College Daze with my Dear, Dead Friend Duane

Again, no disrespect to my friend meant by the phrasing and a quick reassurance to the casual reader — he would most certainly not mind. Anyone who knew Duane had doubtlessly encountered his humor in one way or another, so, frankly, I’m sure he would chuckle and grimace, like a good bad pun he’d just missed out on making.

After our hi skool hijinks — recounted in an abbreviated, partial version last time — we headed off to college. Like a lot of our friends, both Duane & I headed off to the University of Texas in Austin. Our freshman year, we both lived the dorm life, me on-campus in the Moore-Hill dorm, Duane in the off-campus Castilian. No more shared classes like high school but we both hit the Saturday Morning Fun Club weekly and he’d often join a bunch of us making mass numbers of paper airplanes before the pre-show paper airplane war at SMFC.

The following fall, Duane decided to go to Chicago to see his girlfriend whose family had moved back there. Knowing another good hi skool friend, Tracy, was attending Northwestern in Evanston, I decided to hitch a ride. With Duane headed off to see the girlfriend and me hanging out on campus, the only time we really spent together on that trip was the drive up and drive back.

I ended up meeting a bunch of new friends there, including future longtime buddies like Marty Jacobs and Hank Dittmar — not to mention Tracy’s new-at-the-time girlfriend, Dale, now his wife of over 30 years, mother to his kids and grandmother to his grandkids. Oh, and I got a surprise bonus for showing up at the right place at the right time: my 3rd Grateful Dead show.

Back in Austin, I moved out to the boonies down Bluff Springs Road with my brother for a few months before bouncing back to Thistle about the time that Duane moved in there as well. Thistle gave us plenty of colorful college daze stories, you bet, some that I’ve already shared here on the back porch. Obviously, there are others you oughta hear but you gonna haveta buy me a beer or two to hear those. Suffice it to say, Duane certainly added his unique flavor to what passed for ordinary life in our little madhouse.

I recall Duane deciding to repair the dripping kitchen faucet. He cut off the water before starting — or so he thought. Instead, a couple of turns of the wrench and faucet parts fly as a geyser of water erupts. Duane quickly clapped his hands down to slow the geyser — and just as quickly let go since it was the hot water tap. He grabbed a metal pan and held it over the geyser but even that heated too quickly and he had to let go. Thankfully, by that time, somebody else had run out to the cut-off valve and the crisis subsided. Pretty sure we never even attempted to repair that faucet after that.

Another time, we heard the city utility was adding a new  monthly wastewater charge to the bill. Envisioning some sort of exit metering of our sewer output,  he designed the Flush-O-Meter. It served to remind us all to conserve water by only flushing after every 4th use (for #1, obviously — immediately after each #2). It featured a dial numbered 1-4 to turn after each use as well as directions and this helpful reminder:

“If it’s yellow, let it mellow.
If it’s brown, flush it down.”

And then there was the pig.

See, with both MacNaughton and I owning dogs, Duane wanted a pet. So, he got a pig. Not a pot-bellied pig like the much later popular trendy pet of hipsters. No, just a regular farm pig. Thankfully, a young pig. I don’t remember the name, only that it wasn’t “Bacon,” like we kept teasing him.

Again, I cannot verify these stories personally, as I happened to be down in Houston vising my family the entire time Duane’s pig lived at Thistle and missed the whole thing. Lucky me, apparently. In the short time at Thistle, the pig pushed a ground-level window out to get to some dog food it saw outside, rooted under the fence into a neighbor’s yard at 4 in the morning (they were NOT pleased), and generally caused an uproar at every turn.

Said uproar resulted in a visit from the police one morning when only MacNaughton was awake. Hearing voices outside in the driveway, he poked his head out to see 2 of Austin’s finest guys in blue, one standing at the front of the driveway with the other one standing back by the fence, laughing. Ever the charmer, Mike struck up a friendly conversation with the cops who were mostly amused — until Mike quipped (rather unadvisedly), “Y’all need a mascot?”

Suddenly all business, the officers proceeded to tell Mike precisely how many city laws, county health codes, and various state regulations that he was in violation of due to the presence of the pig on our property. They informed him he had 24 hours to remove the pig. Duane agreed to move the pig  out to some friends’ house in the country who had agreed to take it. They quickly regretted that decision. Turns out there is a reason we call anyone who eats too much, is sloppy, loud, and obnoxious a “pigs — because that’s pretty much what a pig is.

By the time I got back to Thistle just one week later (so much can happen in just a few days sometimes!), the pig was long-gone. The only evidence it have ever even been there was a residual habit that MacNaughton’s puppy, Bonham, picked up of scratching his back by leaning against furniture or a wall and rubbing up and down vigorously against it. Took months before that dog remembered it could do a better job scratching its back with its hind leg.

Mostly, Duane constantly came up with crazy ideas. With both me &  MacNaughton film students and Duane a color commentator on cultural trends, we spent one evening spinning off suggested TV show titles mocking the various pop genres of the time. I say “we,” but mostly it was Duane reeling off a dozen or more parody ideas. I ended up using some of his ideas as the basis for a video comedy I produced for ACTV several years later — now available on YouTube.

So Ya Wanna Hit?

(split into 3 parts to upload to YouTube  — ran as a single program on ACTV originally)

Just Another Cop Show
Tree Surgeon
The Lust Bus


final closing credit: “Special thanks to Duane Prestwood for many bad ideas.”

So many stories and so many memories…

Starting back in high school Duane would occasionally announce randomly, “Like Will Rogers used to always say: ‘Sometimes shit like that happens.’ ” — years before any similar bumper stickers appeared anywhere. He said it so often and so casually that I finally snapped back one time, “Will Rogers never said that!”

He shrugged and asked, “How do you know? Did you follow him around his whole life and listen to everything he ever said? He might’ve said it — you don’t know.”

Point taken, Ace.

Next time — Ace in the Real World

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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