By Sonny Scott
The wife had her “game face” on. I knew something was up, and wondered what might be wrong.
“Robert wants an Ole Miss jersey for Christmas,” she began, “and he didn’t know how you’d take it. His brothers are giving him a hard time. He has his heart set on going to school there.”
Well! A fine kettle of fish this is! This kind of thing that happens in other families, not among decent, God-fearing, hard-working, honest folk like us! It’s like having your daughter take up with a sailor with tattoos from stem to stern and chain-smoking Picayunes… or having your son come home from college with a thrice-divorced forty-year-old woman and her collection of bairns in tow. Go to Ole Miss, eh? Well, we’ll see about that!
(Just joking, folks…see my tongue in my cheek here?)
As a three-time graduate of MSU, I’m often assumed to be a cowbell-clanging partisan. After sixty-five years in Chickasaw County, I am well aware of the mutual disdain that the effete, prissy snobs from Oxford and the uncultured rednecks from Cow Collitch have for each other. Shucks, I’ve even been known to contribute a bit of trash-talk to the fray. (Being awakened from a sound sleep by a drunken good ole boy with Colonel Reb and Rebel flag stickers all over his 1995 Nissan and the dog coops on its back who just can’t wait to rub it in after an Egg Bowl brings out the worst in me.)
Truth is, college never inspired the kind of loyalty in me that old Woodland School did. Mississippi State was the logical place for a farm boy who lived thirty miles from the campus, and was intent on working his way through school. MSU admitted me, tried hard to wash me out, and grudgingly granted me degrees – after cashing a lot of my checks, working my tail off, and being unaccountably persnickety and arbitrary. I was grateful for the chance to make a nodding acquaintance with western culture, gather a few facts like a hound’s hair picking up beggar lice, and learn enough mathematics to make my living trying to teach it. But fond memories of carefree good times and youthful hijinks? ‘Fraid not. 7:00 AM calculus classes, 3-6 chem labs, ROTC drills, working off demerits, and holding my tongue during tongue-lashings from pompous and ignorant cadet officers or conceited teaching assistants…these are my memories of my undergraduate experience.
So, Robert, if you want to cast your lot with the Old Mess Rabble, you got my support, old buddy. I have always been proud of you, and if you want to cast your lot with the city boys in O-town, then go for it. Paw will be your Number One Fan.
I can’t resist giving you a bit of advice, however. Remember that college is expensive, inefficient, and will waste tremendous amounts of your time and money if you allow it. I encourage you not to dismiss out of hand the idea of doing your first two years at a community college. They are less expensive, and some of them offer real value for the money.
If you discover that you have a real passion for scholarship, then give it your best shot wherever you decide to go to college. Just don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into enjoying an extended adolescence on borrowed money, only to wind up deeply in debt with no useful knowledge or skill to show for it.
Oh, and one more thing: If you come home in one of those “We’re not snobs, We’re just better than you!” shirts, it’s going to be a chilly Thanksgiving.
Sonny Scott is a Chickasaw County resident and a community columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.