Pluff Mud Chronicles


By David Farrow and Charles W. Waring III


T.S. Eliot nailed it. April truly is the cruelest month. In April of 1978, I was possibly a month from finally graduating from college. It had been quite a slog. After leaving George Washington University in the spring of 1976, I was determined to drop out of college with all due haste despite imprecations from friends and family.

In August of 1976, I moved into a tiny apartment above the beauty shop on Wentworth between Pitt and Coming. After a semester of painting houses (rather poorly, I might add), I decided that a whole range of opportunities awaited me if I were to go back and flunk trigonometry just one more time.

In January 1977, Leo Sayer was telling everyone he knew that he was in a spin; you know, you made him feel like dancing. Had I stayed at GW, I could have graduated that semester. However, my major was political philosophy and that was not offered at the College of Knowledge so I had lost a year. At this point, it was a question of hours. I could have discoursed on Locke and Rousseau and like Leo could have danced the night away but without an astronomy lab, trigonometry and a course called “How To Use The Library,” I would not receive a degree. (Quick aside: The library course became required my senior year. On numerous occasions I pointed out that in my case such instruction was superfluous. After all, I must have figured it out if I had gotten this far.)

Spring semester of 1978, I had yet to take library science so, like it or not, I was going to learn the Dewey Decimal System or know the reason why. I also had yet to complete my senior thesis. Besides those two courses. It was all up for grabs. My other courses included swimming, the history of cinema, the history of colonial America and sex ed. One could posit that, as it was the late 70s, the last course was superfluous as well.

Spring vacation found me flunking colonial America and cinema. The first was because that class took place Wednesday evening from 6 to 9 p.m., cutting into valuable drinking time at the Piccadilly. I dropped the cinema course (the guy was nuts) and had to make up colonial America.

Thus it was that I spent every waking moment in April learning about 1650 export quotas in Virginia, Eric Blair’s take on totalitarianism, where biographies are in the scale of things — no happy hours, not one, no dates, no nothing. This continued from dawn to dusk, during days I thought would never end. Through thunderstorms and sterling days, the words “my nose” and “grindstone” were interchangeable. It worked. I aced almost all of it, and graduated that May with an aggregate 2.9999 for my college career.

Was it worth it?

You bet. I had a job shucking oysters two days after graduation and never looked back.


When I think of April, college and cruel, I cannot help but recall running from a fire at 2:30 a.m. while on spring break some 33 years ago. We all survived, shivering in our boxer shorts and watching the roof fall in shortly after we escaped. This was a motley group of about six SAE fraternity brothers from The University of the South; we had been to Camden for the Carolina Cup and were making our way back to school. We were at our friend’s country house, a good distance from his family home. Our host and his family really were kind to us; they found clothes for us to wear back to school and gave us some money to tide us through the return to campus. It was an example I will always remember.

As cruel as we thought the fire had been, we were far luckier than we then realized. We were able to gain the perspective of what it is like to be in a serious fire and know what that means to those less fortunate. I know we — literally forged in the fire —had more of a bonding time that one trip than we had experienced during our days hustling for actives as pledges.

The “Mountain” is where I saw things in other colors than those figuratively dyed with my beloved Lowcountry pluff mud. Of course, college should be a place to grow up, but I am not sure how that works today. The drinking age increase has created binge drinking that is not very social and more akin to what we did in seventh grade. Today’s students don’t smoke cigarettes the way we once did, which is a good thing; I’ll give them that. Some of the youngsters still know how to attend an adult function and shake hands and so forth, but they are not getting much practice at the levels where they wish to be ultimately. We had professors at our fraternity house regularly and thought that was normal; we stepped up when Dr. John Reishman walked in the door and we needed that kind of example. What does slamming vodka shots in the shadows offer?

How did we get here? One after another big bomb of “be what you want to be” exploded time and time again, and the role models in Hollywood, Washington, mainstream Christian establishments and elsewhere have not consistently given our youngsters much worth following. Yes, yes — exceptions abound, but look at the trends. No one wants to be a “fuddy duddy” sort, but the future belongs to those who know where we have been and what is lasting. Today’s social chaos has “cool roots” of rebellion that are cyclical and normal, but the results on campus are pretty ugly and not your average protest. See how conservative speakers are attacked violently and forced to leave campus without talking. This is some “free speech” that the left purportedly embraces.

Civility is walking the plank at the urging of quick tempers on all sides of discussions; we as a nation get closer to falling off with our hands bound, tumbling into deep and murky waters. It is instructive to see what we really think of our fellow humans on deeper levels than a “like” on Facebook; try getting someone to dissect the nuances between being nice and kind and comparing the former to understanding the nature of true grace.

It is the big stuff, way above our individual pay grades that matters — and it always has. Today’s college students are more likely to be hanging out with witches than showing their faces in respectable places of worship or even contemplating a chapel service on campus. The adults who are supposed to be leading the way are often too busy attacking any remnant of tradition without thinking through the social consequences of following Saul Alinsky. No matter your political flavor, today’s cultural battles leave suicide victims and drug overdose cases on our obituary pages. Isn’t it time we decided to fight battles that have eternal consequences and rewards? May your April not be the cruel sort; rather, let gentle and cleansing April showers flow and be one where you are part of the solution in helping young persons deal with their challenges, offering perspective that comes from wisdom.

If you have a legend for us to uncover or a historical quirky point you wish for us to address, please send same to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, please email David Farrow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Mercury newspapers can be found at the following locations:


Buxton Books

Caviar & Bananas

The Meeting Street Inn (Rack)

Clair's Service Station, Folly Rd. (Rack)

Harris Teeter, Houston-Northcutt Blvd. (Rack)

Mt. Pleasant Library, Mathis Ferry Rd. (Rack)

Pitt St. Pharmacy

The Square Onion, I'On (Rack)