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The Quad Squad by Mike Wysatta


eagle tale

About the author

Mike Wysatta is a public relations manager at the Ryder Scott Co., petroleum consultants, in Houston and a recent recipient of the Houston Public Relations Society of America Gold Excalibur award. He has been a writer, editor and public relations practitioner for 16 years. Wysatta received a bachelor’s degree in English and a master of journalism degree in public relations, both from UNT.


As a 19-year-old sophomore, I first arrived at UNT in the fall of 1971 — my first year away from my parents’ home. I tossed down my backpack on the bare floor of the Quads residence hall — an austere, cinder-block relic in its last days of housing students. However, it was only $90 a month and my dormmate characters, the Quad Squad, created an esprit de corps that brightened up the place.

My roommate, Bruce, was a 20-something Vietnam War Army veteran attending school with help from the GI Bill. Bruce showed up in battle fatigues, longish hair, a Fu Manchu moustache and dark sunglasses, looking like he just left the set of the then-new TV series M*A*S*H.

He palled around with Beth, an art student, and Lance, also from the Quads. Lance was a long-haired wild child from a West Texas ranch, an asylum seeker from Abilene Christian University glad to finally be at a “party school.” He wrapped golf irons around trees after bad shots. He wrestled on the front lawn of the Quads. After classes, we blazed around in his ’69 Chevelle Malibu SS 396. He slammed the Hurst four-speed shifter and popped the clutch, and the growling muscle car jolted forward with neck-jerking speed. (Don’t try this at home or anywhere, kids.) After hanging around this guy for a day or two, I soon lost my tentativeness.

With newfound brashness, I even cut in front of a football jock in a lunch line after he had cut in front of me. To retaliate, he started to move his menacing 250-pound Body by Jake toward me, but his training-table buddies restrained him. So I never had to find out if I could out-sprint Mr. Beefcake through a crowded Kerr Hall cafeteria.

My territory was not Kerr anyway. Because the Quads kitchen was defunct, we received meal cards allowing us to eat in any cafeteria on campus. Our choice was Maple Hall, the largest women’s dorm. At a “panty raid” there that year, the raiders had propped up bike racks and used them as ladders to climb to the windows, I had heard.

I befriended five music majors from the Quads. Strangely, I remember all their names except for the star of our group, who looked like albino rock guitarist Johnny Winter and played like him too.

Our sextet would drive to a mesa off a farm road near Ponder and, under The Big Sky, “Johnny” squeezed off soulful slurs and raunchy blues riffs from the slinky strings of his “axe.” I backed him up with some chords.

Our loose friendships faded when we went our separate ways. Except for scenarios involving Lance, these are glimpses into a kinder, gentler time — a time when James Taylor and Paul Simon ruled the music charts. A time when doves outnumbered hawks. A time when jocks exercised restraint.

Now, looking out of my office building in downtown Houston, those times seem distant. I have a career and a family. I’ve been bitten by the stock market and Enron and unnerved by terrorism. Times seem so much more complex.

I wonder what happened to those artists, musicians and other quirky characters. Some of them may be teachers now or even practicing artists.

Or maybe one of them is staring out of a high-rise office too, trying to remember the name of that guy who couldn’t play guitar very well.

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