Freshmen, Thy Name is Hal

by Raymond R. Gilliar | 9/23/97 5:00am

Ah, Dartmouth. This school is now ours, the playground, the proscenium, of the 2001s. I do enjoy being called a "one." I was born on the first day of the first month of the year, so the number one is my talisman. "One" is a singular moniker: strong, upstanding, no-nonsense, unadorned. The word "one" conveys that we are the primos, the unos, the select, the primes. But of course we are also self-effacing and unassuming, humble in our grandness. "One" is a word that is enough a part of common speech to escape the charge of egotism -- and we do not want to assert too much on our wobbly new-born-calf legs.

But we are the ones. Upperclass men and women will smile at our endearing audacity, knowing they felt the same way. "Aren't they cute," they will say tolerantly, because the '01s are not the only ones, not all the time anyway. (But, forgive me, symbolically we, the '01s, personify the lone pine of Dartmouth. We really are the ones.)

Why did I come to Dartmouth? I could feel this bond somewhere else, couldn't I? There has to be another place that has tall pines, majestic buildings, a great football team, an immense library, a diverse population, an inspiring faculty, and fireplaces in the dorm rooms. Why Dartmouth? It's obvious. I came here for the dogs.

Dogs run free on the Dartmouth campus. Not just St. Bernards carrying whiskey for students lost in the snow (that would be a bit redundant), but huskies and black Labradors and golden retrievers. I have even seen a Doberman and an apricot poodle, sniffing the odd ivy buttocks. According to legend, or rumor rather, someone gave the college an endowment with the stipulation that dogs would be allowed to gallop, tumble and fetch unfettered. (Can you hear the behind-closed-doors discussion among the college trustees? "... how much more if we throw in cats?") It would be a lot less romantic to think that, as Professor Jere Daniell informed me, Hanover just doesn't enforce their leash law.

If not for the dogs, then why? The Polar Bear Swim and the Keg Jump. When I visited my first Winter Carnival this past February, one hundred and sixteen students (and a few faculty members) stood barefooted in icy slush waiting for their turns to catapult themselves into an irregular rectangle cut in the ice of Occum Pond. One male student wore a Hawaiian print skirt. Another, perhaps seized by religious fervor (the only explanation), did a handstand on the edge of the slippery ice, and went in head first. Polar Bear Swim Chair Rachel R. Gilliar '98 insists such shenanigans are strictly forbidden, but a magnificent dog cut the line and leaped in too. Some things are too cool to resist.

Later that day, I witnessed the keg-jumping contest on the frozen Psi Upsilon lawn. Keg-jumping is a competition of skill, physics, skating, grace, and beer-muscles. To ready themselves, the contestants skated back and forth, back and forth, spraying the ice and eyeing their only source of comfort: the musty yellow cushions and mattresses (all three of them) waiting beyond the kegs. Before the first contestant began his run, the student standing to my immediate left told me, "The winner last year jumped thirteen kegs and only broke his arm; most of the losers got lockjaw." (See my upcoming column, "The Few. The Proud. The Injured.")

Tradition. Dartmouth was the last Ivy League school to become co-educational. Many things have stayed decidedly the same (a good thing): In the Dartmouth-Princeton game last November we thumped them smartly and tore down their goal posts, all in time with the Dartuba's beat. Some things have changed for the better: The men are still fierce, but the women, I dare say, are now equally so ... especially the '01s.

But what's in a name? A bunch of letters, a few syllables (or maybe a lot), a hyphenation, an accent, a mouthful of originality (if you're lucky), maybe even a Roman numeral in tow, and now, here at Dartmouth, an ethereal address with an incongruous dot to separate our first and last names.

Our class is on an Odyssey. We will graduate in 2001, and at what better place to do so than Dartmouth. We will all seek to make names for ourselves as our lives proceed. It will be a long task, sometimes amusing, sometimes not. Sometimes difficult, sometimes more difficult. But as we go down this road, I suggest that we take the first step with one name intact. Our class name. Our unity. For this reason I say, Freshman, thy name is Hal. Dartmouth, here we come!

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