This story follows Hannibal Heyes Goes to New York, or actually partially overlaps it. And HH to NY follows Not Again! You just have to read both of those stories first for this story to make any sense at all. This story gets in all kinds of things – drama, romance, hurt-comfort, and even some comedy. The beginning of this story is set about three years after the pilot and about one year after Not Again! The narrative concentrates on Heyes, but the Kid gets plenty of action. While this is about Heyes' years in college, don't expect an academic story. Far from it. A lot of it isn't even set in New York, much less the classroom. As Heyes' long-suffering advisor is heard to complain, "How are we ever going to get you graduated if you insist on running around playing cowboys and Indians all the time?"
Again, I must apologize for the use for my own purposes of characters I didn't invent. And I must also apologize for manipulation of the symptoms of Aphasia, a very real and very serious condition, for purely fictional purposes. I have given poor Heyes Aphasia after a bullet wound to the head. Also, to paraphrase what Dorothy Sayers said of Peter Wimsey and Balliol College, Oxford, I must lastly apologize for saddling Columbia University with so wayward an alumnus as Hannibal Heyes.
Again, I dedicate this story to the teachers among our readers. By now I hope the reasons are obvious. I would also like to dedicate it to second cousins. Although my two beloved second cousins will never read this or know about it, they are both wonderful men who are as much geniuses as Heyes and as faithful relations as the Kid.
[This story starts about six months before the end of HH Goes to NY.] Heyes had enjoyed his time in Colorado visiting with the Kid and Cat at the end of June, but it also been emotionally exhausting. He found it very difficult to have to explain his current situation to his closest friends, even while suffering from it. If also tortured him to have them see him, and worry about him so much, while he was in a state that he regarded as very much a work in progress. He hoped to have a much better ability to speak and to write very soon and hated to the Kid and Cat think of him as a permanent verbal cripple. He knew that they might be right about that, but he was eagerly planning on surprising them with his progress by Christmas. Of course, readers of the last story know that Heyes was exactly right about that.
So Heyes in the summer returning from Colorado was eager to get back to his therapy and his studies at the Leutze Clinic in New York. When Heyes came back to New York City, he was still battling the gaps and interruptions in his speech and the profound limitations in his practical vocabulary. But he could start to see progress and he could hardly guess where it might take him.
One hot summer afternoon Miss Warren and Joshua Smith sat in Beth Warren's airless office together, fanning themselves with makeshift paper fans and wishing air conditioning had been invented by then. The tutor told her top student that she was going to be taking a geometry class at Columbia University in the fall. "You see, as a teacher, I have to keep up my qualifications. A couple of degrees are never enough. Besides, with you as a student, I need to be at my best." She winked at him playfully and he smiled, because he knew that it was true. He was always asking to know more than Beth, even with her BA and MA, knew. "But I was thinking maybe you might like to sit in with the class I'll be taking."
"Sit in?" asked Heyes. He was still wrestling with his speech, but those two syllables he could manage just fine.
Beth explained, "Yes. It's just what it sounds like. You just come to class, listen, and watch. You don't have to do the reading or the home work, if you don't want to or don't have time. You just do as much as you want. You could take quizzes or tests if you wanted to, to find out if you understand the material, but you wouldn't have to. And the results wouldn't count on your academic record - if you ever have an academic record. It's a kind of dry run, you might say. Professor Homer is teaching the class – the man who looked at your formulas that Dr. Leutze sent when he was working with you in Colorado. I'm sure he'd like to meet you. He's said so. Have you ever been interested in college?"
"Have I? Always! What's it cost?" Heyes was excited but also very unsure. Would the class be so far over his head that it would prove to him that he couldn't do math at this level? And how would eastern college boys treat a westerner who couldn't even talk properly?
Miss Warren smiled at her student's enthusiasm. She wondered how a cowboy plus, as she thought of Joshua, had come to aspire to a college education. But she thought he was up to it. "It doesn't cost anything to sit in. As long as they have enough desks and the professor gives his permission, you can come for free. As I said, you couldn't claim credit on your academic record. But equally, if you struggled, as you would have every right to do without the preparation and background all the other students would have, no one would ever need to know that – except you. It would be just an experiment, a pure learning experience. You get to see what college is like and decide if you might, possibly, be interested in the real thing. No cost but some time. What about it? Shall we ask Professor Homer?" Heyes looked at Beth in amazement. He couldn't escape her implication that not just sitting in but actual college classes might be in his future. He had never thought he ever would, ever could, really attend college. That Miss Warren would think it was even the most distant possibility was a total shock to the former outlaw.
Heyes had dreamed about college ever since he had heard the word. The idea of a place where he could learn anything he wanted, at the highest level, was like a view into heaven. Heyes had met very few college men out west. None of his teachers had ever gone to college. But the minister in his family church when he was very young was an alumnus of Rutgers, in New Jersey. The man had impressed the young Hannibal with his knowledge and his wisdom. And Heyes had known a lawyer or two with college training – though those meetings were in less than favorable circumstances. John Robertson, the former teacher who had ridden with one of Heyes' gangs for a while, had taken some college classes. He was the one who had told Heyes about what it was like to go to college and what men with college degrees could do. That had lit the fire in Heyes, but he had damped it down and entertained no hope. What could be more ridiculous and unlikely than a western outlaw attending college? After all, in those days attending college was still rare and considered elite and expensive.
But now, Heyes was starting to get an idea of what college could really mean. Beth Warren, who had earned not only a BA but an MA as well, was a model of what a college-educated person was like. And so were his doctors, Dr. Leutze and Dr. Goldstein. But Heyes didn't underestimate the many, many barriers that still stood between him and any possibility of his going to college. He couldn't even talk properly yet, if he ever would. And even he knew that real college classes were far from free. And far from easy.
One hot July New York late afternoon Miss Warren and Heyes had taken a cab to Columbia University. The semester hadn't started yet, so the elaborate red brick building where Professor Homer had his office was nearly empty, although the New York City streets outside were never deserted, day or night.
Professor Homer, a tall, lean, graying man with a pronounced western accent, was waiting for them in his office. He sat behind his desk in his shirt sleeves. It was simply too hot to wear a jacket indoors in the New York summer. "Good morning, Miss Warren. So this is the dodecahedron man? Glad to meet you, Smith." Joshua shook hands with the professor and gratefully removed his own jacket. Heyes felt shy of this man who was at the top of the field of mathematics where the former outlaw had happily but unprofessionally played since he was a child. "I understand that you're interested in sitting in with a geometry class?"
"Yes, P . . . sir. If you have space." Heyes said awkwardly. His speech was still slow and halting and the word professor was beyond him. He had tried to get the word prepared for this visit, but it hadn't worked out well. "Miss Warren said maybe?"
"Where are you from, Smith?" asked the professor, looking curiously at his potential sit in. He heard something familiar in Smith's accent. "You're not from Wyoming, my home territory, by any chance, are you?"
"No, sir. I'm from . . . Kansas. But I . . . spent time in . . . W . . . Wyoming." Heyes inwardly thought that he would still have to be very lucky to avoid doing time in Wyoming. Heyes couldn't deny his connections to Wyoming to anyone who would recognize the accent, but he sure wasn't eager to have anyone thinking very much about his time in that territory where the Devil's Hole Gang was headquartered. He wanted to get back to school topics as quickly as possible. "I can't talk much yet. Would that hurt?"
"No, Smith. If you can understand and read, that will be enough. And if you want to take exams, of course you will need to write." Professor Homer was well familiar with Smith's problems, having spoken to Miss Warren about him. "Talking's no problem. Some of the students might ride you, but you can cope with that. You just listen and read and you'll be fine – just as long as you can manage the math itself. Sounds to me like you're making great progress with talking."
"Thank you." Heyes felt glad, once again, to have that useful phrase at his command.
Professor Homer was curious about this potential student. "Miss Warren tells me that you didn't finish school when you were growing up, but that while working with her you're almost finished the grades you missed. Do you anticipate finishing you math studies to 11th grade level in time for next semester?"
"Yes, sir. I should." Heyes felt peculiar as it occurred to him what rapid progress he had really been making. He wondered if he could possibly keep it up. With all the talk of his being a genius, he had never really taken it seriously. Now he might have a chance to find out how true it was. What if he was just a decently bright guy who couldn't make it past high school level math? And he had a long way to go to catch up in the areas outside of math.
Miss Warren took up the story to save her student from having to stumble through it. "Mr. Smith tells me that he studied informally some more advanced mathematics with a former teacher about twelve years ago, while he was out west. I guess he was working as a cowboy, among other things. He learned some fairly advanced algebra. He's been demonstrating that, and an excellent grasp of geometry. Truly, he does outstanding work for a man with so little formal academic background. He might not have the prerequisites for your class officially, but I think he should be able to follow it, if he works hard at it. And he has an exemplary work ethic."
"Wait, you studied math while you were working cattle?" Smith nodded and shrugged, grinning with embarrassment. Professor Homer was puzzled by the mental picture. With his own western background, he understood how strange this was. "Well, I guess I've heard odder things. I know a cowboy poet in Montana. So why not a cowboy mathematician? You're welcome to sit in, Smith. There are plenty of seats. I look forward to seeing you in class."
The two men shook hands once more. There were a lot of differences between the tall, gray professor and the younger former cowboy, so far as Beth Warren knew of his past, who had had so little schooling until recently. But to Miss Warren's very interested eye, they also had many things in common. Both exuded a rugged air of independence Beth associated with the West – and that she found very impressive and appealing. She could picture Professor Homer in a cowboy hat and boots about as readily as she could picture Joshua Smith in the same garb. But would Joshua Smith ever be as at home in a classroom as his new professor was?