In 1967 when The Beatles were tripping in “Strawberry Fields Forever” and The Doors were urging us to “Light My Fire” I was a “new cadet” at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell.
In that day “new cadets” at N.M.M.I. were under a hazing system similar to Plebes at
West Point. We had our heads shaved, doubled timed in The Area, yes sir/no sir, saluted, kept eyes straight ahead as not to engage humans, which we were considered not to be by “old cadets”, dropped for push-ups, walked “tours” or ran laps for the slightest perceived infractions of behavior or “deportment.” It was a real slice of heaven for a 15 year old from California.
The fun continued at meal time when we “new cadets” perched ourselves on the front
few inches of our chair, sitting at attention with eyes forward, yet expected to serve and
cater to the whims of the “old cadets” scattered among us, members of our squad or
Punishment for not doing so took various forms. Hispanic New Mexico “old cadets” often brought jars of jalapenos to the table. Forcing some hapless table pepper avoiding “new cadet” from, say, Wisconsin, to munch up a jalapeno pepper as punishment for some infraction was considered great entertainment and a fair warning for other “new cadets.” Adult supervision looked the other way.
I don’t totally hate the three and a half years I spent at New Mexico Military Institute. I learned to lead other young cadets through humor and cajoling as opposed to acting like some junior psychotic schmuck. The school had a very strong academic program. It directly and indirectly led to a Journalism degree from New Mexico State University and a broadcasting career, my wife of 34 years, and several life long friendships.
These days I enjoy jalapenos, serranos, New Mexico green chile, and the occasional
habanero, among other fiery foods. But I still think that tricking or forcing the unsuspecting or uninitiated to bite into such things is not cool.