Traveling to watch the Dawgs play used to be a whole lot more fun than it has been this season. For one thing, they were winning the games and the trip home was not nearly so long as some of the travel weekends the past couple of years. This year, just driving home from Between the Hedges has taken on a trip time of “interminable” for the Bulldog Nation.
Those of us with a few seasons behind us recall the glory days when Georgia was at the top of the game with Vince and Erk at the helm – a coaching team extraordinaire. While the fans didn’t always agree with Vince’s conservative offensive strategies, he could pull some trick plays out of his back pocket that set the Bulldog Nation howling for more as we tromped opponents at home, in their own backyard, on beautiful Saturday afternoons or in the crisp autumn nights where an opponent had lights.
Back in those days, Dawg fans took whole weeks of vacation to travel to exotic locations like Jacksonville, Fla. and Lexington, Ky. to be in attendance for the annual stomping of the lowly Gators and the even more lowly Wildcats who had barely enough time to suit up before kickoff after the team finished cleaning Rupp Arena following weekly sacrifices on the altar of Kentucky Basketball. Talk about a team getting no respect… For many years, The Parental Units planned their schedules around Winder-Barrow’s and Georgia’s football schedules since at least one of their offspring would be involved in the high school games on Friday nights before Georgia played on Saturday. Once the youngest of their brood had graduated W-B and made her way to UGA where she attempted to squeeze in a few classes among rehearsals with the Redcoat Band and sorority activities, their calendar was simplified immensely. That their daughter was part of the band meant they had to be in supportive attendance at the college games just as they had been for all of us throughout our school careers. It was the supreme sacrifice, but they put on their happy faces and made the best of the situation. (Boy, it’s getting deep in here…) With all the children out of college as 1977 rolled around, the Parental Units continued their pilgrimages to Athens and parts unknown to see the Dawgs on the gridiron. Ten years prior, my father had surprised my mother with the keys to a new Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight and the car had been a great one for, lo unto that past decade, but the ol’ girl was – as we say around here – about give out. However, fan belts, assorted hoses and a “How to Fix Your Ninety-Eight Olds” book he’d checked out from the library in the trunk of the car, the Parentals set out to Tuscaloosa to cheer on the Dawgs.
About five miles from the stadium, the Ninety-Eight breathed its last. As my father – the most stubborn man to walk the face of the earth – bounced from the car to do his library book magic on the family car, Hayden and Miriam Camp drove by and stopped to help. Realizing there was no help to be had, they gave my mother a ride to the game and left C.H. to hike it on his own after he was able to get the car patched together enough to make the trip home.
The following Monday afternoon, I was at work in Athens when Mother called me.
“I need you to come take me over to Monroe,” she said. “Right now.”
From the tone of voice, I knew the eyebrow was up in the hairline, so I just said “yes, ma’am” and left to face whatever crisis had been wrought.
I’d barely rolled to a stop when she was in the car and we were off to visit Jon Greeson, a purveyor of motor cars in Monroe. En route, my mother minced no words in sharing what, in her mind’s eye, had been the ultimate humiliation at the hands of my father’s legendary bullheadedness.
My mother might have set a record for the least number of words used in the purchase of a vehicle. She didn’t even ask “how much”.
“Jon, clean it up, bring it to the house and send Haase the bill,” she barked in her best Southern Belle and we went back home.
It was her intent to not miss a game and we had to make a trip to Nashville to call the Dawgs the following weekend. And, yes, she allowed Daddy to go along in her new white Buick with the dark red interior.
Yep. Those were the days.
Helen Person is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.