Logo letter

 

 

AWOL

Zachariah had finalized all of the arrangements to have Rawley sent off to military school.  For the first part of the eight-hundred mile trip they went by plane together to Chicago but at that point Zachariah took Rawley to Union Station to catch the bus to travel the remainder of the journey alone.  His father explained that he had hospital business to attend to in Chicago.  Exactly what other business it was he had to attend to was a mystery.  Rawley and his father waited anxiously for the bus to South Bend to arrive at Union Station.  It was an especially cold day and it was the first time Rawley had felt the lake effect chill off of Lake Michigan.  "There is your bus.  Grab your things and hop up.  Don't forget to write." his father prompted.  Rawley got his knapsack and boarded the bus for South Bend.  He put his knapsack in the overhead rack and sat next to the window so that he could wave good-bye to his father.

He rested his head next to the window so that his father would see him.  As the bus pulled out onto State Street, Rawley put his transistor radio next to his ear as he listened to Stevie Wonder play the harmonica.  Somehow he found solice in the music.  The long bus trip lasted all day before he arrived at the institution.  The bus parked at Logansport Gate next to the campus where Rawley was to spend the next three years of his life.  Everyone crowded off of the bus as he lined up to be taken to the barber shop to be shorn of all of his hair then after unpacking in the barracks, he was hustled off to the tailor's shop for a fitting for uniforms.  After all was said and done, he marched, soldier stubble, brass buttons and all like a remnant of the Civil War, back to the barracks for inspection.

Rawley's first five months were pretty tough on him at military school but he got used to it.  He quickly learned all of the basics of military training like unnecessarily repeating the word "sir" to everyone he passed, standing at attention for lengthy periods of time for no good reason, polishing brass, and shining shoes.  As spring approached, Rawley received a letter from his father saying that he would be coming to Chicago on hospital business and wanted Rawley to meet him there for a visit.  The only problem was that Rawley could not leave campus until all of his professors had signed his request.  All but one, his chemistry teacher, approved but that was not going to stop Rawley from going to Chicago.  He came up with a scheme.  Rawley found it was an easy remedy to simply forge the chemistry teacher's signature on the leave request form and did so without hesitation.  Then Rawley made plans with two friends who were also cadets at the academy to hide in the trunk of their visitor's car and they passed unnoticed through the security gate and off of the grounds.  They hitchhiked the rest of the way to Chicago and upon arrival in the windy city, Rawley met his father at the Athletic Club where he was staying..  They happily greeted each other with a hug and strolled down the street to Berghoff's Deli for a corned beef on rye and ginger ale lunch.  As they crossed the bridge over the Chicago River, it began to rain so Rawley and his father sought cover in a small turret at the end of the bridge over the brown-green river water until the rain stopped.  They remained companions for the rest of the day walking the Loop until it was time for Rawley to catch the train back to the academy.  At Union Station, he boarded the train for Plymouth via South Bend.  Soon another separation and departure ensued.  Zachariah had done a great job performing his good deed.  The act was the same as it always was, laughing and gay to perfection.  Now Rawley was on his way back to the institution.  On the train, he took his gym bag into the men's room to change back into his uniform.  He was tense and felt uneasy as he looked at his reflection in the mirror and began unbuttoning his shirt.  His thoughts drifted to Margo back in Carolina remembering the time when he visited for the holiday.  She made him put on the uniform in front of her for the first time one day.  She made him stand there for a long time while she just stared.  Her face was flushed with excitement.  "Rawley, I'm going to miss you." she said.  "Please tell me that you will be back because I don't know how long I can wait.  I've got to get a job to help Mommie pay the bills and who knows what might happen if I ..." she paused. 

Rawley became conscious of the train's rattle and roll as he continued to dress himself.   He pulled his belt tight through the buckle and neatly adjusted his hat after brushing the brass eagle on his sleeve.  He leveled his visor across his eyes and returned to his window seat.  The conductor shouted, "Next stops, South Bend, Plymouth, and Indianapolis."  Rawley climbed down to the platform when the train came to a full stop.

The absurdity of Rawley's condition succeeded in leaving an impression on him of the cultural hypocrisy that was inherent in a flawed system of values. The result had an effect on him during the formative stages of his development.  Only by understanding these circumstances did a clear path emerge leading to a revelation.  Rawley was tossed from one meaningless moment to the next leaving him disoriented and confused.  There was no obvious pattern.  His experiences were abstract and unrelated, strung together through space and time.

Arriving back at the academy, things went  from bad to worse.  Rawley went through his daily routines with his scheme going undetected.  He thought he had safely gotten away with it.  He continued to endure white glove inspections and platoon formations until one day he was unexpectedly called before the Commandant.  He was abruptly called before the company in platoon formation by the Officer of the Day and the Sergeant at Arms.  His plumed shako fluttered as his scabbard gleamed in the sunlight.  "Cadet Ferron, front and center," he shouted.  Quickly, Rawley snapped to attention and was excourted to Sally Port to the Commandant's office    Rawley grew pale and dizzy as he marched between the arresting cadets.  He tried to calm himself by remembering his home in the Carolinas and Margo.  The Commandant found him guilty of forging his professors signature and convicted him of an Honor Offense.  Rawley was summarily and immediately expelled from the military academy; however, upon dismissal, the Dean of the Academy intervened and had the decision reversed.  The motion to set aside the decision to dismiss Rawley was approved due to his participation in the Academy's music and arts department.  Rawley had brought state recognition to the academy by winning awards in state competition.  He was invited back into the academy.  The reason given by the Dean for the exception was Rawley's superlative contribution toward the enhancement of the school's music and arts program.

The die was cast.  Rawley realized now that the power of music was his ticket to success.  He had experienced first hand the leverage that music gave to him.  He would go on from this point forward and use this knowledge, right or wrong.  This is the incident that started him down what many would consider the wrong path, the path to rock and roll.  He now had the power to control his destiny.  No matter what, it was the story of human nature personified in one young man, a musician, who thought he saw through heaven.