Friday, October 29, 2010

Calling the Hogs For Aunt Shorty

Aunt Shorty fell walking her dog night before last and broke her leg.  She’s having surgery this morning, as I type this.  She’s 91.

Shorty (Arline Jones Peeler; her actual first name is "Velda" but call her that at your own peril) started me on the road to rack and ruin; i.e., it was Shorty who infected me with Razorbackmania. 

Everybody else kept growing, Arline stopped at 4'9" (she claims; I think that's generous), hence the nickname.  She married badly during WWII (drunken asshole with fists), had a son out of it; divorced him (gasp) and was a divorcee living in Waco, Texas (where they wound up at the time of the divorce).  She was a secretary (and a damn good one) at the VA Hospital there.  She needed "out" (I can relate to needing "out" of Waco...) and put in for a job as secretary to the CO, Dyess AFB.  She got the job and moved with her young son to Abilene.

At Dyess, the top ranked pilot was a young-middle-aged, divorced pilot (hotshot), also short, by the name of Calvin Peeler (native of Corona, California).  He thought she was hot stuff; she wouldn't give him the time of day.  Eventually he worked his way into her affections and they married in 1958.  One of Cal's buddies was in the US Army Corps of Engineers.  They were having beers and the guy said, "Hey, isn't that new wife of yours from Arkansas?  We're getting ready to build a huge new lake up there; you ought to buy some property and have a lake house."

They thought retiring at a lake in the mountains sounded like a good idea, so they made a few trips up the tortuous, winding roads, through the tiny college hamlet of Fayetteville, and found a worn-out farm with a shotgun shack on it that was going to be half taken by the Corps for the lake.  They scraped together the money to buy it ($8,000!!!) and bought it.

As soon as the USAF told him his eyesight was not good enough to fly fighters and grounded him, Cal was -out-.  They moved to Fayetteville and Cal finished his Masters in Math, then became an instructor at the UofA.  Shorty was always a big fan of the Razorbacks, and Cal quickly adapted (he graduated from California Berkeley, "Cal from Cal"). Arline got a job as secretary to the Chief of Surgery at the Fayetteville VA hospital, William J. Fink, MD.  The Peelers bought themselves a Cadillac to go to games, and started following the team.  They got to be a little crazy about it, going to all games, home and away.  This was especially interesting for them in the 1964 Arkansas football season...

They stayed at our house to attend the Cotton Bowl, in which Arkansas beat Nebraska (we were in Dallas).  Their 7 year old nephew was hopping up and down on one foot begging to go to a game.  The next season, they took that by-then-8 year old to a game---Texas was visiting Fayetteville, ranked #1 again, wanting revenge for their defeat the previous year in Austin.  It was getting dark in a stadium with no lights.  Texas had the game won, 24-20; Arkansas was out of times out and Broyles was pretty much out of options; 1:21 left to go in the game.  Brittenum to Crockett, Brittenum to Crockett, Brittenum to Crockett, TOUCHDOWN, ARKANSAS!!! (as time expired)  Arkansas 27, Texas 24.

That was the day I found out it's possible to scream until no sound will come out.
On the way out of the stadium, there was enough voice left (the mute part would come the next day) for the nephew to beg Cal for a souvenir.  Never big on such folderol, Cal bought the SMALLEST pennant to shut the kid up.  It's hanging on my den wall as I type this.

Cal passed away in 1989 (if you smoke enough Pall Malls, that can happen).  At about the same time, Bill Fink's wife died, in the same hospital, of the same ailment (Marlboros).  Having then known each other for decades, being close friends, Arline and Bill started hanging out together, and then wound up marrying.  Bill was universally known among his family members as "Pop", and that's what I called him as well.

When I moved back to Arkansas, I started going to all the games, taking Dad with me in Little Rock and Fayetteville, and when we went to Fayetteville, we'd stay with Shorty and Pop.  It was my privilege to take Shorty and Dad (sister and brother) to the Fayetteville games, where they had a ball.  Pop couldn't go because the arthritis had already gotten bad, although he did make it to a few baseball games at Baum (he was much more of a baseball fanatic than a football fan).

Shorty loved the tailgate parties and met many of my friends in WebHogs.  She could cocktail and Call Hogs with the best of them and saw no reason whatsoever why she couldn't do all that at 85.  She had a ball. 

We sat on the west side for years.  The lady we sat next to, Donna, was a young chick of 75 to Shorty's 85, and they had been to many of the same games. My buddy Don came and sat with us one time, and at a particularly egregious point in the game, let fly (at top volume) with a "colorful expression".  (He sat to my left, then me, then Shorty, then Donna.) He was aghast that he had cussed in front of Aunt Shorty and Donna.  This was particularly amusing to me (I had let fly with a slightly less colorful expression), as Shorty and Donna didn't hear him.  They had been too busy cussing at the top of their lungs to hear what we were saying....

She sat with me in the South Endzone Outdoor Club the last couple of years, but had gotten to where it was too hard to lug up the Hill to get to the stadium, and the walk back to the car in the crowd down Razorback Rd. was too much.  

So that's who she is.  She's made us all promise that, when she goes (at say, 130 or 140 years of age) that we will Call the Hogs for her. 

I hope that's not any time soon.

Scan10011 (2)

Jimmy, me, Aunt Shorty, and Dad, Calling ‘em before heading off to a game in Fayetteville


  1. Hope Aunt Shorty comes through with flying Razorback colors.

  2. She's as tough as a wild Razorback Hog, to misquote Hugo Bezdek.

    She came through the surgery fine (3 hours 45 minutes) and now has rehab in front of her.