Bretz’s suburban home was situated on two thirds of an acre and was landscaped with thousands of rocks that had been hauled home from many of Bretz’s field outings around the country. Bretz dubbed the home “Boulderstrewn” and regularly invited students for parties and geological training sessions.
Bretz had perhaps the most unusually adorned basement that any of his students had ever seen. All around the walls and ceiling of the room were signs with messages that Bretz had found especially memorable or funny. Most of these had been pilfered from field trips sites around the country, and their number grew as the years went on. Among the signs most likely to get laughs out of the students who came to socialize, were the following:
“Men naked above the belt will not be served here” from a drug store soda fountain in Missouri;
“Drunk Again?” from an unknown donor;
“Bring back the Axe’ from a girl scout camp;
“Fisherman’s Liars License” from an unknown source;
“Flush it. We Pay for the water” from a restaurant in Tennessee;
and “Old Cowboys Never Die – They Just Smell That Way” from somewhere in Wyoming.
Also found in the Boulderstrewn basement were a variety of animal skulls, “all but one of them jawless herbivores” wrote Bretz, except “the polar bear I shot in Greenland. Bretz had wired Christmas lights to glow in the eye sockets of these skeletal masks. “An eerie lighting system,” acknowledged Bretz, “but one that has won enthusiastic approval time after time.”
Parties occasionally got out of hand at Boulderstrewn. Former Bretz student Don Bloss recalls a student throwing a knife which struck a wall right between two students having a conversation. All the knives in the house were collected and set aside after that episode.
At another party, an Australian student named Larry had a bit too much to drink and wandered outside for fresh air. Finding him missing and fearful that the boy might have fallen into the garden pond, Bretz ran outside to find the boy fast asleep on the lawn. Another boy named Bob had also over consumed that night and when he saw Larry lying on the ground, he lay down on top of him and cried, “Speak to me Larry, speak to me!” Another partygoer leaned over and whispered to Bretz, “Won’t you save one of the litter for me?”
On yet another occasion, excessive drinking led to a mass dunking of students and Bretz in the garden pond, much to the probably disgust of Bretz’s neighbors.
Aside from the parties at Boulderstrewn, some of Bretz’s own bizarre behavior patterns probably concerned his neighbors as much as drunken reveling. First, there was Bretz’s habit in winter months of following his cold water basement showers with what he called a snow-rubdown. This was basically a nude junket into his backyard, where he would scoop up big handfuls of snow and rub himself all over with it.
Then there was Bretz’s one-man battle with neighborhood pets – mostly cats. The Bretz yard was set up as a bird sanctuary and feeders and nesting places were found in abundance. All other creatures, however, were advised to stay out of the yard, especially cats, who were routinely the focus of thrown rocks and shotgun blasts.
Bretz ended up in court due to the shots he took at one big tom cat. But after he agreed to abandon the gun in favor of humane cat traps, he found out that he had some fans in the neighborhood. An anonymous card from the fictitious “Homewood Cat and Gun Club” arrived at the Bretz household with the simple message of “Good Hunting!”