Today we ventured to the book store to purchase our Fighting Okra paraphernalia! I’m sure you’re thinking, “What’s this Okra thing all about?” Delta State University’s official mascot is the Statesmen. And it is lame. Yes, I know that many Delta State alumni will disagree with me and accuse me of blasphemy! The older generation of alumni frowns on the popularity of our un-official mascot, the Fighting Okra. However, since the 1980s it has grown in popularity. Simply put the image of a politician is not particularly frightening. Wait? Some politicians are frightening but in a very different way.
Legend has it that the Okra was the inspiration of the DSU baseball team. I heard one story that the baseball field was once an okra patch and one stubborn plant returned seasons after the field was converted into a baseball diamond. I do know that tall baseball players clad in all green look similar to okra pods. The angry looking okra cartoon is much more villainous than an athlete. Its sinister sneer could be intimidating except that you do notice that it is a violent vegetable leering at you. There are really too many stories to tell, but as the popularity grew so did the tall tales. Heck, plus cheering for a “Lady Statesmen” is like cheering for a “straight lesbian.”
When I was a student… ten years ago(!!!!)…a student brought the cartoon character to life. Brian Formby made the first Fighting Okra costume from a green sleeping bag to be worn on the side lines. He converted the green sleeping bag into the angry veggie with a donation from Lynn Sullivan. She gave her father’s boxing gloves and boots. Paired with some funky green leggings, the Fighting Okra was brought to life. Way back when I was a student, the book store only carried one t-shirt and a coffee mug with the un-official mascot. Today, there were over a dozen items with the Fighting Okra! The items range from shot glasses to hoodies and beanie veggies to baseball caps. Wow, how the Okra has grown!
The popularity of the Okra is not the only thing that has changed since I graduated in 1999. My favorite eateries way back when were Airport Grocery and A la Carte! Both are still good, but not excellent. They have lost something. Airport moved away from the airport and A la Carte changed ownership. You really can’t be great forever. And I am sure my memories of all my friends and the wonderful times I had in college has clouded my current judgment. I have found two new spots that are absolutely fabulous. Please if you visit Cleveland, Mississippi stop by Hey Joe’s or the Warehouse, two super restaurants with great atmosphere, excellent service, and really good food!
On this recruiting trip I was able to look back at my time here at DSU. I loved every minute of it. I recall the hell of my first semester. I think I had all the toughest professors. I visited one of those professors today. Dr. Elizabeth Sarcone was heading to class when I popped in her office. I wanted to say hi, because after three semesters of Sarcone the Terminator, I actually learned something. I only got to spend a few moments with her, but I thanked her for encouraging me to write. I always respected her for teaching with fervor and integrity. I remember her never compromising her educational philosophy even on a bonehead like me. It was wonderful to see her, shake her hand and thank her!
All in all today was a wonderful day. Our trip was extended because we are speaking to a room full of pilots tomorrow. Great break for us! I visited with several librarians tonight as Amazon ate more food. She ate a gallon of loaded baked potato soup today at the Warehouse. Tonight it was more Mexican food! Whether it is an Okra or a Statesmen it is still my first home away from home. Whether it is Airport Grocery or Hey Joe’s this place has a special place in my heart. Whether it is a librarian or a rocket scientist my life is blessed from all the wonderful people I meet along the way.
Learn More about the Okra…