I met Stephanie Durell ’14 in her common room in our entry. We settled into the comfy armchairs – one of which had mysteriously appeared overnight – to chat about small-town life, experimental splinting tactics and Fishy the fish.
Let’s start with a little icebreaker. If you had to describe yourself in three words …
Stephanie Rachel Durell.
Tell me about your hometown, Plympton, Mass. Is it anything like Williamstown?
It’s smaller. I came to Williamstown and saw Spring Street and was like, whoa – stores. Downtown Plympton is a liquor store and a graveyard. So moving to Williamstown was like … moving to civilization. I went to high school 30 minutes away from my house, and people thought I’d made up my town. I was like, “I live in Plympton,” and people were like, “Ok, where do you really live?” Also I live down the street from a llama farm.
Do you go visit the llamas? What are the llamas like?
They’re kind of scared of me, usually. There’s only one I can feed.
Do you think you’re going to be a small-town girl for good?
Yeah … I get really overwhelmed by cities. And cars. I’m either going to be a hermit or live in a small town. Preferably a small town. Some of my friends from small towns are in city schools and I just don’t know how they can do it. There’s so much constant commotion.
Yeah, I know, I’m from Chicago – and this is going to sound cliché, but cities are just so removed from nature.
You can’t go hug a tree!
Literally! Well, there actually are trees. You could hug them. But people would probably stare at you more.
I know you’re really into outdoorsy-ness – what is it you like about hiking and being outside?
It kind of reaffirms that you don’t need all the material comforts that we live with. And you can just enjoy what’s around you. It’s so much less stress; I can just be where I am.
You’ve done a lot of WOC [Williams Outing Club] trips, haven’t you?
I did WOOLF [Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as a First Year], WFREC [Wilderness First Responder Emergency Care], snowshoeing over Dead Week and the Grand Canyon over spring break.
Since you’re a future WOOLF leader, do you feel ready for anything that might happen to your WOOLFies after the WFREC class?
It might make me a little more cautious, but I think mostly it makes me more confident. Like at rugby practice the other day a girl broke her finger and it was literally poking downwards, and I was like, “I could totally reset that.” We were talking, and she had taken WFREC when she was a WOOLF leader, and we learn how to splint things with everything. We had to splint her finger, and the EMT was looking for a popsicle stick and I was like, “I could splint it with a cleat.” And she was like, “I could splint it with a French fry.”
I don’t think that would actually work. Crispy ones. [She laughs.] It would not work. We could probably have used a pen though. That would make more sense.
Would it really work with a cleat?
Yeah. You can splint it with anything.
Doesn’t it have to be straight?
Your fingers aren’t straight to begin with. I mean, we learned how to splint things with sleeping pads and sticks. If you broke your femur right now I could traction-splint you.
I do not want to break my femur right now. Or while I’m hiking. That’s the worst bone to break, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s one of the top five deadliest medical emergencies you can get in the backcountry. There’s so much blood you can lose from your femur … you can bleed out into your thigh apparently. There’s something wack about it. I’m hoping not to do that ever.
Have you thought about what your group’s schwag is going to be?
Flandex. Flannel shirt and spandex. In high school there was this girl that wore that almost every day in winter. We had a day where we had to wear flandex to soccer practice. It was pretty cool.
How is Fishy doing?
He’s good. I fed him this morning and talked to him.
What do you talk to him about?
I say good morning. Tell him about my day. Sometimes when he’s hiding he comes out to look at me. He has two trees that he hides behind, little flowery things. I think he associates when I turn on the light in the morning with food. Fishy knows me.
Is he a goldfish? What kind of fish is he?
No, he’s a betafish. Have you never met him?
[After admitting I haven’t, Stephanie promptly leads me into her room and introduces me to Fishy, who is a classy shade of maroon with feathery fins. He comes out from behind his flowers to say hello. After a minute of cooing and waving to him, we resume our seats in the common room.]
Were you a tomboy when you were little?
Yeah, I wore my brother’s clothes until I was in maybe fifth grade. And then I realized I was a girl at some point. I have a brother who’s two years older and a neighbor, Dave, who’s four years older. We played in the woods all the time and made forts. The boys would go to war and they’d make me “Secretary of War” because they said being a secretary was women’s work. And they told me I could go collect the chicken eggs [from the neighbor’s coop] because the women get to collect the food, too. But I hated collecting eggs.
That’s really funny about the Secretary of War. I wonder when they realized that’s actually a really powerful position…
I think they thought it was basically a desk job, like answering the phones. Sometimes they’d let me fight.
Well, they were older, too, weren’t they?
Yeah. We would go play football and explore the woods and jump off things and stuff. So I think that toughened me up, ’cause I probably got tossed around a bit. I’m really grateful I had that kind of a childhood where I could just go play in the yard.
So, being a vegan, I’m sure you get this question a lot –
[Stephanie is too quick for me.] What do you eat?
What do you usually answer to that question?
Everything. I don’t know. Fruits and veggies and double-stuffed Oreos. That’s a big part. And peanut butter. Peanut butter is a food group.
How did you decide to join the rugby team?
In high school I did track and soccer and wrestling. I’m not that good at soccer and girls can’t do wrestling, so [rugby] seemed like a mixture of soccer and wrestling kind of. So I joined the team and I really like the people. It’s the most diverse group I’ve encountered in my life. Which makes it cool, you get a lot of perspectives because people come from a lot of different places.
How long do you think you guys are going to last for Scrumfest? Do you think you’ll pull off the whole day?
I think if I say no I’m going to have a lot of haters. So I’m going to play it safe and say yes, we’ll go 24 hours. It’ll be interesting. It’s like, a day.
You get your fair share of knocks from rugby, though. I remember the time you told me seven rugby girls had to go to the Health Center after a game…
That happened again on Thursday! There’s an orthopedic clinic on Thursdays, so I think there were six or seven of us that went.
You guys are crazy.
A little bit. I took Meredith [Yang ‘14] to the ER yesterday too. I had never been to the hospital before Tuesday, and now I’ve been twice in one week. It’s fun.