By John Yager
Because it was an honors class, most of my fellow students were expecting the instructor to be some old, grizzled, tenured professor. I wasn't surprised though. When I arrived at the small seminar room for our first meeting I found two other students and a very good looking man whom I'd guessed was in his mid to late twenties. I`d met Roger Bardwell during my visit to the campus the previous spring.
This is the twentieth chapter of an ongoing series. I want to thank all the readers who have written to me concerning this story. I continue to be surprised and pleased by all the responses this series has prompted.
All your comments are read and given serious consideration. Thank you for your encouragement, suggestions and criticism.
My objective in this series is to deal with issues which have impacted and influenced the lives of gay people in the period between the 1960s and the present time, or from pre-Stonewall days to the era of "don't ask, don't tell."
Many readers have asked if this story is, at least in part, autobiographical. I would not be honest if I said it was not. But I want to make it clear to readers that I am not Rob or Rick or any other specific character in the story and none of them, individually, is me. The story is raising many more questions than it is supplying answers and I certainly make no claim to know the answers. It is my hope that by raising the questions I may prompt more consideration of the issues facing gay people in the USA and throughout the world.
Andrew continues to provide much needed proofing and editorial help, for which I am sincerely grateful. I could not post chapters as quickly as I have been doing without his assistance.
This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. Any similarity to actual persons or events is entirely coincidental.
This is a work of gay erotic fiction. If you should not be reading such material, or if such material is not to your liking, please exit now.
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The two students who had arrived before me were a rather nerdy looking guy and a girl in a soiled muumuu. They were both gone to a private school in Memphis and, it was soon clear that they had been friends for several years.
Dr. Bardwell handed me a syllabus, which contained a three-page course outline and on a fourth page the reading list I'd received the previous spring. I'd managed to read all the books over the summer.
Within a few minutes four more students arrived and Bardwell said that according to the information he'd received, we were all there. With no further comment he began. He restated what was also said in the introductory paragraph to the reading list that he was assuming that we would all have read the books in question, as the focus of the class would not be the narrative of the novels, but the structure and source materials used by the authors.
"You mean you're expecting us to have read all those books already?" the cutest of the three other guys in the group said.
"Did you receive the outline and reading list last spring when you were invited to participate in the honors program?" Bardwell asked.
"Yeah, I got it," the fellow said.
"But you apparently didn't look at it, and I am assuming you haven't read the books."
"Yeah, right on both counts," he responded, looking only a little embarrassed.
"Well, it's your decision, Mr. Chapman," Bardwell said. "You are welcome to stay with us but you will have some heavy reading. We will be discussing one primary text per week, in each case a novel of some length. I will also be assigning commentaries on the books as well as a good deal of critical material."
"I think I'd better pass," he said, and rose to leave.
"You'll need to get a drop slip from the registrar and bring it by for me to sign," Bardwell said as the fellow picked up his things and went toward the door.
That left six of us, an evenly matched number of men and women.
Over the next two or three weeks it became clear to me that despite our obvious differences, the six of us represented a very intelligent and very motivated group of students. I even learned to like all of them, including the Memphis duo. The six of us formed bonds which lasted through the next four years and beyond.
A few days after the first meeting of Bardwell's seminar group I was coming off the football practice field one afternoon after an especially hard skirmish. I'd gotten into the habit of going for a good run by myself after our group practices and was just heading into the locker room to change out of football gear and into running shoes and shorts when Bill Campbell, one of the young assistant coaches stopped me.
"Father wants to see you, Ballinger. Get a quick shower and come to the therapy room."
"Right now, Bill?" I asked.
"Yeah, ten minutes, okay? Don't dress. Just gird
thy loins with a towel and come along."
Not knowing what to make of Campbell's orders, I hurried to wash off the accumulated sweat and grime in the crowded shower room and, still dripping, headed down the long hall from the locker rooms to the therapy room.
"Come in, Son," Coach Harlow Rankin said as I came into the little room. With him were Campbell and another older man I didn't know.
"Son, this is Doctor Lobe," Coach Rankin began. "Doc, this is Rob Ballinger, one of our new rising stars."
"Hi, Rob," the doctor said.
"Well, Son," Coach Rankin went on, "we get about fifty or sixty of you new young fellows in every fall and it's the job of Bill and the other assistant coaches to sort you out over the first few weeks. I guess you know we keep a lot of records on you."
"Yes, Sir," I said. It was Coach Rankin's tendency to call all the younger footballers who had not yet distinguished themselves, `Son,' which had led all of us, including the staff members working under him, to call him `Father.' In many ways he really was a father to all of us, even thought at that point in his long and illustrious career at Ole Miss, he was easily old enough to be our grandfather.
"So Bill here tells me he has you on his watch list. Do you understand what that means?"
"No, Sir, I guess I don't."
"Well, he says you have real promise. And if Bill Campbell tells me you have promise, I want a better look."
"I guess I understand, Sir."
"Good. Well let me spell it out for you and then I'm going to leave you in the good hands of Bill and the doctor and go bother a few other young fellows like yourself.
"You see, Rob," he continued, "you have an outstanding high school record and we figure with a little work on our part and a lot of work on yours, you could be a starting player for the Rebels by your sophomore year and maybe become a real star by the time you're a junior or senior." He paused and seemed to be looking me over. I stood, still damp from the showers and clad only in a white towel tucked tightly around my waist and feeling more than a little vulnerable. His eyes ran slowly over my body from neck to feet and then back again.
"You are in excellent shape, Rob," Coach Rankin said at last. He picked up a clipboard from the examining table and read down the cover sheet. I see you are just a tad under six feet one inch."
"Really, Sir?" I remembered getting measured a week or so earlier when Campbell had lined a dozen or so of us up for measurements and weigh-in but was surprised by what Rankin had just said. "I was barely six feet even last year."
"Well," he chuckled, "you've hit a spurt. You may well grow more. We see a lot of young fellows getting their final growth during their first year or so here at the university. This chart also says you weigh one hundred seventy eight pounds. How does that stack up with a year ago?"
"About ten pounds heavier, Sir," I said, again surprised by the difference.
"That's a good weight for a high school quarterback but at the university level you're going to be eaten alive if we put you on the field with some of those big bruisers from Georgia or Alabama."
"I guess I need to gain some weight, Coach."
"Not just weight, Rob," he went on, "muscle. You work with Coach Campbell here and follow his advice and the advice Dr. Lobe is going to give you and you will see yourself gaining the right way and the right amount over the next few months. Okay?"
"Yes, Sir," I said, feeling as if I was a prize horse being looked over for an upcoming auction.
"Good," Coach Rankin said. "Good. I'll leave you gentlemen to it." And with that he slipped out, leaving me with Campbell and Lobe.
Over the next hour Bill talked while Lobe prodded and measured and weighed. I was told to lose the towel and, while they both stood fully clothed, looking me over, I was as naked as the day I was born and feeling very exposed. Dr. Lobe drew blood and had me pee in a little jar. He checked my eyes and ears and throat. He felt my balls and ran a gloved finger up my ass. By the time he was through I was sure there was no part of my body he didn't know.
"Well, you look to be in excellent shape, Rob," Lobe said at last. "I'll have the lab workup tomorrow but for now I'd say Mr. Campbell can push you has hard as he wants."
Dr. Lobe packed up his little black bag and left me alone with Bill.
"How do you fell about all this, Rob?" Campbell asked.
"Okay, I guess."
"Good. Tomorrow I want you to meet with me and one of our best trainers. If you'll work with us we will have you in top flight shape by the end of this season and ready to play with the big boys by next fall."
So began the most intensive period of physical training I'd ever experienced. I won't say there weren't many days when I'd have happily walked away from it all, but I saw amazing improvement in my size and physical condition which kept me motivated to stay with the program. I also knew from that day on that I was one of a dozen of so freshmen who were being groomed for future roles in the long and glorious tradition of Ole Miss football.
That alone was enough to keep me going.
To be continued.