his gymnastic apparatus around the room, and about 9:30 Tim was urged into the first of several show off performances. He started on the beam, and wowed people as usual. Just as he bounced off the beam a big voice from across the room yelled, "The beam is for girls. The big boys fly high." It was Tor. Fred had been on the trans-Atlantic telephone the minute he had been asked to help with arrangements for the party. If Tim was going to celebrate the Olympiad, Tor had to be there. With Tor came Vlad. Tim and I were simply bowled over.
Tor and Tim worked hard to outdo each other on the high bar and the rings. Tor hit the high bar right after Tim's beam performance. A half hour later Tim was on the rings. They played, 'Can you top this?" about every half hour all night. By the time they left, everybody was convinced that they had already seen the Olympics; what more could Munich gymnastics bring?"
Fred had raised the question of allowing the press to cover the story. A gathering of that many Olympians was certainly sports news. We decided to invite the usual group: Susan, Bill, Eddie, and Mike. Eddie was invited to ride on the chartered plane from Fargo. Bill was doing freelance sports reporting, and came over from Elgin where he had been at Christmas with his parents. Mike realized that this would not be an SI story so he took a couple of extra vacation days. It was agreed that they would jointly write a single story, with pictures by Mike and sell it as a feature. It went out as a feature piece on the AP and was picked up by a lot of papers. It came a day after all of the fuss over the bowl games, and found generally uncluttered sports pages in need of a good story. Those four produced a good story.
The party had given us a chance to ask everyone about their plans regarding the coming Games. Hal had every intention of running. It was a given that Tor would try to out-medal Tim, and Tim was ready to take him on head to head. There was a lot of conversation about diving: Didn't Tim want to dive again? Tim refused to be drawn into that trap. He simply said, "Billy is the diver; I'm history. But if Billy doesn't get two medals, I'll kill him." Tim refused to worry about the color of medals. I really think he would have been happy for Billy had he gotten two bronzes, providing he had done his best and had been beaten by someone truly better than he. We all believed that no such person was around.
We all looked to Jim and Paul. Tim asked, "How's your weight. Are you guys still in shape. Have you gone up a weight class or two?
Jim looked truly offended. "Tim, do I look like I've gained weight? I have always kept in shape."
Paul jumped in with, "That's how he was able to decide to go to Mexico at the last minute. He really does keep in shape."
Jim said, "Paul you look like you've kept up as well."
"Coaching wrestling keeps you fit. I run every lap I expect the kids to run. It drives them nuts that the old guy can best them."
Jim said, "An old guy you aren't. If you are an old guy, then we all are, and none of us would admit to that."
Paul said, "Tell that to my ninth graders."
I said, "So what about Munich?"
Jim said, "I don't think so. Paul and I have had it out. He won. I think we ought to leave it that way."
Paul said, "Jim, you're entitled to a return match."
"Nope. You won fair and square. I've known since our first match in high school that you were the better wrestler; well, at least the stronger wrestler. I know we've traded some wins and losses, but the last one told the tale. I couldn't stop your pinning me. We'll let it rest."
Paul said, "We don't know whether we could even qualify. Neither of us has kept up with competition. I'll just be glad to stay retired and not let some whippersnapper get the pleasure of dethroning the champion."
Andy said, "Stanley is just going to have to be content with Camp White Elk getting the same number of medals as a small nation, instead of a middle size nation. With Tim not diving and Jim not wrestling, that is three less possible medals."
We all laughed. It made me think of Jeff and Dick, and I wondered what they might be doing this New Year's Eve.
The talk of the Games and the gymnastics showing off filled a lot of time, and the rest was spent dancing (think of an emphasis on Chubby Checker) and eating. At a quarter to twelve Fred got everybody's attention and introduced Mario, the caterer. Several people had recommended him, and Fred had called just two days before. Mario had been fully booked, with two other parties. "Mr. Milson, I'd love to do your party, but I don't have the staff. All those that wanted to work I am using. The rest are out on dates or at parties. They don't want to give up their New Year's Eve."
Fred had decided to pull out all the stops. "Mario, invite them to this party. Do you guys read the sports pages? Tim and Charlie, Tor, Hal Bruder, Jim and Paul the wrestlers, Bill Carson the diver. They'll all be there. Come bring the food, set it up, and then join the party. Your crew will have a ball."
After telling that story, Fred told the group to welcome Mario and his crew, several of whom had brought their dates to both help out and join the party. Fred said, "Welcome them all. And if you want more food on the tables, it's right behind that curtain; get it yourself. And open your own Cokes."
This was a bunch that easily welcomed newcomers and Mario and his gang were welcomed and made welcome. I think they really enjoyed themselves, and I know they enjoyed telling their friends of their partying with Tim and friends. It was the kind of thing that Tim loved to do, but it had been Fred that did it. I wonder where he learned it?
The next day was a dilemma for Tim. He hadn't slept, and he had both Billy and Tor to work out with. He said, "To Hell with sleep. John, can Tor and I stay here and work out for a few hours?"
Norman said, "And I have the high school pool key so you and Billy can dive later in the morning. You know, they both have to head back later this afternoon."
I fell asleep on one of John's mats, listening to Tim and Tor coach each other.
The approach of winter had brought on Tim's annual automobile ritual. Late each fall he packed an emergency box which was placed in our trunk. It was a practice that he had learned from his father growing up in Minneapolis, and which I had not learned from anybody growing up in Indianapolis. He didn't make a big deal out of it, but the emergency box was always in the trunk before the first snow. Knowing the severe winters of the northern plains, I hadn't said much during our student years in North Dakota. Tim hadn't bothered in Washington, but now we were back in Michigan and the box reappeared. I couldn't help but tease him a little. "Tim, we never used your box through four North Dakota winters, do you really think you will need it in southern Michigan?"
"No. I don't. It's when you don't think you'll need it that it is most important."
I guess it was good logic. Well, I know damn good and well it was good logic - now. That first Michigan winter, in January, we decided to take a trip to Battle Creek, home of Tony the Tiger and other denizens of the cereal boxes. There was snow predicted, but neither of us was concerned, and the level of traffic heading west on the Interstate out of Ann Arbor that Friday evening suggested that most people weren't worried about the weather. We should have been.
By the time we got to Jackson it was snowing quite heavily. We stopped for dinner and discussed our three options: head on to Battle Creek, where we were going to spend the night in a hotel before doing our touring on Saturday; head back to Ann Arbor; or get a motel in Jackson. We both considered ourselves pretty good drivers in snow. Tim had grown up in Minneapolis and had a lot of experience in snow. I had learned to drive on the sand roads of the UP, and driving in sand is remarkably similar to snow. Besides, we had both just spent four winters on the Dakota plains. Michigan wasn't going to do anything to us that North Dakota hadn't. So we decided to keep going to Battle Creek.
As we headed back onto the highway it was clear than many drivers had chosen a different option. The traffic was quite reduced, but flowing OK. We were able to maintain a speed of about 30 miles per hour until about Albion, Michigan. Plows were out, but weren't keeping up with the snow. We were driving through about 4 inches of snow most of the time. Heading west from Albion we could just make 15 to 20 miles per hour. Then 10. Then there was an accident in front of us and we couldn't move at all. By slowly negotiating the shoulder we were able to move around the accident, at which the police had now arrived. As we headed down the highway we followed a single pair of red taillights ahead of us. Quite rarely we could make out headlights going the other direction. Then the red lights ahead disappeared. And finally we couldn't move forward at all. Nor could we back up, turn around, or do anything. We were stuck, and who knew for how long?
Tim had been driving. He said simply, "We aren't going anywhere without help." Instantly he was out of the car and went to the trunk. He brought our suitcase and the emergency box into the car. He looked at me and grinned, "I'm ready, how about you?"
He said, "We can't run the engine; carbon monoxide will kill us. We can't leave the car, the snow will kill us. We'll be rescued in at least 48 hours, probably more like 12 to 15. So all we have to do is be comfortable here. Ready?"
I wasn't. He was. Out of the box came warm blankets, ear muffs, mittens (Tim explained that gloves really won't do the job.), beef jerky, candy bars and other miscellaneous food, a half-gallon of water which, thank God, wasn't frozen yet, flashlights, an electric lantern, two books, and a stove which he assured me could heat ice for water if the jug had been frozen. We cracked the windows in the front seat, crawled into the back seat, put on warmer clothes, ear muffs and mittens, snuggled together under a blanket on the back seat, and quickly found that we were too warm! That problem was easily fixed and we cuddled together for the night, sleeping amazingly well. The next morning we had to get out of the car to pee, if nothing else. The drifts were 18 inches to two feet, and nothing was moving. There was still some snow coming down, but it seemed that the worst was over. Only one other car was in sight, it was in the median, heading east. It looked like it had run off the road in the snow. We walked over to it and found a young couple huddled in the back seat, almost frozen. They had no supplies and nothing to cover with. They had had the good sense to make the two decisions that saved their lives: they didn't run the engine to stay warm and they stayed with the car. We went back to our car - Tim insisted that we always move together - and got a blanket, the jug of water (which we had slept with to keep it from freezing), and some jerky and candy.
We were easily heroes, as the food and blankets were well received. They found a bottle and we poured them some water. We said we'd check on them around noon if we hadn't been rescued by then.
We went back to our car, put the remaining blanket over us, and read our books. We needed to pee by noon, and checked our friends in the median. They were OK, but getting worried about another night in the car. They were considering walking to the last exit, which they didn't think was far behind us. Tim insisted, as strongly as he could, that they stay with the car. They agreed.
A snow plow came through about 3 p.m. heading east. It didn't do us much good, as we were in the westbound lanes and couldn't cross the median. It didn't do our friends in the median any good, as they were stuck completely. We did wave to the plow that we were OK, and it blinked its lights at us. Within and hour a westbound plow arrived, passed us up, then stopped and backed up and pushed us out of the snow we were stuck in, into the plowed lane. The folks from the other car came over, bringing our blanket, and asked if they could ride with us. Of course they could, and did.
We followed the plow to the first exit, which was Marengo. We got off and found a motel. It had just one room left, with two single beds. We took it, and invited our friends, who by now had introduced themselves as Peter and Naomi Sutton, to share the room. They were reluctant to impose, but we assured them that at a time like this, people made do, and tonight we were going to make do with one room and two twin beds. There was a little diner, which was closed. However, everyone in the motel had to eat, and the diner was going to open at six and feed people. With no traffic on the road neither customers nor employees were available, but the owner lived behind and was taking care of people in the emergency.
Well, yes, I'll have to admit that sex crossed our minds. Here we were in a motel with a pleasant enough couple, nice looking too; how was sex not going to cross our minds? Besides, we hadn't had sex the night before. Not Thursday night either, because we were anticipating fun on Friday night in a motel in Battle Creek. So we were nice and horny.
We decided that we had better stay that way. And we did. Both couples changed in the bathroom, and we decided to wear underwear to bed. Peter and Naomi had left their suitcase in the car, so they had little choice about night clothes, and wore their underwear as well. It was a chaste night.
The next day brought sunlight, tow trucks, police asking for a report on what had happened, the cancellation of our trip to Battle Creek, and a hasty retreat to Ann Arbor. The road was fully plowed, and we were able to cruise at 60 miles an hour. Tim has restrained himself from saying "I told you so," more than a dozen times or so, and we have never gone anywhere after mid-autumn without our complete emergency box in the trunk.
About a week later we got a package in the mail from the Suttons. We had, naturally, simply introduced ourselves as Tim and Charlie, and nothing had been said about the lack of last names. After we had left them, negotiating with a towing company, they had realized that they didn't know who we were and didn't have an address. But the bill from the motel, which we had split, had our names and address on it. They had puzzled over the lack of last names and asked friends at home in Kalamazoo. The friends were sports fans and responded, "You spent the night with Tim and Charlie and didn't know who they were?"
In Peter's words, "We'll never live it down."
In addition to the letter of thanks and explanation, the box contained two beautiful wool blankets, which we were told were from Guatemala. They are still the centerpieces of our emergency boxes. Peter and Naomi got a photograph of the two of us, signed "To Peter and Naomi from Tim and Charlie, your highway pals."
Spring brought an interesting telephone call from Prexy. Billy would be graduating this year. He would graduate summa cum laude, just as Tim had, because he had, in fact, followed Tim's original injunction to never get less than an A. Prexy was calling with a special invitation to Tim and me to jointly give the commencement address the coming June. "Besides," he continued, "soon you are going to be faculty or administrators here and won't be eligible to give the commencement address. We either get you now, or we'll never get you. And it would mean a lot to Billy. You know, Tim, the University of North Dakota owes Billy a big one - ever since that meeting in my office when we relieved him of any obligation to stay at UND, and he told us that he would stay. And his presence here has meant a lot to a lot of people: coaches, athletes, students, all of us. He's almost a second Tim."
Tim and I looked at each other as we held the two telephone extensions, nodding our heads. Tim said, "Prexy, we'd be honored. We'll be there."
With the recent history of Stonewall, various gay/lesbian groups began to spring up on American campuses. Michigan was no exception. In 1970 a Gay Liberation Movement registered as a student group at Michigan State University. There was wide activity around Michigan and in 1971 a collection of gay rights groups marched on the state capitol in Lansing. Efforts to form a student gay rights group at the University of Michigan had been rebuffed in 1970, but in 1971 the Radicalesbians were formed - the first gay or lesbian related group at the University. The Gay Liberation Front, created in 1970 also was recognized as a student group at about this time.
Tim and I certainly supported the agendas of these groups, but were a little hesitant about tactics, and their choices of names. We couldn't deny the successes of the peace demonstrations of the past decade, nor the changes in rules and regulations that were achieved: Ask grads from the mid-1970's on about "women's hours" and they are more likely to think that it refers to closing time in the red light district than to women's dormitories. Recognizing that, Tim and I still believed that the main goal of the "gay rights" movement had to be public acceptance of gay persons and gay relationships. Anti-discrimination rules and laws were important, but they didn't change people's minds. To make our case we only had to point to the legal successes of the civil rights movement in regard to race, juxtaposed to widespread racism in the society, and little discernable increase in actual integration in schools, communities or churches.
But these were differences to discuss privately among supporters. At this time, gay rights needed a lot of support, and Tim and I were arguably the "outest" couple in America. We didn't think we qualified for membership in the Radicalesbians, and with our joint faculty and student status, we decided not to formally join the Gay Liberation Front. However, we lent our support to a variety of efforts. That summer saw the designation of Gay Pride Week by the Ann Arbor City Council, along with the passage of one of the first anti-discrimination laws in the nation. Tim and I would dearly love to be able to take some kind of personal credit for these events, but it wouldn't be true. We were not leaders, but followers, and the credit goes to others, particularly a graduate student named Jim Toy.
Jim told us, "Look you two, I realize that you aren't going to be the leaders of this movement, but you have to understand this: when you two kissed each other on the Diag last year it was unprecedented. We need you to keep doing that kind of stuff, right in their faces. You two can get away with stuff that us regular queers simply can't."
Life in a fishbowl!
At about this time the Dean of Law called me in to talk about law and homosexuality in Michigan. "Charlie, I know that you and Tim walk a legal tightrope. I also know that you have been supportive of various gay rights groups on campus, but have not joined them. I think that's a wise decision. It's no joke that as a result of a lot of recent student protest, students groups all over the country are being investigated by the FBI and other agencies."
I responded that I was surprised to hear that, but that Tim and I had, in fact, decided that with our faculty status we should not join any such groups.
"Very wise. I also need to caution you in another area: sex. Physical sex. You are a very 'out' couple. Somebody is going to try to hang you with a criminal charge relating to homosexual relations. The only specific law in Michigan relates to sodomy, but we have a gross indecency law that has been applied to oral sex. Also, we have a psychopathic offender law dating from 1950, which has been broadly interpreted. The one thing that seems clear from all the cases is that all sexual relations had better be in private, and not witnessed by anybody that you are not absolutely sure of. In particular, parks and restrooms, anywhere, no matter how deserted, are not legally private.
"Now, Charlie, don't interpret this as any comment on your behavior. I don't know or care what you and Tim do, with each other, or with anybody else. It's not my business. It is my business to make my faculty aware of ways in which Michigan law may apply to them."
"Thank you, sir. I appreciate your concern. I have, in fact, researched Michigan case law, and some of the cases aren't pretty. But Tim and I are very discreet, and have no need to look for partners in public places. I feel sorry for gays and lesbians that are not partnered, as they risk the possibility that anybody they approach could be an undercover police officer, or might complain to one. You know, Tim and I met in Michigan years ago. But at that time he was too young to have a relationship with me, and it was years later, and not in Michigan, that Tim and I became lovers. We are aware of the issues in Michigan."
It is with great disappointment in our nation that I report that conversations like that had to go on in the United States throughout the twentieth century, and are still relevant today. A man can ask a woman for sex and risk, at most, a slap in the face. The same request to another man can mean risking jail!
Editor's Note: The history of gay related student groups in Michigan is a little fuzzy, different people remember it a little differently. The story as written is as close to fact as I can get it, give or take the presence of Tim. The Dean's cautions to Charlie do reflect the law in Michigan at the time. Regretably, the last paragraph would be equally appropriate in a factual biography as it is in this work of fiction.
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