This is a story about the time I wound up naked on the lawn of the Sewanee campus in broad daylight. But I guarantee it’s not what you think.
This weekend—until Sandy prematurely interrupted our fun, that is—my bestie Lemon and her boyfriend came down from New York to play. Friday was the epitome of a perfect fall day: a balmy 75 degrees out, lingering traces of golden foliage clinging to the trees for one last week until the first traces of winter rip them down. And so we gave SVV and Lemon’s Boy a peek into our college years (with some facts carefully omitted, of course). Yet, when we reached the Sorority House, something in my stomach dropped. And then I remembered.
During my sophomore year, the year that Lemon and I lived together in Benedict, a disastrous thing occurred. I was an Assistant Proctor (known as an RA at most colleges), and thus was required to move in a week early for training. I loved this role as AP: I got to know everyone in my dorm fairly well—I’m nothing if not an extrovert—I had a group of freshmen that I “looked” after, and I never even had to write anyone up (the dorm was co-ed and also Sewanee has a liberal drinking policy, so if it’s in a cup and not a bottle, you’re fine).
On the next to last day of training, I was trekking over to the Lambda Chi house for a session entitled “Jello Shots.” I never made it there, so I can’t tell you what it was about—or if they actually did hand out Jello shots to all participants—but I imagine it was a talk on alcohol awareness. Our Benedict proctor, Bart, decided to take a shortcut through the woods, and so fellow proctor, Katy, and I followed.
As we reached the halfway point between the Sorority House and Lambda Chi, Bart, who was in front of me, squealed like a little girl. I saw something jump on his leg and thought, “wow, this guy is afraid of a cricket. Lame.”
Newsflash: It wasn’t a cricket.
Before I had time to process what was about to go down, Katy screamed from behind me, “YOU’RE STANDING IN A HORNET’S NEST! RUN!”
Yes, a nest had been knocked onto the ground and was shrouded in leaves; our stroll through the hornets’ territory stirred up the colony. As I was standing right in the middle of it, with images of My Girl racing through my mind, I didn’t know where to run: after Bart, who was already being pursued by angry members of the awakened nest, or after Katy to safety. I chose the Katy route—which meant I ran back through the nest once more.
This was back during the days when I still wore shorts—something I have not done since, I wonder why—and being that it was August in Tennessee, I was also scantily clad in a camisole and flip-flops, a blatant offering of skin to the hungry hornets. Their stings followed me out of the forest, and my skin was on fire as I ran for a clearing. Once I reached Katy in the lawn of the Sorority House, she took one look at me and screamed again. “THEY’RE ALL OVER YOU!” Apparently, these were the type of super-angry hornets with clingers that held on to your clothing and didn’t let go…no matter what.
“What do I do?” I screamed back in distress.
“TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES.”
So I obeyed Katy—she was my superior, after all; I figured she knew what she was talking about—and disrobed, right there in the middle of campus for all to see.
We went banging into the Sorority House, where a lone resident jumped at our abrupt entry. She kindly gave me some clothes to wear and we went back next door to Benedict to survey the damage.
Since school was not in session, the campus was relatively quiet, but the whole football team was also staying in our dorm for pre-season training. Which is how I wound up with chewed wads of tobacco covering my wounds. In retrospect, I can’t think of anything funnier than a handful of brawny football players furiously chomping on dip and dabbing it on my many stings. It actually worked to take out (some of) the pain.
Our dorm matron, Miss Ann, then took me to the hospital. I remember sitting there as the nurse counted my stings—17, that she could see—and told me: “wow, you were really lucky. You must have one heck of a tolerance. Most people would have died with this much venom in their body. Next time, you probably won’t be so lucky.”
Words of comfort. I didn’t plan on there being a “next time,” so we were good.
I have always been an extremely quick healer, and so while I felt a bit ill the rest of the night—the only remedy was to take Benadryl liberally—and my incident did get me out of the final day of training, I was more or less back in full form two days later.
So now if you’re ever with me, and you wonder why I go screaming in the other direction the second I hear a buzz, the whole scenario might make a wee bit more sense.