Friday, January 29, 2010

Born to Be Bama Bound



Born to Be Bama Bound

Coach Bryant himself, Alabama’s hallowed football coach, had his humble beginnings in Moro Bottom, Arkansas. The nearby Fordyce school mascot, Redbug, said it all. Those pesky chiggers proved formidable. Bryant became Fordyce’s favorite Redbug son. The town’s theatre hosted his famous wrestling match, earning him his moniker. Coach and I had something in common. We barely escaped being Razorbacks.

Mobile Infirmary must have stamped my birth certificate with a big indelible “Bama.” Blood type – Crimson “A,” my diaper likely Houndstooth.

I moved to Camden, Arkansas at the tender age of 3; Hog calling, Razorback style, was de rigueur. An Arkansas mailing address made it compulsory, maybe even a school board imposed language requirement. Growing up, I mostly listened to school friends as they performed the feat. “Call the Hogs,” my cousins demanded on treks to Birmingham. I grudgingly and half-heartedly obliged. My kin were of Alabama football persuasion…Tide and Tiger.

Grandma Mathis, family matriarch to our next-door neighbors in Arkansas, cut young Paul Bryant’s hair. Two of the Jordan boys, friends of Bryant’s in Fordyce, lived in my town. George “Jud” Jordan, one of the twins Coach Bryant spoke so fondly of, went to my church, his wife organist.

In the Deep South, football has always been king of autumn. Unlike Alabama, Southwestern Conference Arkansas had no state rivals. Crimson Tide fans in a strange land, my mother and father quietly smiled and nodded during pigskin conversations. Sugar Bowl, 1962 found the Razorbacks battling the Crimson Tide; Camden was abuzz with anticipation. “Wooooooo pig sooieee” ricocheted for miles up and down the Ouachita River. Mama, with a dangerously wild hair, kept the bright red Christmas paper on our front door and cleverly added a huge white “Go Bama.” Officially the Christmas holidays, cars slowly drove by, viewing yard and door decorations. We heard tire screeches as folks threw on their brakes and backed up for a second look. How dare someone defame the Hogs in their own state? We gained community notoriety; the local radio station dedicated “Stars Fell on Alabama” to my daddy. I learned of Joe Namath, highly irregular for a female grade-schooler in Hogland.

High school senior, fourteen years later, and pressed to choose an institution for higher learning, I pondered, “Where would I go?” Southern mandated ACT scores were sent to Auburn, Alabama, and closer-by Louisiana Tech. With my interest in fine art, Auburn was the logical choice; its art department was well thought of. My parents, with me in tow, took a Thanksgiving road trip to Birmingham to see relatives. Enter good ol’ Uncle Archie, a bona fide Auburn engineer. He arranged for Cousin Kent to provide a tour of the supposed loveliest village. Supporting alum, Uncle had yearly Iron Bowl tickets. Unselfishly, but at the hopes of securing a future Auburnite, he relinquished his ticket to me. My accompanying cousins, obviously pro-Auburn in school colors, were ready for the ensuing battle in Legion Field. Hiking Birmingham hillsides, a girl fresh from Arkansas drank in all of the colorful hype along the way. Inside, the scene was pure madness; orange and blue dominated one side of the stadium, crimson and white the other. War Eagles and Roll Tides battled back and forth across the gridiron in deafening decibels. Toilet paper littered the football field. Sticks with Tide boxes were cushioned with Charmin, visual support for Alabama. I vaguely remember the Auburn tiger and eagle, less impressive than “TP-on-a-stick.” After an eternity of suspense, the rival teams came onto the field. Himself, Coach Bryant, casually strolled onto the field and leaned on the goalpost, surveying his team. The Bama Boys were up for the fight…psyched in modern day terms. What pure sports majesty the team displayed! My visceral feelings overcame any sense of family commitment due to my ticket source. I was hooked. No fool, I kept my joy at the Tide’s victory in check on the way back to Uncle Archie’s. Next day we drove home to Camden; Daddy cleverly side-tripped through Tuscaloosa. The campus, divinely painted in autumn hues, called to me like a serendipitous siren. I headed for T-Town fall 1972.

I stayed at Bama 2 full years, withdrawing in 1974 to marry my Capstone engineer. We returned the following year on a fellowship for his master’s degree. Again attemping school, I dropped out, lacking the necessary fortitude. The next 28 years were used to raise a family and live globally in Indonesia and South Louisiana (a close resemblance to foreign posting). Husband forced into retirement at the age of 46, we moved to Mobile, my birthplace. With hubby rotating globally in the oil field, I enrolled at the University of South Alabama, again pursuing academia. Struggling with a degree plan that would fit my needs and use my earned credits, I “Googled” my fingertips off. My alma mater had a program for distant learners, the External Degree! My older Bama credits would be viable. Déjà vu. Gladly jumping through the necessary hoops, I was accepted into the program after my second sojourn to Indonesia. Between repatriating from Jakarta and heading for Muscat, Oman, I attended the required orientation on campus and was finally on my way to an official degree from my beloved Bama.

The last seven years a balance act of family obligations and EXD contracts (the equivalent of campus attended courses), I wrote papers from my laptop as I globe trotted. Complelting a course in meteorology while in the Middle East, the arid climate made for interesting subject research. Summers home from my expatriate adventures were dotted with seminars in Tuscaloosa and Dauphin Island. I discovered a new love – academia. It has been a long and arduous task, my degree. I love to tell surprised friends and associates, as I speak to them from a face framed in gray hair, that I graduated from college this summer. I don’t expect calls and letters with offers of employment. My degree selfishly pursued, the parchment was awarded – an academic nod from Bama – the place where it all started 37 years ago.

Yes, I indeed was born for Bama. In perfect coincidence, my sister married the son of Coach Bryant’s youngest Jordan friend from Fordyce. “Jud” Jordan’s widow played the organ at my wedding. Family photos hung on the walls through the years, included Coach Bryant and his team’s latest Sugar Bowl end zone victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Bama blood runs thick; my younger son, Nicholas Bryant McGlawn, earned his degree from Alabama several years ago. It’s a family thing. We proudly go to games when we can and watch televised games when we can’t physically attend, game day shirts mandatory.

I have enjoyed my lengthy quest for scholarly validation. Like Bryant, Mama called...twice for me; I chose Mammy Alabamy and became a member of the Bama Nation. Fatefully, several years ago, my family was visiting in Birmingham when the Saban brew-ha-ha took place. Upon hearing that our new coach was flying to T-Town, we quickly jumped in the car and joined the throngs, full of Southern hospitality, welcoming him. It was magical and made for a great family memory.

Born to be Bama bound, I graduated from the University of Alabama August 2009, holding an Bachelor of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a Concentration in Humanities.. New skills and passions, one of them writing, this article was written for my senior project and last undergraduate course. My diploma will be professionally framed in crimson and will hang next to my husband’s and son’s.

Yes, it is a family thing, my own blood family’s and that of the larger Bama Nation.

Yea Alabama, Roll Tide Roll.

I was born for Alabamy;

I have obtained my goa

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Nita Risher McGlawn

Nita is a freelance writer and visual artist living in Katy, TX. Her most recent published work was in the University of Alabama Alumni Magazine. The piece, “Born to Be Bama Bound,” chronicles how she came to attend the University of Alabama during its glory years of the early 1970’s, even though she grew up in South Arkansas.

Soon to be published, “A Bama Primer,” takes a whimsical tour of the University of Alabama. Children, university students, and die-hard fans will enjoy the alphabetical journey with landmarks, famous Bama folk, and trivia represented. Verse and graphics are original work by Nita.

Visit www.nitamcglawn.com to view some of Nita’s original artwork.

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