*Please excuse any exaggeration and/or profanity. It is all for effect. I’ll never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Thanks for that one, Grandaddy.
“Lenny, I don’t think I need another. Early flight in the morning… you know how it is.”
“Sure thing, Basil Hayden’s, right?”
Damnit Lenny, you know me too well.
So there I am, anxious as hell to get the show on the road and worried about making my connecting flight in Atlanta, hunched over the bar staring into yet another bourbon drink as if it were a crystal ball for the weekend to come. Well, in a sense, it was. As I’m finishing up the drink a few of my classmates have wandered down from the other regular watering hole. They’ve had a few and they know that I have to leave town in 5 hours in order to make the early flight out of town.
“Oh! Cook’s here! Lenny, round of martinis.”
Thanks a lot, Julian. This isn’t going to end well. Sitting there discussing the diminished masculinity of the modern man while sipping straight gin with a drop of vermouth, I realize that I only have 4 hours to sleep before it is time to begin my journey. Down the hatch. Someone give me a ride home.
5 A.M. sure as hell is early after a night filled with the spirits. I hit the snooze.
5:30 A.M. Oh shit! I need to wake up, check in, and see if I can move my seat to the front so I can run off the plane and onto the next one. Twenty minutes for a plane change cuts it pretty close. Luckily, when you move your seat to the front on AirTran, it only costs about $60 and you get a nice, big, leather chair and free cocktails. (Sorry, Dad. It was an emergency.)
7:30 A.M. “Would you like anything to drink before take-off?” “You damn right! Excuse me… Screwdriver, please.” She laughs,”Certainly, sir.” I am under the impression that Screwdrivers were not invented, rather they were discovered as the nectar that flows from the Fountain of Youth. I’m feeling great, wearing my colors, and ready to get down to Oxford town to get the ball rolling.
9:30 A.M. *Ding* “You may now unfasten your seat belts.” I sprint out of the plane, nearly bulldozing the stewardess that was so kind to provide me with the fuel I needed to make the next leg of the trip, and search frantically for gate C17.
9:37 A.M. A-ha! . I have made it and they haven’t given my seat away. Exit row, perfect for a power nap. Sitting across the aisle from me, a ‘Horns fan. We start chatting, and of course, I give him my spiel and a quick Hotty Toddy while promoting the blog to anyone who would listen. At this point in the trip, my assumption had been confirmed, the ‘Horns and Rebels will love each other. This guy was a little older than me, but you could see his face glowing with excitement (and maybe a little nectar of the gods, too). Nap time.
10:40 A.M. “Uhhh, this is the Captain speaking, uhhh we have arrived at the gate, but we overshot the ramp by a few feet. Stay seated and we’ll get you off this plane as soon as possible. Welcome to Memphis.” Welcome to Memphis, more like welcome to Membabwe (shout out to Weston for that one). I mean, have y’all seen this?!:
Seriously? Are you even trying, Memphis? Anyway, it’s time to call one of my best friends, and a Memphrican, Cowboy. Yes, he goes by Cowboy. Evidently he had a coach in middle school who could not comprehend his name, J.P. Wynne, and decided to call him Cowboy John Wayne. Well, the moniker stuck, and as Bun B would say, “[Cowboy] Ain’t small m*tha f*cka, he’s taking up some space!”
11 A.M. The chariot to Oxford arrives. “What up Boss Man?!” “Not shit, Big Cat. Let’s get rollin’.” Onto 78 we go. Traffic hits 20 minutes outside of town. They weren’t lying about 100,000+.
Friday Afternoon and Night:
12:45 P.M. We meet my Dad, Mr. Newton, and my buddy Wells at the Beacon, an Oxford staple, for a traditional southern lunch: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cabbage, and corn bread. Damn, that was delicious. There isn’t much more to say about that, but it was a great and y’all should try it if you’re lucky enough to have to opportunity. The wallpaper throughout the main dining room is a checkerboard of red and blue with varying depictions of Colonel Reb as the focus of every other square. It’s old school and it isn’t aesthetically pleasing, but it gives you a sense that you’re home. The whole town is like that.
It was a really cool spot, the house… we didn’t stay in the barn. After getting settled at the house, the three of us, Cowboy, Wells, and I, decide it is time to hit the square. The day was young and we were chomping at the bit.
3:30 P.M. The first bar we enter, we encounter a table full of Beaumonsters (if you don’t know, you’re not cool enough), which is always a good sign because it means the establishment is a place where the beer flows like wine. Thank you, Jim Carrey.
4 P.M. I get a call from Cripps and Weston. They’re at our favorite spot, Proud Larry’s, with our buddy Zach. The crew is reunited as we politely request two tables to move in order to further enable us and our debauchery. The waitress approaches, visibly annoyed, and asks for our order. “I think we could all use a couple,” I say with half a smile, attempting to charm my way out of her doghouse. She smiled, it worked. We got our beers before other tables got their waters.
5 P.M. The table is covered in glass and we’re ready to make moves. “How ’bout a shot y’all?” Weston says while glancing around the table. “Perfect, Jameson it is,” I respond while immediately regretting that decision. That’s nothing new though, my mouth overloads my ass with a certain consistency that even Cal Ripkin Jr. could respect. The shots come, we throw ’em down, and everyone’s face turns a little bit sour. Quickly, we finish our beers and head to the next spot.
5:15 P.M. Boure. It is the best bar in Oxford. Sure, the Library is the establishment and can charge absurd covers because of it’s name, but if you want a great view of the Oxford Square, a great environment, and the ability to move around and get quick service, Boure is the spot. Take a look for yourself:
That’s the courthouse at the center of the square. The square whose streets are blocked off during big weekends so the masses can move freely to and from their favorite spots without worries of being hit by some drunken frat boy. This is the calm before the storm. Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures of the storm, but when you’re in the middle of a hurricane, your first thought isn’t to capture the moment, it is to live in it.
6:45 P.M. Thankfully, Cowboy stayed relatively sober during the afternoon and was able to get us back to the house where we found my dad and Mr. Newton preparing steaks and mixing drinks. This was a man’s trip if there ever was one. Each of us had a ribeye about an inch and a half thick, well-marbled, and tender as a filet. Sitting around the dinner table that night was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Sharing stories and bourbon over excellent food with people who know you better than you know yourself is not something to be taken for granted. I realize that those moments are few in number, but irreplaceable in magnanimity.
9:45 P.M. “Well, Johnny, I’d say it’s about that time to show you the madness that is downtown. These boys are well on their way, let’s take them down to the Square.” “Thanks, Dad.” We’re all showered up and about a pint deep, I’d say the man knows his timing. He is an accountant, after all.
10:30 P.M. We’re at the square and have no destination, only a goal. Let’s hit the bars. We try a few places, but none of them are satisfactory. We try the Library, but don’t feel like paying $40 a head to enter. Walking away from the line to get into the Library, we run into a couple a Texas guys with one thing on their mind. “Hey, what’s wrong with that bar?” “It’s $40 a head, about to be $60.” “Damn… oh well, the tail I’ve seen walking in there is worth it.” That’s right, the ‘Horns will pay to play. That’s why everyone loves to schedule them.
11 P.M. Wells has moved on to find some of his college buddies and Cowboy and I are a little dejected, like walking back to the dugout after starting a game 0-3 with a couple of backwards Ks. Then we get the call. “Thank God, Cripps and them finally woke up and they’re back at Boure.” The game went to extra innings and big-man Cripps stepped up to the plate and came through. Upon arrival, I shout to the bartender, “8 Budweisers!” “Sure thing, honey!” Cowboy says thanks, and I ask him what the hell is he thinking, he better get up there and get his own order. We’re bringing the heat this weekend. While I’m waiting for Cowboy to get his quadruple Jack, I start chatting it up with a lady a few years older than I am, and I mention my post about the weekend preview. She lights up, “I read that article! My husband wastes all day on ‘Bloods!” For those of you that don’t know, she was referring to Orangebloods.com, the Texas Rivals website and message board. I meet the husband, they’re loving Oxford, just as I predicted. They even got me to throw the horns up after buying me a shot.
From left to right: Cowboy, Cripps, Me, Ross (who is responsible for my cast), Austin, and Jay. I believe our other buddies, Weston and Stokes, were at the bar taking one for the team, so to speak. Well, that was an awesome night and we all got home safely. Cowboy and I decided to crack open the $80 bottle of bourbon my dad had purchased for us and stay up til the wee hours of the morning. Hey, you only get these weekends every so often.
Thank God for bacon!
We get up and going at roughly 11 A.M., but who is really counting. My dad was a lifesaver that morning, but he knew we’d be up to no good. Eggs, bacon, and biscuits; the man is a saint. So, after lollygagging around the house for a few hours, Wells gets us motivated by calling his buddy, Harrison, to pick us up and take us to the Grove. An hour later, we’re in the car for what was the most nauseating experience of my life. No offense to Harrison because we were avoiding traffic, but by avoiding traffic, we had to take back roads. I’ll let you imagine the condition of back roads in Mississippi.
1:30 P.M. We’ve made it! Finally! After a tenacious drive and uphill walk, we are at the Grove. Well, we’re close. We make a pit stop at Harrison’s tent for fuel and water. (You know, gettin’ real Nascar with it down in Mississippi… R.I.P. Intimidator). And who else, but Colonel Reb, is there to greet us.
Is that a Hook ‘Em he’s throwing up? I hope not, but you know the Texas people are in town because there is a Taco Bell truck in the background.
2:30 P.M. Wells, Cowboy, and I have been searching for the infamous Beaumont tent for an hour. It’s muggy, crowded, and we haven’t had any luck. Having circumvented the Grove, we reconvene just outside the Alumni building, and lo and behold, our saviors: Mr. Brad Klein and his son, Graham.
These two had actually made it to the tent, but the report wasn’t great. The food had just arrived and the booze was en route. “No booze?!” That’s right, caught in traffic, the truck had been on the road for hours. Supplies were supposed to be delivered by 1, but they weren’t there until 4. That was the only downfall, but it tells you how big the weekend was. Now, as you can see there is a little confusion in this picture with regards to college allegiance. Well, Mr. Klein is a crowd-pleaser, but a Longhorn through and through. Not to mention, the ‘Hook ‘Em Rebs’ shirt is pretty awesome, I want one for myself. Graham, on the other hand, attends UTSA, but is looking to transfer.
4 P.M. The booze is delivered. People rejoice as if Jesus himself was the delivery man. At this point, everything is rolling along and everyone is having a great time, especially Mr. Newton and Cowboy.
Yeah, sorry, I forgot to mention the band. That’s right, at Ole Miss, we have bands at our tailgates. Do you? Didn’t think so. That is just another reason why the Grove will be the place where my soul rests when my time is done. There is nothing like a little funk, bluegrass, and rock n’ roll all mixed into one at your fingertips. These guys were amazing and they played for hours. I wish I knew their name, if anyone does, get back to me. Here’s another shot of people enjoying the band, just so you know:
Mrs. Persia and Mrs. Mann probably won’t be too happy with me when they see this, but the picture is too good not to share. I apologize in advance.
6:15 P.M. Weston and Cripps finally make it to the tent. Big Baby Sam Cripps had to get himself a nap at the fraternity house before he could put on his big boy pants and make it to the real tailgate. By the time they got there, it was about time to throw down the hammer and put things into 6th gear. Yeah, we passed ’em on the high side coming out of turn 4. Rubbin’ is racing! (I only expect a few of you to fully appreciate that joke). Here it is, time to head to the game, but I’ve got to get a shot with my boy at the Walk of Champions. Hell, it’s tradition, and things like tradition don’t fade away in places like Mississippi. Well, at least they don’t fade away quickly. *Ahem*Colonel Reb*Ahem*… Anyway, here we are on the way to the game:
As you can see, the Grove takes its toll on everyone, I mean, look at the guys with the blue faces! What were they thinking?
7:30 P.M. We make our walk to the stadium, down the Walk of Champions, of course. I’m not messin’ around. Entering the stadium, Cowboy, Cripps, Wells, and I find my dad and Mr. Newton. Great seats, 35 yard line, expected nothing less. We were in great position to see all of the on-field pregame festivities including: a former Miss America sing the Star-Spangled Banner (written by Francis Scott Key, St. John’s College, Class of 1796), Betty White lead the fan base in the customary ‘Hotty Toddy’ chant, as well as a great view of both teams taking the field. Visitors first:
You know, I grew up watching that while screaming my lungs out for Ricky, Major, Roy, DJ, Cedric, Vince and the crew, I can’t deny the butterflies that fill my chest when I see these flags rush onto the field. However, during this game, I had to suppress those feelings. Ole Miss is my home. Everywhere else, I may be welcome, but I’m a guest. Hotty Toddy Rebs!
8:15 P.M. Kickoff. We had our hopes up high, but we knew they were hopes from the beginning. The airplane bottles of Jack Daniels were quickly poured into the over-sized Cokes that we Americans have grown so fond of. Texas was the dominant team from the beginning. Their line and running game overpowered the young Ole Miss squad, and Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe are flat out burners. I swear, there must have been a handful of times when our linebackers or defensive backs had the angle, but they just beat the defender to the spot. It was really impressive. That being said, if David Ash can continue his progression and grow into a good college quarterback throughout the season, I will look for Texas to be a BCS team. The litmus test is, as always, Oklahoma, but I think they’re overrated and the ‘Horns, for once, are underrated. I guess that’s what happens when you compile a 13-12 record over the past two years. For Ole Miss, we’re trending upward. Donte Moncrief will be an All-American. Bo Wallace is perfect for the system, and I feel good about the Rebs. I think Arkansas screwed up their only chance at competing for the West, and Mississippi State may not have Dan Mullen as long as they think they will. Under Hugh Freeze, the Rebs could reclaim the tri-state area and emerge as a contender in the West behind Bama and LSU.
Once it was 38-10, Cowboy, Cripps, and I decided it was time to get out of dodge and head back to the Grove. My dad and Mr. Newton stayed the whole game, but that’s customary for them. I remember staying at a game against OU when Josh Huepel and Quentin Griffin were in the backfield, Stoops was in his second year, and the Sooners took down the ‘Horns 66-14. Quentin had 6 TDs and only about 80 yards. It was freezing and raining sideways. As odd as it is, that is why I remain a ‘Horns fan and I respect my dad for staying to the end of every game. It’s painful, but it really does build character.
11 P.M. The three of us head to the Beaumont tent and it is time for some drowning of sorrows. Partaking in some libations on the way to the Square, we met up with Weston and decided to head to an underground spot just off the Square in order to A) avoid Texas fans, and B) avoid Ole Miss fans. We didn’t come to Oxford to see any of them and we knew that the great weekend was quickly coming to a halt. So, we kept it low-key, played pool, and caught up. Another great night in the books.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot… remember what I said about all the right teams covering? Well, Tennessee was one of those teams. They didn’t cover. Cowboy is a Tennessee fan (even though he played for Hugh Freeze… that’s a different story), and this is how he felt when he saw that the Gators romped the Vols.
As you might expect, he’s on bottom.
To cap off the night, Weston and I relived an age-old tradition at the Chevron off the Square, a.k.a. ‘Chicken on a Stick’. It was packed to the gills, and taking advantage of the situation, as we have so many times before, we made our way to the back and shotgunned a Red Bull for a fitting end to the weekend. Weston got caught. I walked out the front door. He paid for us both, thanks bud.
That’s pretty much it. I hope I didn’t leave anything out, and I hope y’all enjoyed the post. I have a few parting words I would like to share.
To the Persias, Manns, and everyone else involved in the organization of the Beaumont tent: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Once again, the tailgating at the Beaumont tent could not be rivaled. I am a very gracious guest, as were all of my friends.
To the Texas fans: You are welcome back anytime, and I hope you reciprocate the good will next year in Austin. I’ll be there, and I’ll be blogging.
To the Ole Miss fans: You’ve always been classy, and you showed it this weekend. As always, you were great hosts. May that never change.
To the two drunk girls that had no money to pay for their cab ride home on Saturday night: I doubt you’ll ever read this, or recognize it was me who paid for your ride if you do happen to read this, but you’re welcome.
To Rebel Ride, most notably Ms. Peggy: You have taken care of getting me back home more times than I can remember and you always do so with a great attitude.
And last, but not least:
“The university is respected, but Ole Miss is loved.
The university gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure,
but one never graduates from Ole Miss.”
– Frank Everett, Jr.