We’ve all heard the old “When in Rome…” adage, and I admit there is some truth to it. But I think a more important rule of thumb is this:When surrounded by proud Spartans, do not tick them off.”

By Gus Bode

Like many readers last Wednesday, I was startled by LeNie Adolphson’s column attacking Southern Illinoisans’ home and lifestyle in favor of our more “exciting” neighbor to the north.

And while I understand she probably meant no harm in the disgust she displayed with her local surroundings, I feel the need to respond with a Southerner’s take on the situation.

Adolphson writes, “Illinois without Chicago would be Wyoming.” Maybe so, but let’s go back a little in history, darlin’. The entire purpose for Chi-town’s existence was spawned from Illinois’ growing agricultural economy.


So it’s kind of safe to say that Chicago without rural Illinois would be, conversely, Never-Neverland. The author also calls rivalry between urban and rural communities “petty and ridiculous.” This is right before she proceeds to give the proverbial middle finger to local towns like Sparta and Du Quoin on the grounds that their lack of science museums and jazz festivals is, essentially, making her time at SIU boring.

I considered loaning her my dog-eared copy of “Walden” for a new perspective, but she would probably lose interest without enough stimulating pictures to keep her amused.

And while you’re still reading, Ms. Adolphson, I’d like to point out something that perhaps has never occurred to you. Do you know WHY Chicago and the rest of America doesn’t know about most of Southern Illinois’ greatest secret treasures? Because we keep them a secret, so that stumbling upon their charm and beauty can remain a meaningful experience.

See, unlike pompous, self-exploiting tourist traps, we leave the discovering to those willing to discover it. These are the type of individuals we want to find us.

Why would we yearn for all of Chicago to crave our rural experience? So that we, too, can be invaded by inner-city crime and yuppie adventurers ready to turn our home into another urban nightmare?

Sure it’s fun for a little while for people like you. You can lace up your hiking boots on your token one Giant City afternoon per semester and tromp through some weeds like you’re posing for an L. L. Bean catalog. Bring the kids, too. It’s important that they learn to scoff at God’s natural gifts as well. While you’re at it, make sure they learn how to litter, too. But stay on the paved walkways, city girl. I’m not sure you could handle stepping in the gift my dog left beyond for you off the beaten path.

In your years down here, LeNie, I bet you’ve never gotten a chance to enjoy Southern Illinois simply because you don’t want to. You’re afraid you’d like it, and what would your fellow Chicagoans think of you then? Well, I don’t want you to know about it either. I hope you never enjoy the majesty of a sunrise from Bald Knob or the romance of a Camel Rock sunset.


I am officially uninviting you. It’s a shame you’ll never step down from that skyscraper of a soapbox you’ve built yourself. The air’s much fresher down here.

I have only one concern for you, LeNie, and that is your welfare while you are staying with us. You wrote that when you heard someone defending Southern Illinois, you almost choked from laughing. That can be dangerous, my dear. After all, you wouldn’t want to start choking only to find yourself surrounded by proud locals. Spartan or not, Lord knows I wouldn’t give you the time of day.