September 2, 2022 | OPINION | By Sam Treat
I was thrilled last year when Emma McDermott, Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Catalyst, reached out to me and offered a position writing a food column for this esteemed publication. When I agreed, I knew the tremendous shoes I would be filling. For those who knew Hank or read his work, I would like to use this as a space and time to recognize Hank for all that he was and all he contributed. Hank was a brilliant, funny, deeply kind man whose steady presence was felt by all who crossed paths with him.
I cannot promise that I will write with the same pension for syntax and diction that Hank carried. In fact, quite the opposite. I strive to emulate Hank’s work only in terms of the quality and passion it carried, but any attempt to mimic Hank would be a colossal failure on my part and downright disrespectful to the level of work he published.
Hank wrote with loquacity and elegance in a unique manner. Only adding to that mystique and impressiveness was the fact that the way Hank wrote was exactly the way he acted off the paper. There was no “writer alter ego.” Hank was Hank, through and through, from the day I met him to the day I got the worst news I’ve ever received –– that Hank was gone.
For those who had the pleasure of knowing him, no matter the context, all would attest that Hank was truly larger than life. No interaction with him goes unremembered. I can fondly pull on a bevy of hilarious, profound, and downright bemusing interactions I had with Hank. As someone who has gone through life full of my own convictions and headstrong beliefs, it is rare that I choose to look towards others for inspiration (perhaps a major flaw of mine, but I digress).
Hank, though, was one of the few people I have ever considered a true role model, and someone everyone should look up to. I mean this not in the sense that anyone should try to copy his personality and mannerisms in any way, but in the sense that we should all strive to be as true to ourselves as Hank was to himself.
Most often seen walking around campus in his traditional attire: hiking boots, jeans, and an Aloha shirt, Hank never took shortcuts. True to his major (philosophy), Hank believed there was something to be gained by walking the designated paths around campus, allowing yourself to take in the full experience of life happening around you. Hank would chastise those who wanted to save a few minutes by jaywalking or trampling on the grass.
To Hank, who found irony in the fact that the ‘path less traveled’ at CC was the designated path, more was to be gained by slowing down than by cutting corners. While I am just as guilty as the next person of taking diagonals across Tava, I do challenge us all to, every once in a while, take the path less traveled: the actual path.
I could draw on any number of anecdotes from any number of people to continue to illustrate the exemplary man Hank Bedingfield was, however, I am going to choose one that I think best gives understanding about what a Hankism is. After Hank’s passing, one of the first ways the rugby community came together to support one another in the face of an unspeakable loss of our captain, friend, mentor, and compatriot was by fondly recalling Hankisms.
A Hankism is a term used to describe the bits of philosophy, wisdom, and unique takes on the world that Hank would offer to those around him. For me, I was fortunate enough to hear Hankisms in many truly random circumstances: on the rugby field, on the sidelines, in a hotel room in Athens, in Greece at 2:00a.m., during heated games of backgammon, on the lifeguard chair at Ksig, and many other times I least expected to listen to eloquent philosophy. Hank never ceased to be himself, and never capitulated to situational or societal norms. My favorite Hankism, the one that has stuck with me the most, is something that Hank said to me at our last rugby match together.
We were in Fort Collins, Colo. on the weekend preceding fourth week of Block 8 last year, playing in a tournament against a lineup of Division I schools. In a heated match with the University of Wyoming, I got into a scuffle that resulted in a yellow card. I had to sit out of the match for two minutes. The punch I threw was inopportune for our team, and I was pouting on the sideline feeling sorry for myself. Hank, having been taken out of a previous game due to concussion concerns, came and sat next to me.
Seeing my pouting, Hank turned and said something to the effect of, “All Scottsmen are just blades of grass, and aren’t we all just Scottsmen on this tiny blue marble?” While I had no idea what this meant, and still don’t, it completely snapped me out of my anger and frustration. Unable to do anything but laugh and ask Hank, “What the fuck does that even mean?” I was over myself and my own pity. Hank, despite making little to no sense to me, had the words to settle me down.
Shortly after, my penalty period ended and I returned to the field, where a team effort helped me to score the potentially game winning try. Upon scoring, I ran off the field to Hank, who greeted me with a hug and a smile. All I said to him was: “Blade of grass motherfucker, blade of fucking grass baby.”
When I got the news just four days later that Hank, the man who had won the Iron Horse award for consistency (surely to be renamed the Hank Bedingfield award) every year I had been at this school, had passed away I thought it was some sort of sick joke. It took many phone calls and texts and hugs and cries for me to get to the point I am at now, able to write a piece like this.
My hope in writing this is that it conveys even just a tiny fraction of the man that Hank was. As I continue to write a food column this year, I will always do so with a heavy heart and somber remembrance of my legendary predecessor. For those who did not have the chance to engage with Hank Bedingfield, my hope is that this piece gives you a window into the collective loss that The Catalyst, the rugby community, and this campus as a whole suffered when Hank left this world.
For those who did know Hank, hopefully this piece can give you cause to smile, cry, or just sit and remember the impact Hank had on your life and perhaps even a Hankism or two he bestowed upon you. Hank was the best of men and will be missed by us all. No space he occupied on campus will ever be the same.
Hank’s Catalyst articles are all available to read here.