"Registrar?" said our hero.
"Get your books, and all that," explained the coach.
"Books?" said our man, and turned sadly and walked out through the twilight and forever out of Lehigh's life.
At first there was some slight pretense that the tramps were working their way through college, but this was given up when they instituted the practice of clearing the tables in the dining hall by sailing the plates from the far reaches of a room into a basket held by a confrere at the entrance to the kitchen. A compromise was made by installing them in a row of boarding houses at the edge of the playing field, which kept them from the sight of the fraternity houses and also from inquiring reporters. It was whispered about with disapproval that they spent far too much time in Bob's bar, but since they always showed up on Saturday in bone-shattering robustious condition nobody could really censure them for taking an occasional slug of rye with a beer chaser, their favorite drink.
Great point has been made in recent years that no decent student body would countenance anything but simon-pure representation on the field, but I can testify that spirit was never higher at Lehigh than in those days when we slaughtered every team that had the stupidity to accept a game on our schedule. There were occasional losses but always to famous competitors, and I can still recall with a shudder the time Yale beat Lehigh, 7-6, to an accompaniment of snapping bones, crumpling collisions and skull-cracking assaults. Yale broke the leg of our quarterback, Chenoweth, as neatly as if it had been rehearsed, and one of our hired hands practically detonated the famous Cupid Black of Yale on an end-around play.
The students were in the stands, where they belonged, and out on the field was the finest team our limited resources could buy. We were proud, elated and satisfied. The athletes attended classes to sleep; the students were there with all their faculties intact. It was a perfect arrangement, and the only sour note came when we lost to another tramp-infested team that had paid a little more for its talent. But we had our great moments, and nobody who was there will ever forget the day at Annapolis when we murdered Navy for the first loss on their own field in six years. Not only did we defeat them, 14-0, but we banged them about most merrily.
It was a glorious time, and starry-eyed freshmen followed their heroes in the streets with reverence. They were often disconcerted to find that their hero of one season failed to return for the next, but when he was replaced by another enchanting monster their joy was unabated. There was the further pleasure of following the news stories of football games in remote regions and detecting from some peculiar quirk the presence of a former hero. When the story reported that the "mountainous redheaded McIntosh" had already blocked 12 punts for the University of the Ozarks, our eyes would light up with elation.
"That's old Buck Crouse!" we would cry happily.
This pleasure occupied us long after we had graduated from Lehigh and long after Lehigh had adopted an athletic purity policy of such dazzling nature that the students stayed carefully away from Taylor Field lest they be blinded. Instead of watching the poor pitiful victims who now stumbled where giants once had trod, we remained in our homes with the hope of tracking down one of our old defenders. Texas was their last refuge and some of them were still playing out there 20 years after their Lehigh days. We concentrated on the fabulous McIntosh-Crouse, who ended his career at the Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College at Nacogdoches as A. K. Hammond, mountainous redheaded tackle, and candidate for All-America. This last was a fatal mistake by an over-eager press agent, for it brought about the exposure of Mr. Hammond, who it seems had played at 12 different colleges, had five grandchildren and had forgotten his original name.
Through the years a few of us old gaffers have met at intervals to celebrate the wonderful old days, but I can't say that the occasion is ever very cheerful. We invariably end in tears. We try to make ourselves believe that emotion and nostalgia are the reasons for this, but it may be that we have gone a bit too far in reverence. We always give the toasts in rye with a beer chaser, a drink excellent for a tramp athlete but not for others.