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Band of brothers around a bond fire

In June 1957, two weeks prior to high school graduation, my group of buddies were looking at the potential loss of our brotherhood.

We gathered and formally adopted a name and a written document binding us together forever. What some would dismiss as foolish teenage-boy nonsense turned into a lifelong brotherhood that nothing could destroy. Time has thinned our ranks, as we have said our final goodbye to three of the eight. As of this writing, five of us brothers are still alive; 63 years and counting since our charter in June 1957. Some of us have been friends since 1949.

During the summer of 1958, my girlfriend dumped me. I was deeply wounded. When my brothers found out they rallied to my side. A weekend evening gathering event was scheduled for a spot by the Rogue River that today is part of the Denman Wildlife Area. I was told to bring a box of all my letters and tokens from my now defunct relationship.

Upon arrival at the river, my buddies built a fire and we all sat in a circle around the fire. The event was simple in nature yet so complex in a deep emotional way. My task was to reach into the box, pull out a letter or item at random. I would read a bit of the letter out loud or explain the meaning of the item. I would then toss it into the fire to the applause, cheers and sometimes rude comments from my brothers.

As I worked through the box of memories past, threw them into the fire to the support, cheers and love of my brothers, I started on the road to recovery. After all tokens and letters had been tossed into the flame, we disbanded and headed home.

As an adult I have looked back at that event with awe. A rag-tag group of teenage males created supportive group therapy long before it was formally known to any of us. Over the years our brotherhood has served me well.

From a young man I experienced unconditional friendship and loving brotherhood. Any of us can, and have, called on any group member/members if needed. I suspect there are not a lot of men who can claim a brotherhood of over 60 years. And like most males of my generation we kid each other, look for any mistake we can find and rip the offending person with wicked male humor put-downs. We enjoy our time together.

Some folks, especially woman, find the way we guys openly treat each other insulting and a mystery. I offer those people the following. If males are putting one of the group down with various unkind insults; observe the person who is the target of the insults. If that guy is laughing, it means all is fine and the barbs are seen as the ultimate gifts of affection.

I have always loved and always will love my group of brothers.

Larry Slessler lives in Medford.

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