Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tipping Johnny Reb's Cap

I have a calendar in my office from the Ole Miss Alumni Association. It, like most calendars, contains reminders of holidays and such, but also has references to significant events in the history of the University of Mississippi. My calendar tells me that tomorrow is a red letter day in the annals of my alma mater. On the 28th of June in 1882, Ole Miss became co-educational. As one who can personally attest to the joys (and frustrations) of sharing a campus with the feminine flowers of Mississippi's (as well as neighboring state's) gentility, I am of a mind to celebrate the occasion. I will, of course, keep my celebration to myself. My fond memories of flirtatious southern belles are not nearly as cherished as the peace I enjoy with my own beautiful bride.

As I was engaged to the woman I married for the first two years of my matriculation at Ole Miss, and married for the last two years, my experiences with other coeds was purely platonic, and my observations regarding the same, safely second-hand. I will admit, however, to living a somewhat wild and frenetic dating life vicariously through my buddies. While they often related to me that they considered me extremely lucky to have won the heart of Miss Brenda, an observation with which I heartily concurred, I was keenly interested in the relation of their extra-curricular exploits with the distaff side in the great game. It was not a completely prurient interest, mind you. I considered it part of my undergraduate educational experience, nay, requirement, to catalog as much knowledge as possible regarding the chase. Hadn't we always been reminded that our social education was just as an important part of our college tenure as was our book learning? Okay, that's all Barbara Streisand. Hearing some of my more talented story-telling friends' retelling of critical moments in the hunt for honey was actually some of the best laughs I can remember.

At the entrance to the campus on University Avenue, a statue of a Confederate soldier stands atop a memorial to the sons of Mississippi who fought and died in the War for Southern Independence. He holds a rifle at order arms in his left hand and with his right, shades his eyes to the rising sun. My first week on campus, I stopped to read the inscription and stood gawking upward at the face of the soldier as only a freshman would. A voice from behind me broke my reverie. "Legend has it," an upperclassman intoned sagely, "that if a woman leaves this campus for the last time with her virginity intact, he'll tip his cap."

As promiscuously promising as that legend was, the truth was not in it; if the frantic frustration of my friends was any indication. In fact, owing to its location in a dry county, and the rejection of amorous intentions suffered by the testosterone fueled half of the student body, Ole Miss was not so affectionately referred to as "The Home of Hot Beer and Cold Women." But, oh, the energy expended in search of that moniker's reverse.

One thing is certain, at least in the mind of anyone who has spent a waking hour on its campus, Ole Miss is home to the world's greatest collection of beautiful women. The building that now regretfully houses the Center for Southern Studies, or some such deep-fried stupidity, used to be known as McCain Hall, named in honor of a Mississippian, US Navy Admiral, and grandfather of one Senator John McCain. In my day, the building housed the Naval ROTC offices and classrooms. As it was strategically located at the nexus of Sorority Row and the rest of the campus, we proudly politically-incorrect midshipmen, when not closely supervised by our active duty instructors, would sit on McCain Hall's steps and loudly and raucously rank, on a scale of 1 to 10, the individual participants in a veritable fashion parade past our perches. I don't remember a ranking ever seriously assigned lower than an eight.

How horrible we were!

Ah, the good ole days.
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