Old folks ought to stay at homePublished 11:00pm Friday, September 21, 2012
Sitting atop Bryant-Denny Stadium with the hot sun in my face and the young man who was hawking cold drinks asking five bucks for four ounces of melted lemonade, I decided that Mama was right. Old folks ought to stay at home.
I’d been slung around like a tumbleweed in a hurricane in the shuttle bus. Then, trudged up 50 miles of steep winding ramp and pulled myself up six dozen steps to where I was to spend the afternoon.
Oh, I had a real good time, yelling, “Roll Tide, Roll” and shaking my pom-poms. And, if Maybelle’s battery had not died and, if we had not gotten lost and hadn’t reappeared in the slums of the capital city and not gotten home until midnight, I might not have signed in blood that you would never catch me a-rah-rahing again.
My earliest football experiences were gained on wooden bleachers at high school football games. The bleacher seats were made of rough lumber. There was another wooden board on which to rest your feet. The trouble was that there was a lot more available air space than there was wood on either level. If you dared to stand up and shout, you were likely to invade the air space, bump your bottom on the way down and end up on the ground beneath the bleachers.
The cheerleaders did cheers with jumping jack motions and yelled things like, “Wash ’em out, wring ’em out! Hang ’em on the line! We can beat Hartford any old time!” At halftime, the band made letters on the field – a “B” for Brundidge and then an “H” for Hartford and played the “Activity March.” That was the whole of the football experience. So, when I was invited to spend a weekend on The Plains and go to a college football game, I was sitting on ready.
Back in those days, going to a college football game was a dressup occasion, much like going shopping in Montgomery – a Sunday dress, high heel shoes, a pocketbook and, if you really wanted to look good, a hat.
“Miss” Mattie Hughes made me a dress for the occasion. A shift, it was called. It was brown with a white pin stripe. I got new high heel shoes to match my dress and stockings with a seam down the back. My hat was sort of like a cowboy hat with one side pinned up. And, Mama got me a heavy silver chain with dangling beads to top off my outfit. I “carried” her brown shiny pocketbook with a silver clasp.
Now, nobody mentioned that it was an uphill hike to the stadium or that our seats were on the sloping hillside in the end zone. If you’ve never tried to sit on dry grass on a 90-degree slope wearing a brown rayon shift then you won’t understand how difficult that was.
Trying to be lady-like while sliding down an embankment was not possible for me. My dress “rode” up, my hat plopped down over my eyes and the grass came up by the roots as I tried desperately to hold on.
I was beginning to sweat. I had visions of sliding down the embankment, through the end zone and right into the huddle.
Then, a light came on in my head. I could dig the sharp heels of my new brown shoes into the ground and brace myself and maintain my perch on the hill. I dug my heels in, braced myself with my knees, smoothed my dress and straighten my hat. All was well until the end of the game.
When I tried to get up, my knees were in the lock position. No matter how hard I tried to bend them, I couldn’t. I was walking like Chester on “Gunsmoke,” except both legs were stiff.
Walking stiff-legged in high heel shoes for two miles on pavement is not any way for a country girl to impress a date. To accommodate my locked knees, I had to bend forward from the waist and stretch my neck as my date coaxed me onward.
I was not in any shape to go to the fraternity dance that night. A headache, I said.
That romance ended on a slippery slope in Auburn, Alabama. And I promised myself the next football game I watched would be on television.
On the way home from Tuscaloosa that night, I made myself another promise. From now on, I’ll stay home like Mama said old folks ought to do.