Wacky boarding school tales of fire, deceit, litigation and a cow named "666"


In the news of the weird yesterday, I read about a man who'd just gotten out of the pen after enjoying an eleven year murder rap. Here's the weirdness... The autopsy put the deceased's date of death somewhere in a three-day span. Though the accused was in prison (on other charges) well past the date of the crime, a jury convicted him because police testified that the accused man confessed his guilt - The accused (and shortly thereafter, convicted) denied this.


Terrible as all this sounds, it's really not all that screwy compared to other judicial mishaps I've seen outlined in the aforementioned column. I only bring it up because it reminded me of an odd incident from my past.


In 1991, I started my fourth year of high school in the plucky well-to-do Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights. Without going into any of the devious details, I dropped out of school a lot that year and opted to go to a boarding school.


The quaint Quaker boarding school at which I finally landed seemed the perfect backdrop for a Stephen King novel... conservative headmaster with a fricking wooden leg, his wife, the dean, a would-be sweetheart, (likely bitter from years of having to remove said pegleg before moving to his other stump,) the unnerving vast number of somewhat lesser staff members with the surname "Rockwell", an even more unnerving small enrollment of 40 students, hundreds of cows, all with numbered collars, and the fact that at least one out of ten cows to cross my path was ominously numbered "666" etc etc.


Believe me, I'm only scratching the surface here.


Needless to say, we students were expected to assume a more wholesome Quakerish lifestyle while at the Olney Friends School. Our time was strictly scheduled. Leaving the "campus" was a rare treat, and smoking was strictly taboo.


Though I now only rarely partake of the burning leaf, (too health conscious,) I really dug it then. My friend Luc and I would sneak off almost every day to get our fix... inhaling so deeply that we'd nearly pass out... cherries dangerously long and red, prone to falling off. We had our favorite smoking spots, but most weren't options in the daylight hours - until Luc serendipitously found that the portal to the attic of the boys dorm was easily jimmied with any number of easily accessible tools.


And we did.


Hiding the act was only the beginning of the Quaker smoking art. After the fact, one needs to cover the scent and any other physical evidence. We stooped so low as to wash our hands with toothpaste. Hey, whatever works.


Some of the other students knew of our smoking habits, and with so few grapes on the vine, word eventually spread to the faculty. Only, they couldn't prove anything.


The Dan-and-Luc-sympathetic admissions director would occasionally run into us at night while he was walking his smelly dogs - and tell us that ole' pegleg was out stalking around looking to catch us in the act. We'd run to strategically suspicious locations and act guiltily. That was almost as fun as smoking. They never caught us.


So one day I fell ill. Nothing too serious, but I felt like crap. I spent the day in the infirmary. Sometime that day, some people went to the attic to smoke. Only they didn't police their butts very well.


The insulation around the hastily discarded butt had been smoldering for some time when it hit Fahrenheit 451. I was back in the dorm for the evening by this time and calmly exited the building with the other chaps when the manual alarm was pulled.


To make a long story short, they court marshaled Luc and me. Said they were sure we'd done it. They were preparing to give us a free pass out when the true culprit confessed.


Raheem, a staff member's son, was a nice guy, a smart fella, and certainly noble. He just didn't know to fully extinguish his cigarettes. Luc and I weren't sure whether to rejoice or cry upon learning of Raheem's confession.


Our confusion was short-lived.


In a prepared statement, our esteemed headmaster revealed that Raheem could not in fact have started the fire because the cigarette that started the fire was not "his brand".


The plot sickens.


He went on to proclaim that, "The cigarette that started the fire was Dan and Luc's brand!!!" WTF?!?! How could they've discerned the brand emblazoned on the paper of a butt that, by their own account had been burning for over an hour?


Proceedings to expel us continued at a feverish pace. I called my family's lawyer. The financially strapped school buckled to my demands immediately. I left with accurate (but reluctantly bestowed) gleaming academic recommendations from the headmaster, dean and the rest of the screwy gang. I got my GED and went to college. Now I'm a minister. Well... okay, now I'm a consultant. But for some reason I don't think this tale is weird or appealing enough for The News of The Weird.