I went to my college Homecoming yesterday. I had some mixed feelings about going. I haven’t been in 30 years, and I hadn’t really kept up with people from college for a variety of reasons. But, I’d been catching up with some people on Facebook and was, frankly, curious. What would it feel like to go back there and see those people again? I haven’t even gone to my high school reunions, so I’ve never experienced that whole “reunion” experience. So, I went.
The school I went to was Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond LA. I was an English Education major with a minor in Journalism. My God, it has been a long time. I’m now one of those old farts that the students see at Homecoming and probably think, “Don’t they have a life? Why are they coming back here?” I thought it back then when I was a woman child on campus. I was the Sports Editor for my school newspaper and worked part time in the Sports Information Department. My college community was athletes and the friends of athletes.
People change, but their eyes always stay the same. That’s how I recognized most people yesterday. All I had to do was look into their eyes, and I remembered their smile and their thinner, smoother faces. Oh, yeah, that’s…Millet…one of the Boudreaux boys..Domiano….. We tailgated, caught up a little and then settled in with our group of choice. At one point, I was talking to my friend Larry, the Sports Information Director and several of the guys from the football team. They were telling stories about the offensive coach and jokes they played on him. Larry said he wants to write a book with all these stories one day. I leaned over and told him, “Do it now, Larry. It won’t be long before the memories go and we start losing people. Along with them will go their stories.”
After the football game, the group I was sitting with decided to go to a local alumnus’s home for a fireside chat. So, we caravaned over to Winn Dixie and bought beer, whiskey and cigarettes for those who would partake. We all got lost, I think, on the way and ended up playing on our cell phones between cars all the way there. It was funny. I was already laughing so hard my face hurt.
I’ve witnessed episodes of male bonding throughout my life. I was married twice, and I have two brothers and a Dad. The ritual is familiar. The women sort of start off in the kitchen and start to bond with each other a little. After about 45 minutes or so, we head outside or to the other room to join the guys and watch the show. Because, it’s always a show, at least from this woman’s point of view. It’s so different than how women bond.
Note: All these guys have nicknames. I see it as part of a brotherhood where their real names don’t matter. They have to find something meaningful to name each other that belongs only to this “family”. It works. Oh, and these are BIG guys. They are all former football players, and my friends call them giants.
Cricket (Former Linebacker)
I have never heard a story from anyone from the football community at Southeastern that didn’t include a story about Cricket. I believe, for all practical purposes, he could be called certifiably crazy. Except I think it’s the kind of crazy that people like. I’ve never heard of anybody that didn’t like him. He’s entertaining and over the top. He is also now a school principal in Florida. He drove 10 hours both ways to come to this party.
Nippy (Former Linebacker)
There’s always a master storyteller in the group. There has to be. Somebody has to have a way to help craft the memories into tall tales. In this group, it is Nippy. It helps that he is a country bad boy from Mississippi with an adorable bad boy “look” complete with a black cowboy hat and boots that really do have horse sh*t embedded in the seams. He openly says he’s a dumbass and has stories to prove it. But, as you hear him talk more, you realize he’s not a dumbass at all. He’s smart as a whip but maybe not in the traditional way. He runs his own business but his passion runs in horses and animals.
Tinkerbell (Former Offensive Lineman)
Most people call him Tink for short. He’s a self-described “coonass from Thibodaux” who used to keep two pet alligators in his dorm room. He walked them with dental floss as a leash and took them out to swim in the ditches on campus. He says he was the always the one who took a “low profile.” His ability to manage a project and a vision in commercial construction has at least partially contributed to the changes in the Houston skyline in the last 25 years.
Elmer Fudd (Former Offensive Tackle)
He got his nickname because he was wearing overalls when he was moving into the dormitory and one of the other players thought he looked like his namesake. It stuck. He’s an Alabama country boy whose hospitality and loved in, lived in home was the setting for this interesting evening. He is now a principal at a local school.
Bied (Former Defensive End)
Bied is short for his last name which I won’t divulge to protect the innocent, although I don’t think he’s that innocent! He was pretty quiet last night, and I don’t know him very well, so I can’t say much about him. But, I do know he was moving furniture all day, so he was a bit tuckered out.
Comprised of several friends and family members of the Players.
The fire was built in the backyard of Mr. and Ms. Fudd’s home in the middle of NOWHERE, Louisiana. I’m not kidding. There was a long gravel road leading to the house, and the GPS couldn’t even locate the place. It was a cold night under a star-studded sky with the full moon hanging overhead. Pandora was belting out classic country music courtesy of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Alabama and others.
When the gals walked out to the fire, the tales had already started flying probably as fast as the beer and whiskey were flowing. It was full steam ahead from there. Nippy narrated most of the stories with a lot of commentary from the other players and a few of their own stories. I’m not going to share their stories for two reasons:
But, I can tell you this. I’ve lived in cities for most of my adult life. I’ve heard lots of men bond through the stories of their past, but these guys last night were country boys. Their stories are different. Country boys tell stories that read like action adventure movies. There are guns, explosives, large unpredictable animals (both dead and alive) and injuries to themselves and others. They do lots of highly physical activities like jumping off, running headlong into, getting run over by, and hitting each other with things. Things can include trees, cars, large animals and people. At least you know there’s a somewhat happy ending because the person telling the tale is looking right at you. So, it’s pretty funny.
The tales were peppered with the names of people I remember from the past…..Ray ……Wozniak ……Hartman ……Bam Bam ……Meathead …….Toad ……Junker …….Coach Lofton. There weren’t any girls in these stories as I can recall. And, it’s probably a good thing. I don’t know if being there would have been as funny as hearing the tale afterwards. Most of the settings were in the country because that’s where these guys live and play. I realized sometime through the evening that it had been about 30 years at least since I had witnessed this ritual with country boys. It was so different from what I’d been hearing most of my life. And, it felt…..comfortable….interesting.
We shut down our party sometime in the wee hours of the morning. When my head finally hit the pillow to sleep at about 4 AM, I thought about how sweet that evening had been. I felt the warm glow of a sentimentality born of familiarity of place with the people who had lived there with me. As we left the fire, people were saying that we shouldn’t let so much time pass before we do this again. We talked about getting together for a camp-out July 4. Time will tell if it happens. I hope it does. I think I would like to feel this again sooner rather than later. It was fun, and it made me laugh. But, most of all, it kind of connected me to my roots in a way that I hadn’t felt in awhile. That felt really nice.
I’ll leave you with a video of my favorite country bad boy song, Can’t Tell Me Nothing, from my favorite country bad boy, Tim McGraw.