Brother Brother’s Journal: The Augean Stables

Brother Brother's Journal illustration, The Augean Stables

In the Quarry of the Blind, the One-Eyed Craftsman is king.

(Illustration by Ted Bastien, 32°)

By Michael Halleran, 32°

Date: October 15, 1899
Weather: Fair
Outlook: Cooling

Accompanied Crofoot and Hendricks to Hercules Lodge No. 459, to assist in a first degree—actually my debut at conferring the same!

Hercules Lodge has the reputation of being a sporting lodge, and they looked it—aye, every inch. Everything in Hercules Lodge was larger, stronger, bigger, or faster than any lodge anywhere else. Of the members, there were two distinct types—the wasp-waisted and the bull-necked. The former were sprinters, fencers, hurdlers, shortstops, archers, and even an aeronaut, the latter: wrestlers and half backs—magnificent physical specimens although perhaps not contenders for the local Spelling Bee.

In the lodge itself, the furniture was enormous—the master’s pedestal was nearly chest-high to Crofoot, the jewels weighty enough to drown a fur seal, and the officer’s rods had all the heft of an oaken quarter-staff. But the clock was twenty-eight minutes off, there were no pencils or paper at the secretary’s desk, and a note on the board announced an event next “Wednesday.”

No doubt the Lodge to summon in the event of an emergency Lacrosse tournament The Herculeans were no great shakes at ritual; they habitually requested area Lodges to help in the quarries. Just as dogs resemble their masters, so too with candidates and lodges. Hercules candidates were no exceptions; most of them thought the “G” stood for Gymnasium lacked a certain savoir faire, so even the poorest ritualist was invariably treated like a Lord. In the Quarry of the Blind, the One-Eyed Craftsman is king.

I’d been itching to try some ritual work, but I could barely tyle my own garden gate without some frightful mishap, and the thought of conferring a degree at my Mother Lodge to the inevitable chorus of hoots, guffaws and catcalls had put me off. But at Hercules no one would know the difference my labors might be better appreciated.

Just so. The Lodge welcomed us as saviors and put on an immense luncheon for our benefit. Directly following, we convened. Crofoot volunteered to open with Hendricks as Senior Deacon. I planned on filling the Tyler’s station so I could rehearse the conferral section, but just as I passed the South, their J∴W∴—an immense Brobdingnagian fellow who looked as though he could shot-put an anvil iron—motioned for me to sit in the South.

“Awfully kind of you, Brother,” I demurred, “but I wouldn’t dream of sitting in your chair. I’ll just fill in as Tyler.”

He grunted something unintelligible.


“No. Sit. You. I tyle door.”

I was about to protest when he clapped his hand—it was the size of a tinned ham—on my shoulder and guided me into the chair by main force.

“I tyle door,” he said again. “You sit.”

I would have damned his eyes had I dared but there wasn’t time—down went the Master’s gavel! So with a bead of sweat forming on my brow, I racked my brains trying to recall my duties in the South while not mixing them up with those of the East.

There is no finer ritualist than Crofoot, who has the head for that sort of thing rot him. Hendricks, too, is no slouch with the work, but even so, they had to omit much of the customary by-play with the other officers during the opening—the usual dialog was met with blank stares or monosyllabic grunts by both Deacons, the Secretary and the somnolent Treasurer, who, it was explained, had been training all morning for the Boston Marathon(1). Against this backdrop of incompetence For perhaps the first time in my life, when my turn came, I sounded like one of Rob Morris’s Conservatives.(2)

As the opening reached the S.W., though, with its s-s, g-s and w-s—well, it would have been quicker to train a monkey. Hercules Lodge might consider doing just that, as the obligation contains nothing which would prohibit teaching a house cat, a springer spaniel or a ring-tailed lemur any of the secrets of Freemasonry.

D– u w–nt sh–rry r p–rt?

While outside the door, I had ample opportunity of observing the candidate—another titan and the center for the local amateur basketball association. There were three or four Herculeans with him—all very jocular—japes, skylarking, and discussion of goats &c. The candidate seemed nonplussed, declaring at one point that he would “wrangle any amount of goats to get to the basket.” Whether he was speaking metaphorically or not was an open question.

Following the opening, the Lodge went at ease, and I assumed the East. It took them a while to get the candidate prepared, and Hendricks shot me a wry smile when he announced the usual interrogatories had been satisfactorily answered … “after a fashion,” he added, sotto voce.

Finally, the degree began, and the fellow nearly knocked the door off the hinges on entering the Lodge.

At once some wag seated in the north bleated whinnied bah-ed made a noise like a goat which threw me off and at the same time brought the house down. I rapped the gavel but it was some time before things calmed down again.

Finally, staring daggers at the brethren—we picked up where we left off. But it wasn’t five minutes before someone else made another goat noise from behind the candidate, who turned this way and that, with Hendricks clinging onto his arm for dear life. Then, the J.W. fluffed a line no surprise there which set the whole place in an uproar again.

Seizing the gavel with both hands—it was the size of a small sledge—I leveled a rap that could have been heard in New York City and every one froze.

“Brethren! Why all these shenanigans? This this more like a borstal(3) than a brotherhood!”

“A barstool?” the J.D. asked.

“Enough!” I said, wielding the gavel like Hephaestus. “Bro. Senior Deacon, you will escort the candidate to the preparation room, and inquire of him if he wishes to proceed, while I inquire if the lodge is willing to proceed.”

With the candidate outside, I gave them a damned good thrashing thorough dressing down.

“Masonry’s not some schoolyard escapade … might as well join the Shrine, or the Know Nothings, or the Phi Beta Kappas damn their eyes!”

Crofoot later told me I’d gotten a bit far afield—with the Phi Beta Kappas at any rate, but fortunately, they didn’t smoke me out. By the time I’d finished my harangue—they were a pretty solemn set.

The Treasurer stood up.

“We understand we need to do this properly—but we have a big game scheduled in an hour and a half—it’s a charity exhibition with the local college team, and we just have to be there.”

Provided we got down to business, I said, there was no reason why we shouldn’t be able to conclude with time to spare, and to a man they resolved to do the thing properly. So, we brought the candidate—equally chastened—back in and started all over again. It went fairly well, although at one point, I had to prompt our soon-to-be-brother to state his name.

Me: “I, repeat your name.…”

Candidate: “I, repeat your name.…”

“I mean that you should state your full name, blast your eyes!” I blurted out, and before I could retract it, he answered:

“I, Adolph Ruskin Stagg, blast your eyes….”

And so it went.

Soon after, I offered the hand of friendship to the new brother who returned it with ore-smashing effect; my little finger still bears the imprint of the working tools from the side of my Masonic ring.

All the tomfoolery laid aside, I must say that the thing came off rather well. Our new brother seemed both pleased and impressed, although he would not believe that there was not a goat secreted somewhere in the Lodge to be brought out after I left.

Following a few photographs, Hendricks and I—sport being anathema to Crofoot—went with the Lodge to the exhibition versus the Kansas University junior varsity, with the loser to donate $50 to the Masonic Home. My first basket-ball game and very likely my last! The object, as near as I could determine, was for everyone to throw the ball to one another, in order that someone might be able to toss it into a peach basket nailed to the wall of the gymnasium ten feet up in the air. But the players weren’t allowed to climb the ladders that were posted near the baskets, nor were they allowed to tackle, or jostle the other fellows in order to take the ball for their own side. A pointless exercise, taken as a whole.

Our boys lost 2–0, by the way.

Following the contest, one of the opposing team inquired about joining, and while he was speaking to the Herculeans, I had occasion to chat up the college coach, who, I learned had invented the game some years before. Decent chap. It seems he was also a Mason, but that he had let his membership lapse for one reason or another.

By way of being kind, I told him I enjoyed the game but that it would be more sporting if he affixed the baskets to the roof or perhaps to the surface of the moon added that I feared it would never catch on. One would have to be able to jump two or three feet in the air just to have a chance at a shot! All that leaping about?


1. Inaugurated in 1897, following the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon.
2. Bro. Brother’s malapropism refers to Rob Morris and the Conservators of Masonry, which while sounding like a 1970s Hair Band, was in reality a mid-nineteenth century movement led by Morris (a past Grand Master of Kentucky) to standardize American ritual across jurisdictional lines, and, among other things, promote ritual proficiency nationwide. For more information, See Ray V. Denslow. The Masonic Conservators (1931).
3. Juvenile hall.

Michael Halleran
is a practicing attorney and a Past Master of Emporia Lodge No. 12, charter Master of Justice Lodge No. 457, and the Grand Senior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Kansas. Michael is the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature; Freemasonry in the American Civil War (2010), published by the University of Alabama Press.

About the Illustrator:
Ted Bastien has been working in the animation industry for over twenty-five years. He has directed many children’s cartoons for various clients, including Nickelodeon and Disney Kids. Ted is a member of Joseph A. Hearn Lodge No. 685 in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

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