Schools and dorms can become your family

By David Broyles

October 17, 2013

Another one of my previously mentioned “cultural neutron bombs” snuck up on me or rather, I heard the idea about the time I fell in its crater, Wiley E. Coyote fashion.

A passing conversation basically ended up with the observation that many schools nationally growing food to help students was where the process began. American children fitting in time between the fields to get in some education.

So much of what was once an everyday skill has been turned into novelty by modern living I suppose. Take the ability to develop 35 mm film. With digital photography very much the order of the day, I feel like at some point I’ll be asked to demonstrate this in a booth at Horne Creek Farm. (Watch me construct a paragraph, right before we dye some yarn…)

I was struck, on getting back in the old news game (after more than a two decade hiatus), how much more schools were being asked to do that was once solely the realm of family life. It was as if I was Rip Van Winkle, waking up to find time had dissolved a lot of duties under parent’s job titles. True, you can argue much of this can be from my generation being influenced with values displayed on television, but I grew up in a town where neighbors once rushed over to see what was wrong if you fired up a lawnmower on Sunday.

One such change for me was my interview with new extension agent Whitney Sprinkle. She learned community building skills and profited greatly from her experience as a resident advisor for a dormitory.

What? Words like positive and community from a former RA? Impossible. Every RA I’d ever met was eventually as hard bitten as they come. I remember one sunny morning at Emory & Henry when I greeted RA Dan, with his feet propped up on a balcony railing. I was on my way to breakfast and told him he must have been bored with the quiet night there on campus and my law abiding classmates.

Dan smiled, tripped the fire alarm and proceeded to write up girls who seemed to stream out of windows and doorways across Hillman Dorm.

I think popular views of dorm life have been shaded by a shared bad experience many of us had from summer camp or governor’s school. Bear in mind I’m a small town kind of guy. Sure, I worked one summer with my Uncle Buford laying sod on Virginia Tech’s football field, but once I saw just one flock of students move between buildings at class change, I hurried home and applied to a college that was smaller than my high school.

I have learned some positive things about forbearance, concentration and hiding clothing in case someone decides to snag your stuff while you’re in the shower. I can remember one quiet evening punctuated by the burden of cramming a quarter’s knowledge into one evening of learning. My reading was interrupted by the ever-so-slight sound of soda bottles knocking together.

I got up to see what could have caused the noise to find the biggest soda machine in the dormitory parked in front of the Resident Advisor’s door.

Another dorm life memory I have is the night after I announced my engagement to my wife, Debbie, who was also a student at EHC. It was winter and a skiff of snow had fallen that day.

Sleep was interrupted by me being wrapped up in my blankets like a taco as dorm mates started carrying me somewhere. I remembered feeling the change of temperature and hearing traffic and a bit later I remember being swung back and forth as someone counted. The swinging stopped at the count of three and I thought I’d unwrap myself and find I’d been left at the side of the duck pond. The dorm wasn’t too far away thankfully.

It was then I hit the water. It wasn’t deep but it was fowl, ducky that is. I clawed my way back to the side and waiting classmates ushered me into a heated car and back for a celebration. Maybe I’d forgotten there’s some good to the dorm lifestyle after all.