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Scrummy End For Agency’s Ornamental Pear

Thu., May 25, 1995, midnight

You don’t need Sherlock Holmes to track a runaway pear tree. Not as long as Sam “Spade” Childers is on the job.

Childers is a maintenance man for Northwest Regional Facilitators, a non-profit agency at 525 E. Mission that sponsors community improvement projects.

He arrived at work the other morning to find one of the agency’s 15-foot ornamental pear trees snapped off near the base like a toothpick. The rest of the tree was missing.

The thieves must be some kind of low-wattage individuals. Along with empty beer cans, these dimwits left a trail of broken branches and leaves.

Childers followed the foliage across the street, through an alley, up some stairs and into the back door at 524 E. Mission - one of the notorious “rugby houses” near the Gonzaga University campus.

They dragged “the tree into the house,” says Childers. “Who knows what they did with it after that.”

Legendary for their hard-partying ways, rugby players and their pals have embarrassed the university plenty over the years.

Exasperated university officials yanked the rugby club’s charter after a 1993 streaking incident. A rugby tradition known as “Zulu” calls for a player who scores his first goal to strip naked and run around while being sprayed with beer.

A college spokesman says the club applied for a new charter last winter but was denied. Ruggers still may not use the Gonzaga name.

Wild college high jinks were highly entertaining in the hit movie, “Animal House.” Putting up with this stuff next door is not so hilarious.

“When they throw parties, 50 people show up and anything goes,” says Jody, who has been a rugby house neighbor for several years. “There’s screaming and hollering until 3 or 4 in the morning.”

Jody and her hubby have endured the antics at 524 E. Mission with each new crop of students.

She has seen mass streaking and fools urinating out of upper-floor windows. The latest fad, she says, appears to be projectile vomiting contests.

The woman says young men guzzle beer and then see who can hurl the farthest. “I’m a nurse,” says Jody. “I see this stuff at work. I don’t need to see it when I get home.”

Jody can’t say if any of this has been done by rugby house residents or those who show up for the parties.

Either way, Shane Dennis says, all of these claims are vicious lies.

Listening to him, you get the feeling the rugby house really is inhabited by a den of Cub Scouts working on merit badges. “I don’t know how you define ‘rowdy.’ We try to keep it down as much as possible.”

Dennis lives in the cavernous old house and will be a senior next fall. He says you don’t have to be a rugby player to be a tenant. Only half of the eight residents played rugby during the last school year.

The house, says Dennis, was bought in the late 1980s by a Gonzaga student and rugby player. He rented to his teammates and friends and then, after graduating, sold the place to his brother, another Gonzaga rugby player.

The tradition may end soon. The house is for sale ($135,000), although leases have been signed for one more school year.

As for the decapitated pear tree, Dennis is emphatic: None of his rugby brothers or roomies had anything to do with it.

On graduation night, Dennis says, a gang of about 10 hooligans he didn’t know burst through the house and out the front door, dragging the fallen pear tree.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Police who looked into this caper found nobody to nail. Everyone’s playing dumb. Many students have graduated and gone, and there’s no tree corpse for an autopsy.

Getting a culprit to cough up the $400 it would take to plant another tree would be swell, but I fear the leafy trail has grown too cold.

This could be just another tragic example of - sorry - pear today, gone tomorrow.

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