By: Jerry Barksdale
The girls were excited. We were going to the 1989 Cotton Bowl in Dallas where the Arkansas Razorbacks would rub the noses of the UCLA Bruins in a mud hole. I’d never attended an out-of-state football game. And I’d never been trapped in a car for 667 miles with three women who were rabid Razorback fans. The bloom of my 15-month marriage to “Arkansas Pat” (not to be confused with my good friend and sometime redhead, “Tanner Pat”) was still on the rose. Pat’s two daughters, Audra, 21 and Leesa, 17, were two of the finest and prettiest little hellions I ever met. Both had been born in Auburn to parents from Marked Tree, Arkansas, the center of the universe and the largest and most cultured wide speck in the road. In other words, the Paris of Arkansas. They loved Auburn and they loved Arkansas. My point in this: Crossing a rabid Auburn fan with a rabid Arkansas fan is like mating a wild hog with a feral tomcat. Nature never meant it to be.
My experience with girls was limited to my sweet little Shannon who use to climb onto my lap and says things like: “My Daddy is my hero.” I didn’t know that little girls grew up, drank beer, smoked cigarettes and wrecked cars. Audra and Leesa are the reason Pat developed her immutable law, “Never give a teenager an equal break.” They are always up to something, you bet.
It was decided that we would travel to Dallas in my modest little Ford Escort, a runt of a car I drove from Huntsville to my law office in Athens. “It’s gas efficient,” I said.
The plan was to drive from Huntsville to Memphis, spend the night with “Nana Sue,” the girls’ grandmother, then proceed to Dallas. We hadn’t gone a block before Audra began slandering my car. “I don’t want to ride in a ‘box on wheels.’” That’s what she called my little car!
The girls hatched a plan to borrow Nana Sue’s big land yacht Lincoln Town Car so we could ride to Dallas in style. I smelled trouble. Nana Sue wasn’t the grandmotherly type who wore her hair in a bun and baked cookies for neighborhood kids. In earlier years she had partied at Elvis’ mansion, operated a liquor store, and had firm opinions about every subject and wasn’t hesitant to express them. I was afraid of Nana Sue and answered yes’um and no’mam. She was very particular about her Town Car. When a kitten crawled beneath the hood and took a nap on the fan blade, Nana Sue complained loudly about the blood and cat hair slung on her car.
We departed for Dallas in Nana Sue’s 18-foot, two-ton, 8-cylinder behemoth, blowing out gas, the stereo surround sound blasting, and the girls calling their hogs.
“Wooooeee pig! Soooey!
Wooooeee pig! Soooey!
Razorbacks – Razorbacks
In Dallas, we stayed at Loews Anatole, the same hotel where the Razorback team and fans were lodged. An atrium ran from the ground floor to the top. When someone tooted in the lobby, we could hear it on the 15th floor. We all piled into one room. Our single bathroom quickly looked like a Bed, Bath & Beyond. It was crammed with oils, lotions, ointments, sprays, cosmetics, powders, perfume, emollients, rubs, combs, brushes, dryer, tweezers, curlers – a veritable nightmarish hell for a man. I couldn’t find space for a toothbrush! And another thing, I discovered women don’t use three towels when six are available. They use every one of them and right away.
Leesa saw a candy bar inside a drawer that was fastened with a plastic tie. She threaded her hand inside and pulled out a chocolate bar. “Look what I found,” she said and reached for another one.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Audra said.
“It’s complimentary,” Leesa said. Then she pulled out cheese. We ate all of the candy and cheese. It sure was delicious. The hotel even provided complimentary wine. We helped ourselves to that, too. Nothing like staying in a classy hotel.
The girls wanted to attend a big New Year’s Eve party at the hotel. Leesa was underage, but determined to attend. Pat hatched a plan. I would pretend to be an old, oil-rich Texan escorting his young wife. “Rich Texans have young wives,” Pat said. “They won’t even notice.” Leesa wore a black velvet dress and Pat’s mink, and we were ushered in like celebrities. No I.D. check. Even though it has been 28 years, I hope that information never becomes public. A 48-year-old man with a 17-year-old on his arm! Gloria Allred will sue my socks off. I’ll be kicked out of the Senior Center.
It was past midnight when we finally got to bed. Then the Razorback fans in the lobby began calling the hogs. “Wooooeee pig! Soooey!” It sounded like they were in bed with us. I finally dozed off around 5 a.m. The Razorbacks got their noses rubbed in a mud hole, a 17-3 loss. I figured they didn’t sleep any better than I did. We checked out and that’s when I learned the candy, cheese, and wine weren’t complimentary. About $175, as I remember. I learned that you pay to stay in a classy hotel.
We departed for Memphis in Nana Sue’s land yacht; a quiet bunch we were, no blasting stereo and no calling the hogs. I pulled in for gas. “Look! We get a free car wash,” Pat said.
“Something tells me we shouldn’t do that,” Audra said.
“Why not? It’s free,” Pat said.
“I wouldn’t do it, Mama.”
The car came out of the wash tunnel, and we tore out for Memphis. “Oh my God!” Audra exclaimed.
The antenna had been pulled out by the roots and it was dragging behind the car and sparking on the pavement.
“Nana Sue isn’t going to like this,” Leesa said.
And she didn’t, she really didn’t. I bought a new antenna and had it installed. All in all, including “free” chocolate bars, cheese, wine, and a new antenna, the 1989 Cotton Bowl trip was expensive. We should have gone in my box on wheels. I never borrowed Nana Sue’s land yacht again. Years later, when they invited me to accompany them to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, I declined.
By: Jerry Barksdale