“Thou shalt not commit adultery” was no where to be found in any etchings over any doors at McCallie but it’s dictum was pervasive. The school’s founder, a still breathing, still saving, still dominating but increasingly senile fundamental Presbyterian of Scotch descent, made the New England Puritans of the 1600’s look liberal. It was rumored that he had proudly boasted that his three sexual encounters had produced three children and that he had no more need for the messy interludes; such rumors seemed logical given the atmosphere he created.
Abstinence only was the only sex instructions offered. Expulsion would follow for any boy caught reading the articles in the newly published Playboy magazines. Tedious literature without sex scenes, biology classes with no mention of human reproduction, and threats of eternal damnation made up the formal schooling. Cooks were known to be infusing dangerous doses of saltpeter into every meal to inhibit sexual thoughts and arousal.
Yet inquisitive boys just past puberty remained inquisitive boys just past puberty despite the lockdown that was McCallie. And Cadet Head was certainly curious although he was uncertain why.
One evening in the half hour after study hall and before lights out, Houston Patterson, as was his custom, sat calmly on the edge of a dorm bed with his legs crossed smoking a cigarette. Six or eight boys were present, perfectly at ease talking about different things. Then in his quiet but manly voice he spoke, “Withdrawal at the last moment is an ineffective means of preventing pregnancy. It won’t happen. You must wear a rubber.” For Cadet Head who wasn’t even certain what penetration meant, this was real learning, something to be stored away and dreamed about later.
And thus, as was his custom, there was the smiling Houston Patterson, a practical man put in an impractical position by omnipresent religious zealots. He was risking his job, indeed his whole career, to give to his boys what he knew to be essential for their lives: a practical education.