STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 11/13/2015

Anvil By Spring

A short conversation with Eric Convey ’87 about “things to do in your senior year at Gordon” kick-started an 11-month adventure that would take Max Halik ’15 on frantic runs through the Gordon woods in deep snow, and even lead him to doubt and distrust his closest friends. But that, as he understands it, is what “The Gordon Anvil” is all about.

In March of 2014, the spring of my junior year, I thought it high time for someone (myself) to recover a bit of tradition before I graduated. When Gordon College merged with Barrington College in 1985, as a symbol of creating a bond between the two groups of students, a commemorative anvil was dedicated—approximately 120 pounds of hardened steel, an actual blacksmith’s anvil. It was originally labeled “The Barrington Anvil” and, of course, it was immediately stolen by Gordon students. In following years it became vogue to possess The Anvil—a point of great honor, even. Dorms took pride in acquiring it; whole classes competed for its ownership. The rules were simple: it had to stay on campus, and a small part had to be visible. The tradition flourished.

And then one year it was nowhere to be found.

I decided to find The Anvil. When I ran into alums, I asked them about it. I followed up on leads from the College website. It seems that the tradition subsided in the mid-’90s but then bounced back; graduates of ’04 and ’05 remember seeing it, but after that the trail goes cold. I still hadn’t found anyone who had actually hidden The Anvil around the time that it vanished.

Early this year, with graduation looming and my mission unfulfilled, I emailed Paul Helgesen, the director of Physical Plant. He directed me to a man who would prove essential: Jeff O’Brien, who has worked at Physical Plant for a number of years. “The last I knew,” he wrote, “this Anvil was found and
re-hidden by a student during the spring of 2003 and then he graduated. I am not sure if it has ever been found since then.” Jeff promised to contact the alumnus, to see if he knew The Anvil’s last whereabouts. I wanted to contact him directly, but Jeff told me the alum is now president of a company, and wanted to remain anonymous. The mystery alum couldn’t guarantee that someone hadn’t found it where he had hidden it. But he would come up to campus to check, and after the snow melted he would recover it for me if it was still there. 

I had spent nearly a year looking for this relic, and now it would be . . . delivered to me? I would never get to know where it had been hidden? I started running like a madman through the Gordon woods on the weekends, looking for fresh tracks and disturbed ground, hoping to find The Anvil for myself. One evening I frantically shoveled at a spot where I was sure someone had left a fresh marker, only to find snow, dirt and disappointment.

This thing is like the One Ring: it corrupts the hearts of men.

In April I received an email from Jeff. No text, only an image. The Gordon internet decided to be slow, revealing the image from the bottom up, with no abundant haste. Two pairs of shoes. Two pairs of legs. Jeff O’Brien and someone else. Standing outside of the entrance to Gordon. Standing
next to . . . 

The Gordon Anvil. And no further information in the e-mail, only a tantalizing image of the quarry I had pursued for months, along with the “someone else”—who I knew by then (from some online detective work) was Francis Vigeant ’04.

I threw on a pair of shoes and ran to Physical Plant, nearly breaking down Jeff O’Brien’s door. “I wondered when you’d come by,” he said. “So. Do you want to see it?”

And the rest is . . . tradition.

Jeff snuck The Anvil out from his truck and we took a picture with it for the Tartan, per Francis’ request. Physical Plant made me an Ark of the Covenant, and in May I proudly toted it around with my friends to the honor of Bromley Hall at the Inaugural Highland Games. Tavilla Hall tried and failed to steal it. I hid it, but someone has since purloined the relic. It’s back in circulation, and there may it stay.

Ring by Spring? I prefer the tradition of Anvil by Spring.


A physics major at Gordon, Max Halik ’15 is currently chasing further adventures in Edinburgh in the pursuit of his master’s degree.