I’m sitting in the Circle on the Ole Miss campus on a July evening, a scene that seems to be perfect for the story I plan to write.
Oxford, Mississippi, is a university town. In fact, it almost always has been. Those who settled the town in the 1830s hoped to sway the Mississippi legislature and lead them to establish the state’s university in these wooded north Mississippi hills. In the 1840s, the vote came down to Oxford and Mississippi City on the coast for the location of the university. Oxford won by one vote, and the University of Mississippi has been here ever since.
I give that brief history lesson to say Oxford and Ole Miss are irrevocably intertwined. The city isn’t a sprawling metropolis by any means (although it has added about 10,000 residents in the last 10 years and is growing rapidly), and the settlement has a profound impact on the life of the university and vice-versa.
When we find ourselves in between semesters here in Oxford, the town grows much quieter than it is during the fall and spring terms. Sports are on a hiatus, students are on vacation and professors (save a few) are at home recharging for the next time classes meet. Not every college town experiences this lull the same way that Oxford does, but the smaller towns probably feel something similar once or twice a year.
We currently find ourselves in one of these times of purgatory, stuck between the fall and spring semesters, and that lends the question: if so much of Oxford’s livelihood comes from the student population, what is there to do during the summer? I’m glad you asked.
I’ll drop a few ways I’m staying busy here during the summer and a few that I haven’t done but are still there for the doing, if that makes sense. You’ve made it this far in the story, so you might as well keep reading.
Visit Rowan Oak
I’ve toured William Faulkner’s historic home here twice (I think) in the five-plus years I’ve been a student at Ole Miss, both times being for a class project. My group in Journalism 375 (that’s photojournalism for those who aren’t familiar with the J-school) had to produce a short documentary of sorts for our final project in the class, and we decided to focus on Rowan Oak.
I learned a lot during that time, and since Faulkner is one of my favorite authors, I really enjoyed it. I mean, he did win a Nobel Prize and everything, so it’d be worth checking out if you’re in town and have never stopped by. Or even if you have. It’s very picturesque, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
Talk bout the Rebs
When there are no sports going on in the college realm, that doesn’t mean that the season really stops. SEC Media Days are on the horizon, and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s already football season in the South. Getting on the Twittersphere and talmbout the Rebs (or even on your favorite blog such as this one) is sure to help you prepare for the highs and lows that will inevitably come beginning in September. Some might call this “talk therapy,” but since I am not a licensed professional, I have to stay away from that term, at least officially.
Walk/run on the local trails or around campus
I’m trying to get back in some semblance of shape, so I’ve been doing this one more than usual lately. One of my roommates is pretty big into running and going to the gym and that sort of thing, so it comes naturally to him, but that’s not the case with me. Still, it’s pretty cathartic and gets the endorphins (another therapy word!) going, so I’d highly recommend this.
Also, pick your time outdoors strategically. The ever-encircling heat towel that is a Mississippi summer is here, and we don’t want any of you having a heat stroke or something like that.
As we as a society continue to give COVID-19 these hands, pretty much all of the restaurants in the area are back open for dine-in business. Oxford is obviously a food Mecca in the South, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Ajax, City Grocery, Handy Andy, Phillip’s Grocery, Taylor Grocery, Lamar Yard (new!) and Proud Larry’s are just a few of the places I frequent.
If you see me in one of these places, no, I will not buy your meal, but you’re welcome to buy mine.
For a small city, Oxford is blessed with a strong bar selection. They are also not as hectic right now since the students are out of town, and each place has its own vibe and clientele. I won’t spend a lot of time on this one since you probably already have a favorite watering hole here, but hey, they’re still open in the summer.
Yes, I strategically placed “eat, drink and be merry” in that order.
Oxford is a cool place and consistently ranks among the best college towns in America because of its literary and music culture as well as everything that the university has to offer. When you’re here, especially during the summer, life isn’t rushed. I feel very blessed to be here, and if you live here (or visit) you should too.