The Saturday Night Chainsaw Massacre

One night, in October/November 1982, Jim Fowler and his wife held a chili party.  Jim was an exchange officer from Canada.  To add a little more spice to the party, the theme of it was a “pajama party.” 

I didn’t know Jim well enough at that time to completely trust him.  I was in his flight, “B” Flight, as a new IP. I had just returned from Australia, mind you, and they were known for ‘pranks.’  I wouldn’t have put it beyond Jim to have told me that it was a pajama party, while everyone else was dressed casually.  So, Sue and I dressed in sports clothes, and took our pajamas with us.  When we arrived at Jim’s house, we sat outside for a bit and observed a few other folks arrive – in their pajamas.  So, we changed out there, in the car, and went in… not a big deal.  (It’s not paranoia when ‘they’ are really after ya!)

 Jim knew how to throw a party!  Great food, and a keg of beer.  That’s all ya need.  As the evening rolled along, I noticed one of our students at the time – oh, excuse me, we were told these guys were ‘trainees,” not students.  Students were folks still in undergraduate pilot training; these guys already had wings.  Really?  Oh well… so, I noticed, one of our students standing before a mirror in the hallway.  He was admiring his physique!  And what a wonderful physique he had!  Standing there in a skin-tight lavender T-shirt.  Strange…

Anyway, as the evening wore on, a lot of us found ourselves in the garage.  That’s where the keg was.  Jim had the garage door opened, it wasn’t too cold – wouldn’t have mattered if it had been cold, and there we stood: drinking beer, staring at the keg, and telling lies!  Great fun!

Then someone noticed one of Jim’s chainsaws.  I think he may have had two out there.  Anyway, it wasn’t long before we fired it up.  Why?  Who the hell knows – maybe because at the time it was the thing to do?  Anyway, there’s a certain feeling of ‘power’ that comes with a chainsaw winding up to high speed.  And, the noise – until you’ve done it, you just can’t imagine how cool it is to listen to a chainsaw, at a high RPM, at 10:30 – 11:00 PM!  And, on a cool night, the noise travels forever!

It wasn’t long after we had the saws fired up that the house door opened and out poured the wives – wondering in amazement, what the hell we were doing.  Nothing exceptional really – just standing there, telling ‘war stories, drinking beer and passing around a chainsaw every now and then… what’s the big deal, we wondered?

Memory fogs here, but I think they took away our chainsaws and went back inside.  Wives!  Jim’s chili was outstanding and the party rolled on.  On one more occasion, as I had occasion to ‘recycle’ some beer, as I passed through the hallway, the kid in the lavender T-shirt was still standing in front of the mirror, admiring himself.  (Now, some 39 years later, I wonder if he has “come out?”)

On the subsequent Monday morning as the Ops Officer passed me in the hall he remarked, “I heard about the Saturday Night Chain Saw Massacre.”  Nothing more was said – no safety lecture, no comments on ‘setting the example,’ nada.  But I got the message: the ‘word’ gets around…

A couple weeks later, as that class was about to complete their training, their class leader and his wife hosted a party at their house.  Now, Bill and Fran had been at Fowler’s place for the pajama party.  Fran had not been impressed at all, with our chainsaw garage demonstration.  Shortly after we arrived, she took me aside and showed me a spark plug – the spark plug she removed from Bill’s chainsaw!  She was so proud of herself…

As the evening wore on, the guys, once again, migrated to the garage – where the keg was.  Bill also had his garage door opened, and we were having our sacred staff meeting.  Someone soon spotted Bill’s chainsaw, and attempted to fire it up.  No luck, no spark plug.  It kinda put a damper on the party, for a moment – until I spotted his lawn mower.  “That ‘ill work,” I thought to myself, and I fired it up.”  It wasn’t long at all – a time element measured in nanoseconds – before Fran came flying through the house door, with fire in her eyes!  But that time, we had all circled the lawn mower, and were just standing there, drinking our beers – and watching the mower.  What’s the big deal?  

I don’t remember what happened after that; but I do remember us just standing around that damned mower, drinking beer, and laughing.  How little did we know how well we had it…  


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