Mrs. Wooten’s Wagoneer

The Jeep Grand Wagoneer’s design virtually never changed, making it one of the few automobiles that connected entire generations of people.


Kelly and I had long since fallen in love with the classic lines of the Grand Wagoneer. The legacy of the car is renowned; many credit the Wagoneer for inspiring the concept of a luxury SUV. It competed with Range Rovers because it offered finer appointments to a truck-based platform more often associated with rugged austerity. Wagoneers were a staple of WASP culture, the preppy automobile of choice for lawyers and doctors and their private school kids.

These days, the cars are symbols of a vintage culture that floats further and further away. Put a Christmas tree on the roof rack and a wreath on the front grill, and you have enough Lands End kitsch that you can probably leave the kids out of your holiday card photo. I’ve always wondered about who drives these things and what kinds of lifestyles they might lead.

So when we spotted a Grand Wagoneer around town, it was interesting to see not just the car but who was behind the wheel.

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Ronnie

On the legend of a man who had more stories than any single person could remember.


Ron Kraybill was there when the Yankees won the 1977 World Series in the sixth game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and after they won, he joined a mob of people who jumped over the outfield wall in celebration. When he made it to the field, Ronnie tore up a roll of sod from the outfield, and brought it back to New Jersey, where he planted it in my grandparents’ back yard.

There was the time at a different baseball game that a player was injured, and Ronnie’s instinctive response was to jump the wall (again) and help the man himself. He realized when he saw security chasing him that it was a bad decision. He was arrested.

Ronnie occasionally brushed up against the law, sometimes quite literally. There was the time that he was so distracted at a police check-point, what with trying to quickly summon his driver’s license and registration, that he inadvertently nudged his car against the officer.

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The Conference

Of air-conditioned ballrooms, name tag lanyards, and drink tickets–and whether or not conference-going is worth it.


Let’s begin with the setting: an opening keynote session, held in a wide hotel ballroom, the kind created by throwing open the Godzilla-sized accordion dividers that normally parse one cavernous hall into smaller ones, filled with rows and rows of chairs, all on top of carpet patterned in inoffensive colors, all designed to hide stains and wear. A stage is set up at the front with a podium and colored LED lighting for effect, framed by two giant projection screens on either side.

There are about 500 of us, and most all of us fit into roughly one of a handful of categories: community college fundraisers or marketers, or board members, presidents or administrators with those responsibilities. We are there to learn the latest tricks of the trade, to hear stories of successful programs, to network. We are from all over the country, from big and small schools, rural, suburban, and urban, historic and new, and so forth.

Professional development of any strain has never particularly been my cup of tea. Maybe it’s my background as a teacher, but somehow the pedagogical styles of just about every training program I’ve completed reek of elementary school-aged tactics. Which is fine, of course, if you’re working with ten year-olds, but a bit demeaning otherwise.

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