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The Raid (May, 1965) by BeijingIrish

I posted this a few years ago. I repeat it in Fr. Miceli's honor:

Two events defined my class' freshman year (1964-65): (1) In the fall, the battle waged by the brave men of Farley against the MSU band which ended in a decisive victory for the Farley lads not different from the decisive victory achieved by Ara's lads in the stadium an hour earlier; and, (2) in the spring, the raid carried out by the same stalwarts against Cavanaugh in retribution for its "Day of Infamy" sneak attack on our guard, Ralph.

In those days, the campus engaged daily in various male masculinity rites. Notre Dame was awash in testosterone, a very different place from today's mellow campus populated by former high school class presidents who think a quarterback sneak is a quidditch maneuver. No girls, no cars, weekend classes, jackets and ties for dinner. Among other things, we were much handsomer than today's students.

There was also a freshman quad: Farley, Cavanaugh, Keenan, Stanford, and Breen-Phillips. Zahm faced the quad, but Zahm floated above it all, its denizens content to remain aloof and cloistered in the serene magnificence of the Versailles of Dorms. There were rivalries. Keenan and Stanford were rivals. One wonders for what. The shame of having lived in one of those monstrosities remains with former occupants to this day. No one paid much attention to Breen-Phillips. I'm not sure I knew anyone who lived there, and I have never set foot in the place. B-P had no rivalries because it seemed like all the residents were dead.

The real drama, the tension, that thing which animated the Freshman Quad, was the intense rivalry between Farley and Cavanaugh. It was expressed in terms of Interhall football (Farley the winner), academic prowess (Farley clear leader), and other facets of campus life at antediluvian Notre Dame.

One other thing: Our rector, Fr. James Buckley, was a kind, decent man who was assisted on the upper floors by men who were so intimidated by their charges that they rarely ventured outside their rooms. The priest on our floor, Father H, was already psychologically fragile from having witnessed a fart-lighting contest one night as he did his rounds. On the night Tom G said, "Hi Father, you getting any these days?", he retreated to his room, and we never saw him again. I think the order transferred him to the University of Portland after he completed his therapy. I had Father Buckley for a philosophy course (Metaphysics) a year or so later, and I asked him about Father H. Buckley looked away, shook his head, and suggested something to the effect that all the Farley men from my year should go to confession.

By contrast, Cavanaugh's rector was Fr. Miceli, a terrifying man whose fearsome reputation for cruelty was legend. One rarely went near the place because you didn't know if you might be accosted by Miceli for something. It was said that he wore one regular shoe and one tennis shoe when he prowled the hall at night so that when he ran it sounded like he was walking. In this way, he could surprise some poor guy reading Playboy with a flashlight under the covers after lights out.

It all started one evening in the spring when a small gang of Cavanaugh guys barged into the front door of our dorm and covered our guard with shaving cream. It was an entirely unprovoked attack. Cowardly as well since the dorm was nearly empty--the Farley men, Mensa candidates for the most part, were at the library studying. Or we might have been at the Huddle. Anyway, the Cavanaugh guys thought that they had done a great thing. They ran across the quad, screaming like young girls, into the then-safe confines of their dorm. Little did they know that in about 10 hours, they would be in their death throes gasping for air.

Ralph didn't know what to do. Witnesses reported that he just sat mute, wiping off the shaving cream. A couple of guys got a towel so he could clean himself up. A few people said Ralph appeared to think it was kind of funny. I'm not surprised--Ralph was a nice guy. He didn't say much most of the time, and his red, bulbous nose belied his major hobby. But he was our guy, and he was on our side. He would write down 12 midnight on the nightly sign-in sheet when it was actually 00:15. To have him humiliated was simply not acceptable.

Word spread pretty fast, and a meeting was convened in the dorm basement once everyone had returned to the dorm. It was immediately agreed that we would retaliate, but it would not be tit-for-tat. It would be Dresden + Hiroshima. My Farley mates readily agreed to my proposal that we launch a sneak attack at 4am.

Here is the plan of which I was the principal author: My best friend and I had got to know our way around the steam tunnels that run underneath the campus. We'd been all the way down to the Rock and actually went swimming in the middle of the night in the pool. One night we went into the North Dining Hall and made peanut butter and jelly sammies. We knew the way to Cavanaugh.

We had access to the tunnels because the guy who had the snack concession in our dorm had a key to the store room where he stored his inventory and the grocery cart that he rolled around the floors each night. One could enter the tunnels from the store room if you were skinny and didn't have claustrophobia.

In those days, the doors of the dorms were locked at 10:30pm except for the front door. If you entered a dorm after 10:30pm, you had to enter via the front door. All the other doors were locked. One could open the other doors from the inside, but that was forbidden except in the event of fire. Thus, the plan called for us to enter Cavanaugh in the basement from the steam tunnel, open the doors out of sight of the guard, and allow the raiding party to enter.

A major facet of the plan was making sure Miceli didn't capture any of us. Therefore, he had to be trapped in his room. This would be accomplished by tying his door knob to another door or to whatever we could get purchase on, e.g., a radiator. This would be accomplished quietly by the guys who entered the dorm from the tunnel.

Meanwhile, groups began to prepare the weapons of mass destruction. Mixed in wastepaper baskets, the stuff had different ingredients: Absorbine Junior; Coca-Cola; a few guys pee'd in the waste baskets. Evil-smelling vapors swirled off the top of the liquid in some of the baskets. Who knows what was in there.

The raid went off like clockwork. I couldn’t believe it, but we had nearly 100% participation, and at 4am, that's pretty impressive for a men's college. The tunnel guys did their job, Miceli's door was tied off, and the entire raiding party barged into Cavanaugh though the doors the tunnel raiders opened. We poured our chemical weapons into every room on the first floor. The place was entirely trashed. The Cavanaugh people were screaming in panic, Miceli was pounding on his door, the place reeked. The wax on the linoleum floors peeled off because the mixture was so potent. The Cavanaugh guard just sat there pretending to see nothing.

Father Buckley never said a thing. He admitted to me years later that not only had his spies alerted him to the fact that there would be a raid, but that he watched the raid from his room. He said he chuckled as he watched us creep across the quad, then run laughing and hollering across the quad as we returned to the dorm.

With Miceli, things were different. As soon as he was released from his room, Miceli press-ganged Cavanaugh residents into work parties for clean-up chores that continued through the day and into the evening. They were cleaning up for days. For the rest of the school year, we teased the Cavanaugh guys about what was in the wastepaper baskets.