By Chuck Luce
Some campus traditions die hard.
The elusive Hatchet, that now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t icon of campus high jinks, is once more among the missing. Last May 12, thieves snatched The Hatchet from what was believed to be a secure display case in Wheelock Student Center.
The heist was not exactly the stuff of high-brow jewel-robbery films like Topkapi. At 4:51 a.m., the Hatchet-nappers diverted Security Services officers from their regular rounds by activating the fire alarm in a residence hall. They then smashed the heavy glass window of the display, unscrewed The Hatchet from its mounting bracket and ran into the dawn.
"This went way out of the realm of a harmless prank," said Security Services Director Todd Badham. "As you can imagine, we take fire alarm calls, especially ones made when the dormitories are full of sleeping people, very seriously."
Despite a plea for its return from National Alumni Board President Lowell Daun ’68, The Hatchet has not resurfaced since.
"The Hatchet is a significant piece of our past, and its disappearance shortchanges students and alumni," wrote Daun in a letter to the September 23 edition of The Trail. "Now we wish for it to be returned for permanent display. … We ask for its speedy return by somebody who knows what it means to be a Logger."
The Hatchet was already old when students found it in 1908 in a campus barn they were helping to tear down. Those early students thought The Hatchet made a fitting symbol for a college with sports teams called the Loggers and adopted it as a mascot. For decades it was an item of intrigue, as students etched their class years into the ancient handle and head and plotted to steal it from one another. The Hatchet would disappear for months, even years, only to resurface at a public event such as Homecoming.
The university community thought The Hatchet had come home for good in 1998 when it was mysteriously returned after an absence of nearly 12 years. A special museum-like case was built in Wheelock to house it, and a formal dedication of the display was made during Reunion/Homecoming ’98.