By Sean Harris

When it began, there were only three.

To fully appreciate the unity of these unlikely counterparts, however, one must delve much further back into the story. The time was the early nineties…a place we can all probably remember pretty well. Hair bands were being vaporized by grunge, the first president Bush had us in a very similar situation with all our friends overseas, and Friday the 13th was still only at seven sequels. Within this political pop-culture factory, a few hundred miles north of any real bustling action and in the heart of one of the lovliest places in California, rested a tiny hamlet called Fort Bragg High. It was home to the Timberwolves, a much lauded and funded football team that was and still remains the pride and joy of the robust community.

Amidst a population of about a six hundred students, the elite jock echelon reigned with their purple and gray banners unfurled. There were three class divisions at F.B.H.S, and you fell into one based on your grade school performances (or, if this could not be accurately charted, your parents social standing at the PTA and/or local bar or church.) For boys–you were a football player, an overachieving valedictorian, or one of the aimless rabble, a dangerously wavering fraternity of average Joe’s treading that fine thin line between first class loser and total dickwad. For the girls, as we certainly can’t leave them out, there was a very similar system in effect. They were quietly delegated to cheerleaders, overachieving valedictorians, and jailbait. It was an imperfect society, but it stood. It had been around longer than any of us would be, and changing its lasting graven image would be nothing short of an act of cosmic revolution.

But the universe likes to throw some dangerously suspicious dice at times. Tucked away in the north-east corner of the proud  establishment was a small whitewashed room; a room lined with Macintosh computer terminals, twenty or so desks, and a somewhat sentient laserprinter that had been named “Wolfgang” by the council elders. This unassuming location was lair of the Bragg’s powerful student voice–a slickly produced bi-monthly offering that told it like it was and brought to the youth their dreams and fortunes and prestigious academic accomplishments. Particularly outstanding was the sports section, covering the many victories of the mighty hometown legion, back rubbing, high-fiving, and ass-patting to new levels of scholastic megalomania. Life was good. The ants carried out their tasks, and the queen laid her many eggs. Governed by an English teacher and a computer instructor-turned-mentat, this was the fine headquarters of the hallowed Timberwolf Howl. Many would-be writers found their way into the giant grinding wheel, visions of page-editing and college and hundred and fifty thousand dollar a year salaries driving them to performance peaks. Verve was encouraged, even handsomely rewarded when the great eye was pleased. A familiar class system had also been adopted into the tech-tree of the fledgling newspaper, not a far margin off from the one that held the base of the entire campus. At The Howl, you were either a page editor, a regular columnist, or a “just in case, baby.” Each was a crucial element to the whole, but with trained talent and reputation one could move their way up in rank and enjoy calling the shots on others.

The Mondays following each issue release were story assignment days, where the entire team would sit and distribute the written tasks to be completed. The Howl had a commentary page, an entertainment page, two whole sports pages, and another page just for the hell of it. There was seemingly plenty to spare. Page editors usually took their picks first, sometimes licensing out work to give themselves breathing space during production (layouts could be a genuine bitch during crunch time). Regular columnists, a position looked favorably on by most everyone else, kept to their stations and made little noise. If you had something working, there was no need to further screw it up.

And the rest of the ensemble…the open writers, the runners, the little elves that rotated operations, were left to their own law. During story assignment days, they became jackals, tearing at the single carcasses thrown down by royalty. The articles no one wanted where pushed and shoved and condemned among them, until by hour’s end everyone had their responsibilities laid out in clear. Sometimes it was all brutally unfair, but like before, the routine was sound, as it had been for ages.