My experiences are far from typical. But maybe they can still add to your knowledge base a little. And from my perspective, I can only say, get the degree.
I dropped out of college to run a lab. It seemed like the right thing at the time, I felt like you did about college, and I was much happier spending my time in the lab, getting paid instead of paying. But things don't always work out as planned. I found myself forced to drop out of society, and the job market, for a few years. The last time I worked NT was at 3.51, Novelle has just gone to 4.0, Linux was a toy that was nice for CS majors to play with but no one would think of using for anything serious, and Unix (at least in my neighborhood) was HP/UX in the math department - lovely but horribly expensive machines us lowly PC admins could only dream of getting our hands on. Nothing is worse than an out of date admin without paper qualifications. Yes, if I were in a big city I could probably get some sort of job and eat, but I'd hardly be at the top of the food chain. Stuck out in the boonies without a big city job market to feed on, every attempt at finding employment now is a humiliating exercise in self-degradation.
There are jobs in the area in my chosen field, yes. But not all that many, and there are plenty of clueless dorks without a tenth of my real world experience, but with the paper qualifications, who get them. Guess what? Anytime there are more openings than applicants, folks like me can get a foot in, but anytime that is not true, regardless of experience, people that look good on paper can shut us out.
Don't expect to ever need to leave a major metropolitan area? Well, I didn't either, but I really had no choice. But the point is broader - the market for people with computer skills exploded before the labor pool was available, and this has made a career without the degree a viable alternative, BUT, it would be foolish to think that this will last forever. And when it normalises you'll have the same problem I have now, even in the tech towns. Suits never like to hire people without degrees for responsible positions, when they do it it is only out of necessity.
I have an uncle that learned this the hard way too. Like me, but much earlier, he decided that he liked working better than school. He started with Vic20s and very soon was raking in 6 digit incomes as a systems analysts at a series of major banks. He had it great for over a decade, for the simple reason that computers were new and people with his skills were in very high demand. As time went on, though, more and more CS and IS graduates came into the world, and the attitudes changed. It reached the point where he became unemployable, despite his stellar job history, because there were so many applicants with the paper qualifications that could replace him. He went from pulling in a great income doing what he loved, with constant offers from other companies trying to woo him away from whoever he was working for at the moment, to being practically unemployable overnight. Time after time, the jobs he applied for went to people with degrees, because they had the degrees, and when he finally shed his pride enough to apply for jobs lower on the ladder that didn't pay as well, he was told he was 'overqualified.' It's a horrible situation to find oneself in.
My advice? Go to college, play their stupid little games (and that is what they are, if you get an education in college in anything but sucking up to professors, lying to girls, and drinking or doing drugs it will be in spite of the system, not because of it) and get that stupid piece of paper. Realise that it's a game, don't take it seriously, but do take graduation seriously and make sure you get there.