My father-in-law, Gary, is a true orange-blooded Texas Longhorn. He is the only child of two graduates of the University of Texas. He graduated from the pharmacy school the year of our last national championship (pre-Vince), married a Longhorn, and raised two daughters – both Texas graduates and both Texas Angels while on campus. He joined the Longhorn Foundation in its inaugural year. In fact, when boosters were still legally allowed to recruit for the university, Gary nailed down Northeast Texas.
Gary hailed from Clarksville, Texas, and returned to Atlanta, Texas after graduation to help run the pharmacy there. In the late 1970’s, he headed to Pittsburg, Texas to run his own pharmacy for 25+ years.
Being from far northeast Texas, Gary knows about the Arkansas Razorbacks. Much to his dismay, he has family that are Arkansas Razorback fans. How could he not? Clarksville is 40 miles from Arkansas and his Longhorn wife is from
New BostonBloomberg, Texas which literally straddles the Texas/Arkansas border.
Gary was the first person to tell me stories about the Razorbacks.
By the time I made my pilgrimage to
Mecca Austin, the Razorbacks had already bolted to the SEC the prior season. I didn’t grow up in Texas, so I did not grow up following the old SWC fights except from afar. Back then, college football was a much more regional affair. I also was not born when the Game of the Century happened, so I failed even to appreciate the historical significance of the rivalry.
The first taste that I had of Texas-Arkansas rivalry was the Cotton Bowl after the 1999 season. I only remember getting crushed by the Razorbacks after four guys got bounced from the team for failing drug tests. And I remember Houston Nutt dropping the double horns down to his faithful.
Even at that point, I didn’t really get the Texas-Arkansas rivalry.
And then prior to the 2003 season in preparation for our home and home series with Arkansas, I bought a book by Terry Frei (also writes for The Denver Post and ESPN.com.) called Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming as a gift for Gary. And like most books I get for Gary, I asked if I could read it first. It is out of print now but you can still read it or buy it at Amazon.
If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it for any sports fan – but particularly for Texas Longhorn football fans.
MY EDITORIAL NOTE: I also recommend that you check out srr50's post on his memories of the Texas Arkansas rivalry since he is the only guy I know that attended the first clash in 1894.
The book does a tremendous job of placing the game into its historical context – there were four current or future US presidents in the stands that day with the political backdrop of the Vietnam War protests on the campus and the societal unrest relating to segregation. These two teams were both exclusively white and his subtitle is appropriately Dixie’s Last Stand.
President Richard Nixon, Arkansas Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, and Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller with Texas Congressman, George Bush. If you look real hard in the row behind them, you can spot the top of Henry Kissinger's head and his glasses.
But even better than that was the thorough examination of the Big Shootout from a football perspective. He profiles and interviews virtually every starter on both teams including some of their recruiting stories, and breaks down the Arkansas defensive plan to try to stop James Street’s wishbone attack.
Frei also tells the tale of the legendary Longhorn Freddie Steinmark in great detail. I was literally drawn to tears. Frei actually went to the same high school as Steinmark.
I bring this book up for obvious reasons. It is Arkansas week, and this book chronicles the greatest game between these one-time rivals.
I mentioned my story about the book and my father-in-law for another reason. During this week's game, Texas is honoring #22 Bobby Layne. Gary’s dad’s favorite Longhorn player was Bobby Layne, and as a result, he gave his son the middle name ‘Layne’. And Gary gave one of his daughters ‘Layne’ as her middle name. And to me, that is what Longhorn football is about – sharing special people, places, and memories with family and friends.