A long strange trip it’s been


Texas-Wyoming Pregame

Willie Earl, the Grateful Dead did have it right, it has been a long strange trip, through the years. In 1970, we were repatriating to the USA from Clark Air Base in the Philippines, right after the Cambodia invasion that my air force dad helped to support, landing first in San Francisco to see the lunatic fringe at work and then on to the backwater of Jacksonville, Arkansas, our next posting. It was a stunning turn of events after an overseas adventure and there was no greater reverse culture shock than being caught in the maelstrom of Razorback football fan hysteria, “woooo…pig soooie!” A year after the vaunted ’69 shootout, there was great anticipation of another dogfight, but the Texas wishbone and Woo Woo Wooster slaughtered the pigs, 42-7. (They went squealing to the SEC a couple decades later, followed recently by our longtime friends in College Station.) Fast forward to 1974-75, it was college decision time in my senior year in high school in San Antonio, and I could still not bring myself to liking the idea of Texas and the Horns after the trauma in Arkansas. Nonetheless, I made the pilgrimage to Austin, saw the UT tower, the communications school, the stadium…it was all large and I was impressed, but what made the biggest impression was the Drag. Mid-1970’s, Austin was in its truly weird heyday. There were hippies all over the place, selling bongs, beads, pipes and trinkets in random makeshift stalls all up and down Guadalupe Ave. The whole street reeked of incense, covering the tracks of a drag that was up in smoke. Commies controlled the city council; the “heads” ruled the day. Post-60’s, the radicals had won, but as Hunter Thompson wrote, they had reached the high water point — the wave finally broke and rolled back. Five years later we marched into the Reagan era. In any event, I was hooked on Austin, and hooked on the Horns. The strange trip continues. Austin needs to stay weird and Texas football needs to get back on track. Woo Woo to our backfield trio that’s trying to take us back to the rampaging running game, and we’re counting on ’em to lay a whuppin’ on those visiting Cowboys from the northern sagebrush. RIP Pigpen and Jerry G.
 Truckin’

Willie Earl’s Post

Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been

-Grateful Dead                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

There are 40 some odd different journeys to Longhorn Football fandom within the Willie Earl Community. For me it started on January 1, 1964. I watched Texas play for the first time that day with my father, my brother David and his friend Jim Ammons as Texas kicked Navy all over the field in the Cotton Bowl and won their first National Championship. We had lived in Texas for exactly 364 days and were still learning about Texas and Texans and it was Jim Ammons who introduced me to the expression, “how do you like them apples?”  As in, “how do you like them apples Strawman?”—Jim’s less than affectionate nickname for Roger Staubach—as Scott Appleton, Tommy Nobis, David McWilliams and other assorted Longhorns threw the Heisman Trophy winner around like a rag doll. Later Staubach would say that after that game he knew he that he had to get bigger and stronger.  Jim’s drawl along with his cockiness and enthusiasm for the Longhorns converted me from rooting for Navy to rooting for Texas and ultimately becoming a Longhorn for life.

Less long ago, but still a while back, in 1979 just over a year since our college graduation: my roommate, good friend, former hippie and Willie Earl subscriber—who shall remain nameless—confessed to me as we watched the Texas-TCU game in Memorial Stadium that that day was the first time he had attended a Texas Football game. Keep in mind we’re talking about a native Texan who attended U.T Austin from 1974 to 1978. I was dumbfounded and I had to make him repeat what he had just told me several times before I could fully absorb this shocking confession. He’s now a season ticket holder, tailgater and intrepid traveler to Texas games all over the country and has been for years.

Speaking of confessions, one of my fraternity brothers and a W.E. reader told me during a conversation about the 1969 Texas – Arkansas game that while growing up in Dallas he was an Arkansas fan. The horror. Thankfully he’s been in recovery now for about 37 years and during Sig Ep parties in the 70s he led the brothers and their dates in the singing of The Eyes of Texas and Texas Fight.

Still others of you may not have been inspired to total Longhorn devotion until James Brown rolled left versus Nebraska in 1996. For others conversion was probably as recent as January 6, 2006.

And then there’s our iconic coach Darrell Royal. Royal was a star defensive back and quarterback for Oklahoma and still holds OU’s record for most career interceptions.  But in 1963 when OU Head Coach Bud Wilkinson retired and the Okies came calling Royal turned them down flat.  He was a Longhorn and always would be.

You see, Texas is a magnet and few who venture close escape its pull. The opening of the 1966 ABC broadcast of the Texas – Arkansas game featured aerial shots of the hills, lakes and trees of West Austin and Chris Schenkel’s understated narration,

“You come, you see, you stay.”

Amen.

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