Neighbors: You're Not the Boy I Sent Away to College!

Feb 16, 2008


The tiny gold dolphin dangling from his ear on his return the first summer was just the beginning.


He hasn’t always been this way; that’s part of the conundrum. “I went off to college, and according to my mother, that’s when I began losing my ‘foundation’,” this recent graduate reports. When asked to describe this “foundation”, he happily—indeed, proudly—launches into a litany of principles and teachings central to his traditional, deeply religious upbringing here in the Bootheel. They include honesty, industriousness, thrift, regular church attendance, and general social conservatism. The first four apparently presented no problem for him during his years away from home; it’s the last of these areas in which, to the dismay of both his parents, he began “failing miserably” quite early on in his college career.

The tiny gold dolphin dangling from his ear on his return the first summer was just the beginning.

“My world has gotten bigger since I left home,” he remarks. “And yeah, my hair has gotten longer, too—‘rock-star long’, as my mother would say.” He continues: “But change happens to lots of people when they’ve been away at school. In the end, though, all I’m really wanting to do is become the man I was actually raised to be, the only way I know how.”

This lanky, easygoing fitness maven entered college intent on earning a degree in sports management, but switched majors after taking a survey course in environmental biology. This eventually led to ongoing and impassioned involvement in environmental activism. His outspokenness and organizing efforts—much to his parents’ discomfort—have seen him, while away, directly opposing policies backed by the Bush administration, an entity his mother and father have steadfastly supported across the board from the beginning.

“I don’t like to see my folks squirm, but we’re all going to have a lot of explaining to do to our grandchildren if we don’t rein it in and stop wasting what God’s given us,” says the young activist, who now plans to study law.

The golden-dolphin earring remains in the tiny box it came in while he’s back among the old ancestral ramparts, working to earn money for further schooling. High-level negotiations are currently in progress concerning the hair length that continues to be a keen source of contention between warring factions…

But in truth, though there is indeed some tension resulting from the unexpected cultural divide that has developed between parents and son since his college days, there is in fact no war. “My parents have said that I’m ‘out of the will’ if I start ‘agitating’ here at home,” he says. “But that tells you something about how we relate, when all’s said and done…I mean, we’re dirt farmers from as far back as anybody can remember. So basically there is no will.”