Loudin Wainwright III and I both attended same boarding school in what was then rural Delaware. Rumor has it Loudin wrote "Dead Skunk" about his schoolboy experiences there, as well as the song whose title I have appropriated for this posting. Loudin's got a couple of decades on me, but his Middletown, Delaware looked a good deal like mine; endless acres of corn and soybeans, flatland with a beechwood fringe and wooded gullies running down to long ponds and saltwater creeks. People fished for food under bridges. The corner store sold muskrat. There was poverty and vestiges of segregation there for those with eyes to see, but Middletown was still more the Eastern Shore than Eastern Sprawl.
Two decades have obliterated that Delaware. New Castle County south of the C&D canal is now a dizzying succession of subdivisions and box stores. A toll road parallels the old Dupont Highway, making Philadelphia an easy 1 hour commute. The farms sprout high density housing. Open space is at a premium and one of the few large tracts of green is my old school, sitting on close to 2,300 acres surrounding Noxontown Pond in a sea of sprawl.
I'm going back to my old school tomorrow. I'm at a place in my life when I can look at my boarding school years without the glare of teen-aged resentment. One of my favorite English teachers is now its Headmaster, and for all its conservative past the school is no more static than its environs. It is deeply concerned about the unchecked development of the Middletown landscape, but is also trying to engage more directly with the local community. I am going to try and help the school explore conservation options for its holdings that would add value both to that institution and to important natural and community resources. Its tax exemption does not mean its lands are secure from either development or eminent domain. A conservation easement could make those unwanted outcomes increasingly unlikely. We shall see.
I leave late tonight, heading out of the dark toward that glowing horizon. I'll fill you in if there's still a diamond in the rough in the Diamond State.