Donnybrooking: “Armadillos, an Assistant Principal, and Rod Dreher”

Originally posted hereDonnybrooking is a blog that I have contributed to, off and on, for about three years, along with some buddies from Hillsdale College.


The carcasses of abandoned blogs litter the internet like the hollowed-out husks of dead armadillos on a north Texas highway, rocking in the dry wind. But even those armadillos had mothers once, mothers who loved them.

Lat rites.

Lat rites.

Where is Eric, our armadillo mother? Why does he not tend this fair garden? Why does he leave the blog to die? Does he, like noble Brutus, plunge the cold dagger of neglect into its groin with reluctance and remorse, or like the hateful Cassius, can he not strike the death-blow quick enough?Where is Eric? Yea, where is our armadillo mother? Why does he not shed a solitary lamenting tear for what once was? Oh beautiful, despised weblog!

Ye gods.

Hello everyone. There, there. Dry your eyes. It’s OK. Nothing ever dies on the internet! It attains immortality in a Google-cache, even if you try to get rid of it. We learned Google-cacheing from the ancient Egyptians, who Google-cached their kings so that they would live forever. Who says ancient history is irrelevant?

So I thought it would be fitting to use this tawdry little blog to post some news. I figure that some few people will read it, and that word of mouth and the Pony Express will see to the news getting around. No, I’m not engaged.

I’m going home. To Oregon. To Corvallis, to be specific. Starting August 1, I will be the Assistant Principal at Ashbrook Independent School in Corvallis. I’m pretty excited about it. Pretty happy.

It’s been a good three years I’ve spent in Alexandria (Virginia, mind you, not Egypt— I was talking about mummies up there, so I just wanted to clarify). A very good three years. I’ve enjoyed it very much, and I will miss it. But it’s time for me to go back home.



I’m going home because I want to know my parents as they grow older. I want to know my brothers not just as children that I grew up with, but as men. I don’t want my relationship with my family to consist of biannual visits and semi-monthly phone conversations. I want to be able to participate in their lives. I want to live with them, and I want them to live with me.

No, I’m not living at my parents’ house. That’s not what I mean. But I will be in the same town. I’ll be able to come by for dinner or Sunday brunch. My brother Graham and his wife Emily live a half-hour north of Corvallis. And on that note, Emily is going to give birth to their first child in August. I’d really like to be there. (It’s going to be a boy. I say this not because they “found out” from the ultrasound— Demarests never do that— but because Demarests always have sons. But I digress.) I’d like to get to know my brother as he becomes a father. And I’m really looking forward to being avuncular.

I’m going to be renting my own place. I might go for a house, I might go for an apartment. But it will cost between one half and one third of what it would cost to rent a comparable place anywhere in the DC-area. That’s a real savings. My younger brother Reid might live with me, too. I’m currently figuring out if I can pursue a “rent-to-own” option on a pre-foreclosed house. Now wouldn’t that be neat? Imagine it: getting a return on rent.

That’s really about it. I’m certainly happy about my new job, and I’m looking forward to starting work as a school administrator, but that’s not the main thing. That’s not the main pull. It’s the occasion, certainly (St. Paul says that if a man does not work, neither shall he eat, and he’s not lying), but it’s not the reason. The reason is that my family is there. My roots are there. I am from there. It’s home.

Little brother Reid. He's not actually an amputee.

Little brother Reid. He’s not actually an amputee.

When I think back over my time at Hillsdale, I realize that the circumstance of me being there— indeed of most of us being there— was a delightful irony. A blessed irony. But there I was. There we were, many of us thousands of miles away from home, learning about the importance of rootedness, of the family and the political order— yea, of the clan and the poleis. We burned with holy zeal for authentic and organic community— and not just for the idos of “community”, but for real communities! Yet there we were in one of the most contrived communities imaginable (college, not Hillsdale College per se), all of us far from home, abstracted from our families, uprooted from our communities of faith and place, and thrown into a giant Midwestern salad. And it was wonderful. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I really did need it, and by that I mean that I think it might have saved my life.I don’t wish to imply that everyone needs to do what I’m doing. I really don’t think that’s the case. I just know that it’s what I want to do. And that’s the truth— I want to do it. I really don’t need to. This isn’t a necessitous thing. It’s a labor of love. I’ve realized that I really do love my home enough to want to go back there. Probably until I die.

Life is full of irony. Properly understood, this is a thing to be celebrated, not a cause for incredulity and bitterness. Truly, at the most fundamental level, it is a cause of joy— Christ dying for the ungodly? Ironic. And for me, the irony of the past seven years is about to come full circle. And it is truly and wonderfully comedic. I’ll say, “And then I ended up back in Corvallis!” And we’ll laugh, because it really is funny! But we’ll laugh in happiness, not in derision. This is how my mother laughs, whenever she laughs. It’s the epitome of joy.

I don’t mean to sound so eschatological. I’m moving back to a very mundane existence (admittedly, this is part of the appeal). More irony will surely ensue. Life is full of it. Most of it is better left unheralded. Just accept it, smile, and move on.

One final note before I mercifully end this thing: the wheels started turning in my head about “going home” about eleven months ago when I met Rod Dreher. Yes, Rod Dreher. “Crunchy Con” Rod Dreher. He gave the after-dinner speech at the conference-opener of the Academy of Philosophy and Letters. (The APL is basically a bunch of chums from the National Humanities Institute who get together every June in Baltimore and have a conference. I’ve gone to it for the past two years, and it’s great.) His speech was about “going home”, and specifically why he went home. It was wonderful— Joel can attest, as he was there, too. We got to talk to Rod afterwards, drink whiskey-gingers with him, and pick his brain a bit about his brand of conservatism, the specifics of his talk, etc. I, for one, was well and truly impressed. The event has stuck with me ever since. While I’m not sure if the exact speech is available, Rod tends to repeat himself a lot, and a recent iteration of the same idea is available here. If that piece interests you, you really should consider buying his book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming.

Well, that’s all, folks. Feel free to discuss. Feel free not to discuss. Feel free to come visit the beautiful Willamette Valley and drink Pinot Noir with me in Oregon’s incomparable wine country. In general, feel free, because you are.


Love to you all.





  1. Uncle Trent is coming back to the west coast! We’re excited over here.

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