The 36-year-old Gravel Switch man has gotten pretty good at lawnwork. He has been on the Centre grounds crew since October 2006 and had worked for a year for Chidester-Adams Landscaping of Danville. Prior to his Centre and Chidester-Adams job, he did landscaping jobs on a part-time basis.
The Centre job offers Followell the biggest lawn he's yet to work on.
"There's more than 100 acres here, and every day you're doing something different on a different part of campus," he says. "One day you're mowing, the next day planting trees and shrubs, the next day trimming, and the next day weeding. There's a lot of variety of things to do, but it's all outside."
Even in the winter, the grounds crew is busy, Followell says.
"You scrape snow from sidewalks, push off of parking lots and streets," he says. "There's always something to do, and even though it's cold, I still love being outdoors."
Especially busy times
While the grounds crew keeps the campus in a pristine shape year-round befitting the college's stature as one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges, there are several times of year that the workers are especially busy.
"You've got homecoming, and that's when you want everything to look nice for the alumni, and it's also when you've got the yellow and white mums representing the school colors," he says.
"And you've got graduation, and that's when you want to make sure all those hundreds of family members get to see what a beautiful campus their sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters spent the last four years on."
Followell has enjoyed not only the size of the campus but the people who populate it.
"The staff and faculty are all great and appreciative of what we do, and the students are nice to us," he says. "We respect each other."
Followell says he tries to respect the students' space, as well.
"If they're sitting under a tree reading a book or taking notes or if they're lying on blankets sunning themselves, I'll mow around them," he says. "A lot of times they'll offer to get up, but as a lover of the outdoors myself, I let them go ahead and enjoy themselves."
Followell's love of the outdoors has its roots in the farm where he grew up and worked in Gravel Switch. One of the six children, he spent 18 years working in the fields.
"It's hard work. It's long days," he says. "But I really loved farm work."
Bluegrass music and fighting fires
But as a kid, Followell had plans for other careers.
"I wanted to be a Bluegrass musician and a firefighter," he says.
While Followell pursued both careers, neither provided enough of an income to provide for himself, let alone him and his wife of 12 years, Mona Lisa Carpenter Followell, who is city clerk for Perryville.
He decided to go to work in a factory. While the pay was decent, where he worked was a downer.
"It was like being sentenced to jail or something," he says. "Those four walls always bothered me. I felt like I was being confined."
Followell went into landscaping, as a part-time worker, then with a landscaping company and now with Centre.
In the meantime, he has been able to follow his career goals, albeit as side occupations. He served for 12 years as a volunteer with the Perryville Fire Department before a knee injury sidelined him.
He has been a mandolin and guitar player for Bluegrass Central, a Bluegrass band whose gigs mostly include churches.
"God has really blessed me," he says.
"I've been able to do what I love to do - landscaping and firefighting and playing Bluegrass music - and, the most important thing of all, I have been able to do most of it outdoors."