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Texas-Oklahoma: More than football, a lifetime of memories on both sides of the Red

October 12, 2012

(I wrote this in October 2007, an attempt to capture all the feelings that flood over me when this weekend rolls around each year. Thanks for indulging me.)

I was raised along the Red River, nurtured on the good-natured jawing between my Texas dad and my Oklahoma uncles, especially each October when it came time for the annual blood-letting between Texas and OU. Bragging rights, fueled by state pride,were on the line and extended later to family gatherings and holidays, when discussions inevitably led to the subject of who had prevailed that year in Dallas, or who was winning over (or paying for) the best recruits.


We warmed up each summer on the Oil Bowl, a little skirmish between Texas and Oklahoma high school all-stars. I don’t think it is the same now, but back then, many players who became stars in Austin or Norman, like Texas quarterback Marty Akins and Oklahoma’s JC Watts, made an initial impression at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls.


So here’s a couple facts related to my ties to this game across the not-so-ragin’ Red River: My uncle Grady claimed to have commandeered and driven the first Sooner Schooner. Grady was president of his class at OU back in the 1930s. He claimed that, one time, on game day, he and some friends borrowed a hay wagon from a neighboring farmer. And thus, that crazy tradition was born.


Here’s another one: Back in the late 1970s, Steve Davis, who had been one of OU’s winningest quarterbacks, sat down to dinner with my family at our home south of big ole Iowa Park, Texas. This was during the days of my Southern Baptist youth, and Davis was the guest preacher for a revival at our church. My mother invited Uncle Grady (I believe her expectation was that, if religion was mixed with Sooner football, it might rub off on him). Of course, Grady — who also claimed to be the first streaker — regaled him with stories about manning the alleged “first schooner.” I can still picture Davis’ bemused grin.


On Saturdays when they were not featured on one of our three television stations, I listened to Longhorn games on the radio, and I searched the sports pages on Sunday morning for photos of Earl Campbell barrelling over another hapless defender who was left only with a handful of tear-away jersey. It was Grady who got my Dad and me our first tickets to a Texas-OU game, in 1977. It was an unforgettable day. Texas lost its first two starting quarterbacks to injury early in the game but won with the quarterbacking of unheralded Randy McEachern, the kicking of Russell Erxleben and the running of  Campbell. When Earl ambled out of the dressing room, he looked as if he didn’t even have enough steam to walk to the Texas bench without toppling over. Dad said, “Who’s that guy? He looks like he can hardly make it.” I thumbed through the program and said in disbelief: “Dad! That’s Earl Campbell!” The Tyler Rose “conserved energy” between plays — but, as everybody knows, he was explosive and incredibly powerful once he was handed the ball.


Grady was a great guy. He was a lawyer, and he was about as big a Sooner fan as ever lived. He went to countless Orange Bowls. But once when he was in Austin for a trial, he sucked up his Sooner pride and went to the University Co-op, and bought several Texas shirts to send to me, just because he knew I loved the Longhorns. I bet he never told his OU buddies about that one.


College football was just one subject of friendly yet heated debate between my Dad and Uncle Acie, an Oklahoma dairy farmer who was as big a Sooner fan as Grady. Politics was another matter for contention, usually over glasses of iced tea on Acie’s front porch, near the town of Sulphur. But the subject of football, particularly the previous year’s Texas-Oklahoma game, always sparked strong opinions, especially about who would win next year — Burnt Orange, or Big Red?


I remember one year back on the farm when Texas had just beaten Oklahoma. Dad turned off the TV, and the biggest smile came across his face. He went immediately to the phone, dialed my uncle Acie, and said, “Acie, I have been outside working all day long and missed the game. How’d it come out?”


Of course, I miss all three of them so much.


Go Horns.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Gary Blackerby permalink
    October 12, 2012 3:35 pm

    Loved reading this Padre…… Loved the shout out to Steve Davis, I remember him well….. those are some great family memories you’ve shared, thank you very much.

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