I was raised and lived in the same house in a suburb of Memphis where I attended the same private school from junior kindergarten through ninth grade. I lived in a safe little bubble of plaid skirts and saddle oxfords, dance classes and softball on the weekends.
You can imagine how surprised I was when my dad and mom told me we were moving to Oxford. This meant a new PUBLIC school, a new dance studio and new friends (I hoped). They said it would be an adventure. Let me tell you, adventure is not something a fourteen-year-old with ADD and anxiety issues craves. Plus, how could this State-loving, cowbell-ringing girl live in Oxford?
On my first day of school I met some really nice kids. They embraced me as the new kid. I’m not sure if they knew I was a Bulldog at that time or not since I hadn’t really shown my true colors. That would change on the first Friday of the school year. Since I could finally wear street clothes to school, I decided to honor Maroon Fridays. I think I wore maroon every Friday, missing only the occasional spirit day where I dressed like a baby, a Spice Girl, wore camo (which some say is State’s “other” color), etc. The kids and teachers finally just got used to my maroon-ness and tolerated it.
I experienced the Grove soon after moving to Oxford. I will always love the Junction, but the Grove was like another world. I went to games with friends, but refused to wear blue or red. It was actually fun and I guess I got swept up in all the excitement and freedom. I even considered going to Ole Miss for a very short time – breaking my dad’s heart a little, I think.
By my junior year in high school, the Ole Miss fog had faded and I had come to my senses. I’m a Bulldog to the bone. There’s no place else for me. I think my old anxiety issues had convinced me that I needed to go to school near my home. I’ll blame it on that.
During my junior and senior year, I was able to convince some of my life-long Rebel friends to go to State games with me and they all loved it. Most of them had never even been to Starkville or MSU. They all would ask me, “Where are the cows?” since their parents had told them the school was a big cow pasture. They were shocked at the beauty of the campus and how friendly everyone was. I had even almost “converted” one of my friends, but her parents absolutely refused to let her go to State and she returned to her roots. She is currently very happy at Ole Miss, just down the street (literally) from her family home.
Living in Oxford as a Bulldog does have its challenges. You get some glares in Walmart or at the Oxford Square when you are wearing a True Maroon shirt, especially when you are shopping with your mom, dad, and sister and all four of you are wearing an MSU shirt. I’ve had so many people pull beside me at a light and stare at me to see what kind of person would be driving around Oxford in a car with State stickers all over it. My family is often greeted with “Hoddy Toddy” and they always give a quick “Hail State” in return. When we meet new people, we are usually introduced as, “These are the Tuckers. They are State fans.” with a slight shake of the head like we were the “special” kids at the party. It’s also really hard to explain to people why we won’t be going to the Grove on game day or that our tailgating is done two hours south of town.
I like living in Oxford. The town is beautiful and full of history and the shopping is great. I have learned so much living there, but I believe the most important thing I learned is tolerance. I have had to understand that some people prefer to wear red and blue instead of the much more beautiful and flattering maroon.
In spite of a slight skirmish with a coach’s daughter over a “fins down” pose I put on Instagram, a key down the side of my mom’s MSU tag-bearing car, and not being selected as Diamond Girl due to my wearing a baseball jersey with Hunter Renfroe’s number to school (Dad’s theory), my time in Oxford has been great. I was raised in the Memphis area, but I believe I “grew-up” in Oxford. To quote my Mama Shirley when we told her we were moving to Oxford, “Oh, I love Oxford! I don’t have to go on the campus!”
I am a huge supporter of all Mississippi State sports: football, baseball, basketball, softball and any other. I’m looking forward to attending an MSU hockey game this year. Invite me to a bowling match, and I’m there. When State takes the field, the diamond, or the court, I have chills. I am in the game, living it with the players and coaches.
When they lose, I take it hard and sort of mourn the loss for several days. When they win, I am elated. I feel like I can win at anything. It makes me mad when I feel like State sports don’t get the respect they are due and I have been in many arguments with my Ole Miss friends over “issues.”(I have to work hard to draw on that tolerance I’ve learned from living in Oxford.) I get really defensive when people criticize our cowbells because I think they sound like the bells of Heaven.
I’m proud of our coaches. I feel they are ethical and truly care about our players. To me, they are trying to train up not only players but good citizens – preparing them for real life. I can’t attend any game without thinking of my dad. He loves MSU and State athletics with a passion that many can’t understand. He raised me to be a True Maroon State fan. He taught me to never give up on the Bulldogs, even when things aren’t looking great. I love Mississippi State and why shouldn’t I? It’s in my DNA.