Deer hunting and heavy reading are staples in Cochran’s office

In a portrait sitting on a coffee table in his office, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is smiling as he proudly shows a fat fish he caught.Meanwhile his staffers sit around and discuss turkey hunting.

New legislative aides Will Todd, 24, and Elisha J. Blades, 22, fit into this environment with ease. Todd has a Mississippi twang; Blades has an Alabama one. Both have hunted, mostly deer, when they’re at home—Todd does so regularly.  Both are from small towns. Blades is a native of Sylacauga, Ala., a town of 14,000. Todd hails from Senatobia, Miss., a town of 7,000.

But don’t stereotype them as backwoods. They are savvy, well read, and engaging. Neither has had a problem transitioning to D.C.

“It doesn’t seem that hot compared to Mississippi,” said Todd, who feels settled with a network of friends from college.
Blades has noticed the lack of good sweet tea.

“I play it safe,” Blades said. “You get Diet Coke.”

And both are like fish in water when it comes to politics.

Before Blade moved here this year, she interned for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Throughout college, she worked in student government, finishing her senior year as class president.

“It was good preparation for real world politics,” she said. “I enjoyed being able to speak on behalf the students.”

Todd explained, “I’ve always wanted to come here, and the timing seemed right.”  

He began his job two weeks ago. In 2005, he graduated from the University of Mississippi, where he studied philosophy.
He enjoys reading the heavy stuff: Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Calvin and Martin Luther.   

He almost ended up working in Austin, Texas, but at the last minute decided to come to D.C.  

“I just loaded my car and came up here,” he said.

The future is still murky; he can’t imagine where he’ll be in a few years time.

Blades, who started work a month ago, graduated in May from Mississippi State University, where she studied political science.

She’s in the “post-college” state, she said, getting used to a more rigorous schedule. There’s no sleeping in and no skipping work like she could with classes. Friends and family feel far away, even though she has a lively social life here.

When she’s out, she likes to go to Bullfeathers—not necessarily because she likes the food, but because Teddy Roosevelt is one of her big heroes, and “Bullfeathers!” was one of Roosevelt’s favorite expletives.

Blades says her long-term aspiration is to be a chief of staff—or heck, why not president?