Sunday, January 30, 2011


  • Plane Ticket:  $470
  • Rental Car:  $40
  • Gas for Rental Car:  $50
  • Hotel:  8,000 points plus $15
  • Getting to see Aunt Shorty again:  Priceless.

Last week, Aunt Shorty fell again and messed up her last knee surgery (again).  While in the hospital, she had a heart attack, and things just didn’t seem to be going well.  She is 91.  So we flew Dad up to Rogers to be with her, and (after some discussion) Marla and I decided to fly up and see her. 

She seemed some better, for which we are most grateful.

I’ve written in this blog before about Aunt Shorty.  She will never know how much she means to me or to my sister---but one thing that caught my attention on this trip is how very much she means to so many other people.  As word of her predicament spread through the family, family members flew in from California, New York, Florida, and Texas.  Others were ready at a moment’s notice.  Last night, we all kind of sat around and told stories.  It’s amazing how much this one small woman has done in her phenomenal life.  She has mentored so many of us; she has taught so many of us how to live.  She is a real-life “Auntie Mame”; the difference is, Auntie Mame only had one “Patrick”; Aunt Shorty has literally a hundred. 

If love is currency, this woman is rich beyond the dreams of avarice.


Aunt Shorty’s house had burned down last year; the insurance company did their job, and she was literally days (like, this week) ahead of moving into her shiny new “replacement” Greycliff.  Greycliff itself is a promontory overlooking Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansas.  It’s beautiful, and the view of the lake goes for miles.  Everyone in the extended family has spent many happy hours there; it’s a great spot and the house was full of love. 

When I was doing all my Razorbacking, and during the time Aunt Shorty was still able to accompany us to the tailgate parties and the game, there was a particular time when my –adopted- nephew Jimmy was invited up.  Like everyone, Jimmy loves Aunt Shorty, and like everyone he was taken with Greycliff. 

It was one of those damn Jefferson-Pilot games, featuring the god-awful early kickoff.  Tailgate parties for the JP games were BREAKFAST parties; breakfast tacos, sausage biscuits, bloody marys, screwdrivers, and mimosas.  Since it’s a solid hour from Greycliff to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium under the BEST of circumstances (much less Gameday), we needed to leave EARLY (those who know me know I don’t do “early” very well). 

Nevertheless, we were up, washed, coffeed, flagged, magged, and ready to roll.  Jimmy stood transfixed in the den.  “Come on, Jimbo, let’s GO!”  “In a minute!” 
“Jimmy, we’ve got to LEAVE!”  “IN A MINUTE!”

What Jimmy did was take a picture of the sun coming up over the lake, from the den at Greycliff.  Aunt Shorty loved that view and loved that event; she’d watched it hundreds of times.  Jimmy got a GREAT shot; had it blown to an 8x10 (this predated digital photos), framed it and gave it to Aunt Shorty.  She loved it!  When she’d go down to Fayetteville to stay at Pop’s, she’d take that photo with her and it would sit on the mantel where she could see it from her chair. 

Pop died and she moved back to Greycliff for good—so she thought.  The fire happened, and the photo was lost along with everything else.


Earlier this year, I’d asked Jimmy to dig the actual photograph out and scan it.  The photo he was able to send was very small, low resolution, and didn’t blow up very well.  He worked and worked and got it as good as he could get.  Friday, in amidst all the hoopla at work (I'm very busy at work right now), I was working on that picture, trying to get it good enough to give to Aunt Shorty.  I finally got it “as good as it was going to get” after multiple trips to Wal-Mart.  (Their one hour photo deal actually is pretty good). 

So after work, I screamed over to Wal-Mart and got the print.  Went to Hobby Lobby to get the frame.  All the frames have GLASS in them---Aunt Shorty’s in the hospital, so that’s not so great---you gotta figure it’s going to get knocked off, and a room full of broken glass is no fun.

So I determined to have them cut a piece of Plexiglas and put it in the frame.  The dude behind the counter, bless his heart---well, you know, not everybody can be a rocket scientist, bless their hearts.  I was having a hard time explaining to him what I wanted him to do.  I had left the picture (it was now getting late, and I had not packed or prepped in any way for the trip) on the counter there where they do the custom framing.  A lady and her two little boys came up and the other person waited on them.  One of the little boys had his grubby hands ON MY PHOTO!  He was leaning on it, rubbing on it, etc.  I ran over and said, loudly, “EXCUSE ME?!”  The lady kept right on blabbing, oblivious.  I then committed an unfortunate act.  I roared at the kid.  “GET OFF MY DAMN PICTURE!”  Of course the mother came unglued and went off on me.  I then went off on HER.  Took my picture and had the man working on the frame---and thought, “Now, you weren’t raised like that, no matter how badly you were provoked.”  So, I turned to the little kid (who really meant no harm) and apologized directly to him, man to man.  I then apologized to the mother.  In turn, she apologized to me and we wound up chatting and being nice.  She was concerned that he had messed it up; I explained the trouble I’d had getting it just right and what it was for—and we wound up being very friendly.

So remember, a little nice goes a long way, and bad kharma always comes back to you.

In any event, the picture turned out great.  Aunt Shorty loved it, and it’s now in her hospital room.

And here it is:  Sunrise at Greycliff, by James P. Yarbrough.

Aunt Shorty Sunrise 1



Helpful advice:  Whatever you do, under no circumstances should you go on a trip and buy something like a thermos-style coffee cup (for coffee-to-go in the car), along with several shirts (that you can’t get at home, but that you leave the tags on when you pack the suitcase) and then try to go through the freaking TSA checkpoint at an airport.  My GOD, they were all over it.  They ran my bag through 3 times.  A Supervisor was called.  The clock ticked (as flight time got closer).  I offered to show them what was in the bag; apparently speaking to them at such times is tantamount to shouting, “I AM A TERRORIST” in the airport.  After much consultation, THEY unpacked my bag and spread everything out on the table.  They ran the full-spectrum test on the bag.  “Sir, we’d like to ask you some questions.”  “Sure, just don’t make me miss the last nonstop to Houston on a Sunday afternoon.”  “Don’t get cute with us, sir.”  “I’m not, but I don’t want to miss my flight---and there’s nothing at all that says I have to be any nicer to you than you are to me.  What do you want?”  “We notice that you have a suspicious item (holds up coffee cup; people are staring.”  “It’s….a COFFEE CUP.”  “It looked like a bomb casing on the x-ray.  Why would you have this in your bag?”  “Um, I bought it, paid for it, and wanted to take it home with me?”  “Why didn’t you put it in your checked luggage?”  “I didn’t have any checked luggage.”  “Why not?”  “Because my whole trip is scheduled (if I make this flight…) to be 23 hours; I didn’t NEED to check anything.”  “Why do you have all these clothes with the tags still on?”  “Because I bought them at Wal-Mart on my way out of Rogers; they are 3-X Razorback shirts and I can’t get them in Texas; I just stuffed them in my bag while my sister was turning in the rental car.”  “Sir, this is very unusual.”  “Well, then, I guess you need to arrest me for buying souvenirs while I was on a trip.  I have done nothing wrong, I have nothing in there except clothes and a coffee cup (which you may have if you want it; I paid $5 for the thing) and my digital camera (which you may NOT have).  Now either arrest me or clear me so I can make my flight.”  “You have a nice day, sir.”  “Oh, it’s peachy-keen already.”

The TSA is worthless as tits on a boar hog.  And you know what?  This here’s America and I can STILL post that on my blog, because we STILL have freedom of speech (sometimes).


This week was the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Disaster (my original blog post subject, before all this other came up).  For a certain generation, this was a seminal event in their lives, probably because they were little kids when it happened and it made a big impression.

Not to say I’m jaded; the Challenger disaster was AWFUL, but it didn’t upset me any more than the launch pad fire for Apollo I (I went to Edward H. White Middle School; Ed White was one of the Apollo I astronauts, who, along with his colleagues Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Roger Chaffee, died horribly when a flash fire engulfed their capsule, fed by pure oxygen---and there were no INTERNAL clips to blow the hatch, and the EXTERNAL process took 10 minutes.  By the time the horrified gantry workers were able to pry the hatch off, the three men had burned alive.

Apollo 13 is an amazing story of human daring, brilliance, and extreme courage in the face of certain death.  It made a fabulous movie (thank you again Tom Hanks); it was riveting in person.  We watched it on those big black and white TV’s the schools had then, EVERYBODY watched.  We had success with that one.

The Spaceship Columbia, crewed by a brave group of daring astronauts, exploded in a hail of fire over Texas in 2003, with the loss of all souls aboard.  They’re still finding pieces of it. 

Space is a very, very dangerous business.  Each one of the successful flights is a triumph of human intelligence, will, and plain old guts.  Every one of those people is a hero for trying. 

It is my belief that we MUST get mankind spread around a bit, off this big blue marble.  Those of us who stay here (I always wanted to go, but at this point I’m too old and my health is too bad) may perish, but the race will continue.  We MUST keep reaching for the stars (as Kasey Kasem used to tell us).

Many of my friends remarked on the Challenger Disaster how much they appreciated the words of Ronald Reagan.  I’m not a Reagan fan, but he (along with Bill Clinton) was a very good “Mourner in Chief”.  I do want to set the record straight, though---the words he quoted were not his; they were from a marvelous poem, by a young man who, shortly after he wrote it, was killed in combat in World War II.  It has been recited many times, and is the favorite of many pilots.

In honor of the Challenger crew, the Columbia crew, the Apollo I crew, and all those brave men and women who risk their lives in the air:

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Pilot Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force


Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Shirt of Shame; or, How I Survived the Sugar Bowl

When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, the office in which I worked was representative of the entire Southeastern Conference. Whether your cry was “Go Big Orange!” or “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, PIG! SOOOOOIIEEEE!!!”, you had a friend in our office. (We had a significant Minnesota contingent as well, it being St. Paul Fire and Marine, so periodically you’d hear “Goh Gohphers!” in a Minnesota accent, followed by derisive sneers from the assembled SEC brethren and sistern—and all the gals in the office were definitely sportschix…).

Of course, being the SEC, we were all rabid football fans, and football season was the highlight of the year. Every Friday was Jersey Day---since we had “casual day” on Friday anyway, the VP/GM relented and allowed us to not only wear khaki’s and sport shirts (that was “casual”), but we could wear our team jerseys.

Fridays were pretty colorful events; the majority wore Tennessee orange, but every color was represented. Periodically, across the office, for no particular reason at all, you’d hear a shout of “Go State! Go State!”, followed almost immediately from another corner by “Hotty Toddy, Gawdalmighty, who the Hell are we? Flim Flam Bim Bam Ole Miss by damn!” “Roll, Tide!” was quickly followed by “WAR DAMN EAGLE!”

I loved it.

My buddy John sat next to me. John was a fascinating dude, having crammed 4 years of college into 8 (the maximum for which his father would stand), majoring in just about everything but finally settling on the fine art of beekeeping as a major (yeah, there’s a lot of call for that, which is why he wound up being a Claim Supervisor). He supervised Property, I had Workers’ Comp.

John was a very proud graduate of the University of Tennessee. Like many Tennessee fans, he bought season tickets to Vanderbilt games just so he could assure himself of a seat every other year when Tennessee played there. I do believe he was matched in his love of the Vols by my dear friend Frank Senter (who sat on the other side of the cube wall from me, and whose obituary I had to write last year, sadly). Between the two of them, the cacaphony of the “Go Big Orange” shouts was a bit much to take.

Our Marketing Rep/Salesdude, Danny, was a likewise rabid fan of the University of Alabama (it’s texass u (spit), without the money…). Danny loved him some Crimson Tide. At the time I was there, Alabama was on an 8-year winning streak against Tennessee; the game headlined the “Third Saturday in October” for the SEC.

Over the years, Danny baited John (Frank, being older and wiser, steered clear—mostly. He, too, egged John on) into making various bets with him, all with the express intent of humiliating John for Danny’s football pleasure.

The main bet, the one that became Legen(wait for it)dary, was the Shirt of Shame.


You have to understand, hope truly does spring eternal in the breast of the Southeastern Conference Football Fan. Every August, each team is invincible. Our quarterbacks are strong of arm and fleet of foot; our wideouts are even more fleet of foot and possess sticky hands; our kickers have strong legs, our linemen mountainous---you get the drill. We are all champions in August.

Every August, Danny would challenge and wheedle John into the Shirt of Shame bet. Danny was a very convincing soul; he would have poor ol John eating out of his hand. “Awww, man, we ain’t got NOTHIN this year. Our QB couldn’t start for Middle Tennessee State; we’ve got holes all over both lines; my Grandma could run past our secondary—y’all are going to beat us down so bad, it’s gonna be awful. I may cry.” John would resist at first, but Danny would keep working. “Yessir, this is gonna be Tennessee’s year. Y’all may hang 50 on us. I sure would hate to have to wear that old horrible orange shirt, I’m sure glad you don’t want to bet me this year.”

(The winner got to pick a shirt especially for the loser, and the loser would have to wear the shirt, stand on his desk, and sing the fight song of the winner. John HATED singing “Yay Alabama” while wearing a crimson shirt with white lettering that said “Roll Tide!!! Alabama 31, Tennessee 10”).

John would resist, but pretty soon his resistance would wear down and Danny would have him. Then, on the fourth MONDAY in October, John would once again sadly mount his desk, wearing the Shirt of Shame, holler, “ROLL, TIDE!” and sing “Yay, Alabama”, to Danny’s general delight and hilarity (not to mention the rest of us).


Back in Arkansas, I told this story to my friends, and we all got a good laugh out of it. The title, “The Shirt of Shame” morphed, and took on new meaning under the tender ministrations of first Dour Danny Ford, then Rooty Tooty Fresh and Hooty. Time after time, we’d depart Malvern, flags flying, magnets on, hearts light, with the fight song playing on the CD player, decked head-to-toe in Razorback gear, singing “Arkansas Fight!”, only to sit in some distant Valhalla of College Football like Athens, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Knoxville, or Baton Rouge and watch the big boys pull our teams’ pants down. Sometimes we’d play ‘em tough, but a lot of times we were just outgunned and outmanned (and in the case of Hooty, CERTAINLY out-coached).

We got to where, when we left Arkansas, we’d carry all our Razorback stuff—and at least one shirt that was green, or blue, or yellow, or plaid. ANYTHING but cardinal and white. If we got the Hell beat out of us, we’d slink out of town, flags down, magnets in the floor---and change into our green or blue or yellow shirts. The Shirt of Shame.

I’ve worn the Shirt of Shame way, way, way too often.


Monday, we left Houston, Texas (where we live now), me, Nathan, Pam, and Marty (who’d flown down from Fayetteville). Flags were flying (in our hearts; the damn things make too much noise on the freeway), magnets on, hearts light. “Arkansas Fight!” blasting out of the speakers. We were New Orleans bound, headed for Arkansas’ first BCS bowl, to the Sugar Bowl for the first time in 30 years, to play one of the traditional powers in college football, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

We went to Bourbon Street, partied our as—er, uh, booty's (thank you, Shirley Q. Liquor) off, dined like Swine at Mister B’s Bistro on Royal; made our way over to the party by the Dome; cheerfully packed the New Orleans SuperDome with rabid, screaming Hog fans. (On the way out of the game, Marty and I heard two Ohio State fans, about our age, saying, “Man! That’s the first time I EVER saw us outnumbered and outyelled at a Bowl game!”).

The game has been discussed endlessly; everybody in two states (plus a whole lot of people nationally, not to mention the entire Southeastern Conference and Big 10 + 1 + 1 Conference) watched it on TeeVee.

It was a fabulous experience except for the final score. I’m hoarse; I’m chafed; I still hurt all over; I’ll probably go to bed as soon as I finish this post. If you were there, you know what it was like. If you weren’t there, know that we screamed our hearts out. In the following pictures, note that they stop about halftime. I stopped taking pictures and started just standing there screaming.

I believe that is the loudest Hog game I’ve ever attended. I know it was the loudest Bowl game. It reminded me of that Auburn basketball game at BWA back when Kareem and Pat and them were playing, where I do believe my throat bled; I know my ears rang afterwards. At this game, the lady in front of me had her hands over her ears the entire second half. As my Dad says, “Piercin’, man! Piercin’!”

We did our best, but we couldn’t bring home the win. But, we were proud of the Hogs. We were proud of our team; of our fans; of our state; of our conference; but mainly of the University of Arkansas.

And you know what? Driving home, we proudly wore our Razorback gear.

We felt no need for the Shirt of Shame.


Herein are the pictures: (I uploaded the larger size; if you want to see full-size, click the pic)

2011 Sugar Bowl

2011 Sugar Bowl-1

Bourbon always rocks.

2011 Sugar Bowl-22011 Sugar Bowl-6

2011 Sugar Bowl-11

Jeremiah, the Henrys, Jim

2011 Sugar Bowl-10

2011 Sugar Bowl-9

Fred and Jan

2011 Sugar Bowl-13

My nephews are such a mess…

2011 Sugar Bowl-12

Our much-beleaguered server, Marty, Fred (what’d you eat, boy?), Jan

2011 Sugar Bowl-14

Ginger’s fried oyster po-boy

2011 Sugar Bowl-15

2011 Sugar Bowl-16

My dinner (yeah, I was too close without a macro lens); wood-grilled fish with veggies (and my 6th bloody mary above).

2011 Sugar Bowl-17

2011 Sugar Bowl-18

2011 Sugar Bowl-19

2011 Sugar Bowl-20

Look at the little spot of colour right in the middle…

2011 Sugar Bowl-22

Calling the Hogs on Bourbon Street

2011 Sugar Bowl-23

Don’t tug on Superman’s cape…

2011 Sugar Bowl-24

Nathan and Pam

2011 Sugar Bowl-25

Marty and some fat old dude

2011 Sugar Bowl-26

Nick and Nathan, one more Razorback game

2011 Sugar Bowl-27

Party at Champions Square

2011 Sugar Bowl-28

2011 Sugar Bowl-29

2011 Sugar Bowl-30

2011 Sugar Bowl-31

Sea of Red

2011 Sugar Bowl-32

2011 Sugar Bowl-33

2011 Sugar Bowl-34

Blair in da house

2011 Sugar Bowl-35

Mongoose his own bad seff

2011 Sugar Bowl-36

Oh dear…

2011 Sugar Bowl-37

2011 Sugar Bowl-38

2011 Sugar Bowl-39

We made it, Aunt Shorty

2011 Sugar Bowl-40

2011 Sugar Bowl-41

2011 Sugar Bowl-42

2011 Sugar Bowl-43

2011 Sugar Bowl-44

I have lots more football pictures, they all look a lot like this one…

2011 Sugar Bowl-46

2011 Sugar Bowl-47

2011 Sugar Bowl-48

2011 Sugar Bowl-49

Start of the second half

2011 Sugar Bowl-50

Now really, ya just gotta love this…

2011 Sugar Bowl-51

Rallying for one last attempt

2011 Sugar Bowl-52

It was truly deafening at this point

2011 Sugar Bowl-53

Ahhh, sit down and shut up Tressel, you and your cheating thugs.

Oh, well, Nevertheless, GO HOGS!!!