G. Wilson Hester
West Point, 1969
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Charles Funderburke on July 7, 2001:
You can find Red Taylor's fine words about Guy on:
A memory that never fails to make me smile is the time Guy and I were lab partners on a singularly horrible 'juice' experiment. Our problem involved measuring the capacitance across a circuit that had to be both programmed and constructed. The FORTRAN programs we wrote on punch cards were tough enough but proved to be child's play compared to the monstrosity we built across those old circuit boards in class. After an hour and dozens of resistors, capacitors, connectors, two multimeters and lots and lots of plug wire later, some even 'borrowed' from neighboring experiments, our creation took on the form of one of those bombs you see in the movies that dare you to even touch them.
Indeed, Guy and I stood there like a pair of miscast bomb squaders arguing back and forth as to what wire to connect where to make the THING finally work. "Connect the blue wire here", Guy said; and I countered, "No, no, the red wire goes there." "Maybe we should remove the green and connect the red wire that's over there, here," Guy offered, and I would retort, "No, no, that needs to stay where it is; take the blue one after all; it should go there." Then Guy, "Wait, I know, I know, the red should go over here." This less than brilliant Abbott and Costello routine see-sawed back and forth, and on toward the bitter end of class, providing endless entertainment to those around us who went on merrily about the business of playing Thomas Edison, doing wonderful things with electricity. It was enough to make us positively sick and green with envy as first one lab team yelled out, "Finished!", then another, and then another.
However, undaunted, Guy and I argued on and on, hoping for an intervening miracle in our conversation, that we would somehow divine out of our - what now had to be yelling at each other - what had to be done, all the while not wanting to give voice to that which was absolutely unthinkable: asking for help. The Professor, you see, had a fierce reputation for destroying students with a single glance, and he had the physical demeanor and presence to make it work. To Guy and me, he was as terrifying as the subject matter that had now brought us to this academic nadir. Finally we ran out of time and decided we...just...had...to...do...something. So, gritting our teeth, we faithfully followed a scientifically developed, meticulous, step-by-step plan:
1. We selected the green wire because, well, that's the one you always pick, right?
2. We tossed I Ching yarrow stalks to help decide where to put it,
3. Guy pushed the last lead in (thunk!), and
4. We held our breath for one long, slow agonizing moment before thinking that just, perhaps, maybe, we'd aced it after all.
But instead of a nice, slow rise of the multimeter's needle to mirror the results of our programming runs, we saw a brief and very tiny spark of white light deep within the bowels of the Lab box, and slowly we began to feel those sharp, intuitive, hollow pains that foreshadow disaster. Then it happened: we looked up in horror to hear the first cries of our classmates staring in disbelief at their own ruined experiments, uttering such profundities as, "Hey!", and, "What the..." and "Oh, no..!" Not content to play havoc with a single lab box, our little white light had taken out our classmates' experiments and the lights across the entire room with one pifffpfhth! Then, rather quickly the other classrooms on our floor went dark - in series, not in parallel. Finally the entire building went out, dare I say it, like a light.
The Prof went nonlinear and quickly organized an electrical posse of heavily charged classmates to find the Source of the Problem; but no one appeared to be able to trace the fault back to our circuit board, where Guy and I, whispering to each other very quietly but no less vehemently, "it's all your fault!," packed up our books and papers as inconspicously as possible and stole out of the room. Oh, and yes, while all around us clocks stopped and chaos held sway, you'll be glad to know we did not totally screw up, well at least Guy didn't: he had the presence of mind to quickly run back to the box and unplug that infamous green wire. Afterwards, we tried to comfort ourselves with the knowledge that those lab boxes were supposed to be protected by fuses from mucking around with the rest of the building's power, but we really knew better: somehow we had bridged a gap that was never meant to be connected, arc'd up to a higher level of achievement and created the appropriate memorial for our relatively low 'capacitance' for Juice.
I consider myself very fortunate to have known Guy, and I treasure the conversations and arguments we had long after our bouts with electricity. Here's to you Guy, wherever you are, knowing there must be a very fine 'where' in the forever where you are: please forgive this shamelessly embellished recounting.
A postscript, however, that is completely true: a couple of years after graduation but some time before I learned of Guy's fate, quite by chance I ran into our old Juice Professor - yes, the same one; and he turned out to be surprisingly a fine and very interesting fellow, very unlike the earlier monster we had known. And, no, I cannot remember whether I told him how Guy and I had 'destroyed' his Lab years earlier or not. I would like to think that I did, but perhaps through this retelling, he'll come to learn of it anyway and appreciate Guy all the more.