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How I Became A Horseman

      The tale about to be told is likely not so familiar to most readers or at very best they have heard some of the terminology, shook their heads and walked away. The reason for this telling based upon the realization that I have a voice on this platform and thus demand to be heard, and as such, will scream to the heavens, or anyone else who continues to read this, of the injustice done to my good name and reputation. Anyone who believes that is obviously on the wrong site and is likely looking for blog of crusty old prude Anthony Comstock or some other such drivel.

            It would be considerate of me to introduce the characters who would become known as the Four Horsemen, so against my strong inclination not to do so, I will begin. Everyone by now should be familiar with famous Mr. Knaus. A shady character with no small amount of eccentricity and panache, Knaus has been a trusted friend since freshman year at Joes. Despite his wretched attempt to usurp my position as VP of the Wargames club on the outlandish and true basis that I had lost interest and rarely bothered to show, we somehow remained friends and eventually became roommates. For the record, the attempted coup was squashed by Louis, who put us though such a long and convoluted GURPs competition that we eventually agreed that it would be easier to share power than succumb to anymore of his mind games. The stories already told paint a multidimensional portrait of this unique young man, so I will keep the phase that brevity is wit in mind here, as I intend to abuse it to the fullest shortly after.

            The second of these characters is the too seldom mentioned Dave aka ‘MacGyver’; pitiful considering he was in reality a fifth housemate, often contributing resources, funds and food to the joint, which is more than can be said for some housemates and the moochers and Mooney’s who oft suckled at our hairy collective teat. Dave in those days was a paradox where Knaus was an enigma. Possessing probably the finest intellect of the lot of us, he dropped out of school at 16, became a staunch Republican, and took great pride at working for a living while the rest of us dilatants abided in our ivory tower. He lusted, however, after Knaus’s mysteriousness and thus developed a gruff and taciturn manner and avoided answering all enquiries. Jeff S. once had the audacity to ask what he was carrying about in a crumpled brown paper bag for the better part of an afternoon, which he never let out of arms length. Dave’s response, “Things to make you ask questions.” He would say no more from there; to this day my guess is apples.

             Dave worked at the Noco gas station newly built on Delaware Ave in Kenmore, across from the dirty book store. While most of his colleagues took such a position to be a means to get some extra cash while doing as least work as possible, Dave threw himself into it like a holy mission, brimming with passion and zealotry. He drilled up though the ranks with impossible ease, trading in his ‘overnight counter boy’ position for the white hat of a day clerk, then the tie of a manger in unprecedented time. When Noco declared it’s intention to carry cold cuts and make fresh sandwiches, he vowed to shut down the meat market next door with his savage marketing, low ball pricing and delicious salami. This never came to pass, but while the campaign went on we were often treated to subs hand made and hand delivered by the manager himself for Sunday Bills games. Not long after he skyrocketed to regional manager, he like Icarus flying to close to the sun, burned out, plummeting into the arms of Video Factory’s inbred cousin, Zappers.

            While Dave was know for many things, such as a proud Tennessee top hat, a self given nick name, constantly breaking up his driveway with a sledge, and always having duct tape on hand, there was one thing in particular that set him apart from the herd. Dave had an addictive habit of sustaining grievous personal injury to himself while engaged in virtually any type of activity. Fortunately, he possessed the necessary complement to this talent; lightening fast  healing. During the enjoyment of our many basketball games, it was inevitable that at some point Dave would somehow end up writhing in agony on the pavement, clutching some mangled and bloody limb, while I looked on dispassionately, bouncing the ball next to his head in a Skinnerian attempt to make him rise and continue. The obligatory ‘Are you all right to continue?’ was always answered with a pain soaked, ‘Do I have a choice?”.

            The original third of this group in the beginning was Jeffrey S. Where Dave I had known since second grade, Jeff I knew since first. Jeff while possessing some of the same sense of adventure the rest of us did, lacked the complete disregard for the rule of law, sound judgment, and common sense that united the rest of us in common bond.  “Old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway”, “Fuck it, what could possibly go wrong?”, and “That looks dangerous. Let me go first!” were not phases we ever heard him utter despite them rolling off our tongues in multitude each conversation. Trooper that he was, he hung in there in ever diminishing degrees until Comstock and the descent into complete debauchery that it represented. I believe, however, that it was Dave who was the true architect of his extrication from the group.

            Dave and Jeff were polar opposites without the magnetic attraction. I think specifically it was Jeff’s overwhelming sense of caution that invited Dave (and really the rest of us) to put that very trait to test at every opportunity. On one occasion Jeff and I made plans to go to the movies. Afterwards, I invited Dave to come along as well and picked him up first my father’s enormous boat of a Caprice Classic. We noted a blanket in the back seat and were immediately inspired to put it to best use. Dave hunched over behind the passengers side, covered up, and remained still. Jeff got into the car without taking any note of the large hump behind him and we departed. Midway to the theater, as silent as grim death, Dave arose and lightening fast reached his hand around and grabbed Jeff’s chest. He later recounted that he actually felt Jeff’s heart stop. Needless to say, he was considerably annoyed by the prank once he was able to regain his breath in the ticket line. I am certain that he never entered a car again without poking around the back first.

            The incident that truly drove the final wedge into the quartet was the epic hike though Allegany state park. While we had many adventures there though the years, this particular time was the first all four of us were present. We made plans in advance to make a day trip out there and prepared separately. Dave, Knaus, and I outfitted ourselves as if we were going to war. I wore combat fatigues and boots. Paul had his trademark ripped jeans and sneakers held together with duct tape. Dave was resplendent in his ass-less pants, to which he duct taped a good size hatchet to the thigh. Jeff came out dressed for a Sunday picnic in smartly pressed jeans and a white satin spring jacket. The three warriors had mess kits, trail mix, sardines, and canteens. Jeff had a sack lunch of crustless PB&J and can of Fresca. It was clear that there were different expectations regarding the activities of the day. We had planned a full scale invasion of Pennsylvania, preferably though marshland, and Jeff had hopes looking at, and perhaps daring to feed, the ducks on Redhouse Lake.

            The first half of the day we played it safe, hiking up to the bear caves and eating lunch atop the mountain. Following this we drove to Thunder Rocks and climbed about until we managed to conquer each if them. Pushing out to the edge of the rocks looking for new challenges, we came upon an electric access trail carved down the mountainside. Although Jeff was reluctant to leave the beaten path, this was close enough for comfort. At the bottom, we decided to follow a stream; Knaus making ample promises regarding his ability to back track. We came across a beautiful clearing created by industrious beavers that had created a dam across the stream and thus a clear mirror lake as well. Emboldened by nature’s wonders, we decided to press on to see what else could be discovered. For Jeff, this is where things went horribly wrong.

            The sun was beginning to descend close to the mountain tops and we decided to turn back, Knaus leading the way and claiming to have discerned a short cut. After a great deal of walking, we realized nothing looked familiar and the light was fading fast. Our only source of light was a flashlight Dave had brought and the keychain light requiring thumb pressure to keep lit that I had purchased to explore beneath the Galleria. Jeff grew increasing more agitated as true darkness began to descend. By about 10 at night, the mountainside was pitch black and we stumbled along though the underbrush, frequently getting our feet caught in the muck near the stream, nearly losing shoes to the force of extrication. The night sounds of the wilderness increased in frequency and poor Jeff began to panic for real, begging Paul to assure him that he knew what he was doing. Suddenly to our jubilation, we broke though to a clearing and there was the beaver dam. Jeff shouted in delight.

            As we high fived each other, ecstatic about not having to spend the night, Knaus in typical fashion broke the mood. “Uh guys? I was wrong. This is a different beaver dam. We’ve never been here before” A little sugar coating would have been nice for Dave and I, and perhaps a straight jacket for Jeff. “Noooooo!!!!” He actually threw up his hands into the air and sank to his knees in racking sobs of abject misery. I never actually saw anyone do that before outside poorly scripted movies. Fueling his fear, Dave and I entered into serious discussions about setting up camp for the night as it was clear that our intrepid guide had no fucking clue where he was. The line of discussion threw Jeff into further distress and he called Knaus on his lack of tracking ability that was so relied on. Knaus, in the first outburst of true temper I had ever seen from him, let loose on poor Jeff. Paul took his role in the situation very personally and Jeff’s continuous pointing it out finally wore him down enough to where he snapped and completely unloaded a barrage of enraged  foul language Jeff’s way until he was reduced to a silent statue brimming with tears.

            I know I promised earlier that it was Dave who led to the splitting of the original foursome, and your patience is about to be rewarded. Following the emotional outbursts, Knaus continued to take point, with Jeff following silently at his heels. Dave and I hung back and continued our discussion. I explained how I was worried that Jeff was going to panic to the point of running off into the woods and hurting himself. Dave expressed the same worry. He had a plan, however, and revealed it to be the removal of the hatchet from the duct tape holster on his thigh. He felt he had the control and ability to throw it as such to hit Jeff in the back of the head with the blunt end, knocking him down. At some point in the near future I took delight in informing Jeff of the contingency plan. He visibly paled at the revelation. “What? Oh my God! Oh my GOD!!” It was the one instance I heard him use the term ‘crazy motherfucker’.

            We did indeed find our way back that night despite a few more wrong turns and other minor misadventures. It was, however, 2:30 in the morning when we reached the car, worn, muddy and dog tired. We retrieved Jeff’s jacket from Paul’s trunk, and as a final insult found that the road dust had leaked into the space and covered the satin jacket thoroughly. I don’t recall him coming along on further adventures, and I can say with confidence that the thought of a hatchet being wildly thrown at him was likely cause.

            As Jeff gradually phased himself out, ingratiating himself instead with the effete and effeminate Canisius crowd, we decided to bring in fresh blood. In reality, fresh blood was thrust upon us in the form of David G, or ‘Little Dave’ as he became known. Little Dave was Dave W’s neighbor from across the street, and he being several years our junior, Dave took it upon himself to guide and mentor the lad. Most would agree that the ideal mentoring situation does not involve illicit doings with shady, unscrupulous characters over on the bad side of town, but sometimes that is what shakes out. Under our tutelage he became an artful dodger to our collective Sikes, and we grew proud of the lad. He became a regular attendee at movie nights in Dave’s garage and then a frequent guest at Comstock along with ‘Other Dave’, Cheepie, and the other gas station douche bags that were often brought around. As a rite of passage, we initiated him into one of our poorly conceived pranks.

            Dave drove around in that red Cavalier wagon of his like it was a gold plated Cadillac; the pimp daddy of Kenmore. The car also served practical purposes as the back opened up, making it easier to haul things around. One evening, all hopped up on cream soda, we decided to make an amusing demonstration for Tish Alberti, who worked at the Video Factory on Delaware. I went into the joint to browse around. I chatted up Tish for a bit and innocuously sauntered out the door. Dave, our fearless wheelman, gunned it from across the parking lot, squealing the tires and coming to loud skidding halt in front of the store. I threw up my hands in surprise, but before I could run, Knaus and Little Dave leapt from the car and violently grabbed me, hauling me up by my arms and legs, and threw me into the back. The moment they jumped back in, Dave peeled off like a shot. The hostage taking enactment was a hit, and Tish later revealed that the store patrons demanded that the police be called at once. Effect achieved and Little Dave was now officially in cahoots.

            Little Dave later graduated on to bigger and better social demonstrations. I opened the paper one day at Princeton to find his magnum opus splayed across the local news section. He and some other vegan fucknut chained themselves to the front of a Williamsville clothing story in protest to said establishments carrying of genuine fur. The net effect was that the police were called, they were cut loose and hauled off, and patrons were free once again to peruse couture of morally questionable origin.

            As I have now exhausted my endless wind of trivial old tales, it’s time to explore the title to this piece. I came home to Comstock one fine summers day and found Knaus, Dave, and Little Dave all present in the living room. While I had frittered away my Saturday working for substandard wages at Collector’s Inn, the three of them enjoyed a carefree afternoon of goofball Comstockery. Apparently it had been decided though unanimous consensus of all voting (present) parties, that given our meager talent at creating low level mischief that we should forthwith be known as ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’. While it had been my understanding that the name had been claimed some millennia ago and still in common use, and communicated such, I was shouted down by the rubes who adopted it. I spoke to the reason of overkill, comparing it to calling a dorm room hot pot ‘The Hellfire 3000 Turbo’, but again, their taunts and cat calls bought my silence.

            My dismay at the new appellation increased to some degree when I found that the names of the individual horsemen had also been adopted and distributed. The elder two of the trio laid claim to Death and War as by far the coolest of the bunch. Knaus took Death given his proto-gothic ghoulishness. Dave laid claim to War likely due to the masculine power it implied despite his lack of military service and pipe cleaner limbs. Little Dave willingly adopted Famine; appropriate given his adoption of veganism and the state of slow starvation and wasting it was causing. This by default left me with Pestilence, unarguably the least sexy or charismatic of the bunch. It was a shitty deal and I wasted no time taking issue. I pled a long and heartfelt case, but given that none of the other three wished to be saddled with the moniker, they held firm in unity of their triumvirate. I was stuck with a nickname, frequently called out by the other three boasters, that when heard by the opposite sex, reminded them of bugs, slime and decay; all items antithetical to chemical attraction.

            Where most things Comstock lost momentum and petered out within a year or so of leaving, this was an unwelcome exception, following on though Princeton, the Air Force, and my return home. Even after Dave G. faded from out lives, the concept of the Four Horsemen lived on, incessantly fueled by Knaus and Dave, still very much enthralled with their adopted personas after all those years. It was particularly enjoyable being introduced as the root of all filth and disease to Dave’s compatriots at Bonaventure and subsequently his high fashion ivory tower Wash U crowd. Each time the winsome young lass making my acquaintance under such introductions would eye my hand with great suspicion as we shook, doubting to some degree my fastidiousness in washing. In part I owe my condition as a bachelor into my 30’s as being attributable to things such as this. Once Dave is hooded with the prestige of a doctorate, I will take enormous pleasure in reminding him of this and other stories when in the refined company of his snobbish peers. It just might make the whole ordeal worth it.



5 Responses

  1. Knaus a “unique young man”, that is like called Schultz a “quirksome spy lad”.

    Several other humorous items in her, like “my guess is apples”. I forgot about the “things to make you ask questions”. Dave used this on me before, but I quickly lost interest. I hope it burned him up.

    I knew some of these tales, but I did not know the background and bulk of it. This is the true gloriousness that is this blog.

    This is reminding me of when Wolf returned from the Air Force and declared his 4-step plan to near-perfection.

    1) stop smoking (he did for a few weeks)
    2) stop drinking (this lasted a few days, when he was out of beer)
    3) lose weight
    4) and if the first 3 were achieved, by some miracle, then re-grow hair; as if Wolf needs MORE hair; irony

  2. Ha! Much to your dismay, though sheer force of will I have managed to not only regrow hair, but now sport a resplendant Fabio like mane.

    Did you ever get the Knaus pics I scanned in and emailed to you?

  3. No! Send these again!

  4. You I think the name Pestilence fits you back then, remembering your foot odor problem, which I assume was cleared up… somehow.

    I remember Little Dave as well and his Vegan problem. He borrowed a tape of Seinfeld epsiodes from me (well not me, someone else who had borowed them from me, Mary, and then lent them to him), and never returned them. I’ll chain his ass to a door, the BASTARD!

  5. The foot oder situation has indeed abated. You must remember that I didn’t have wheels back then and was in the habit of walking each morning to the Amherst campus and from there, walking to Collecter’s in in Kenmore, and finally back home to Comstock. I think such marathons would turn even the sweetest smelling toes into vile feeders of bacteria crammed into old sneakers every day.

    I recall Little Dave having an MO where he would borrow something and try to go as long as possible without seeing them again in hoped they would forget.

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