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The day I fell in love with Joan

by Bradly Gill | November 23, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

Well, it was love from afar, since it was Joan Baez, the folk singer.

Yes, it was 1959, and I was about to graduate from the University, and for some reason that day has stayed in my mind.

That Saturday morning in early October had started about like most of my college Saturday mornings. Yeah, I slept in, and at about nine, when I turned on my radio, I heard the disk jockey rattle, "We've got a hot new record for you today from Joan Baez." Well, of course, I knew Joan Baez; she was in my top five along with the Kingston Trio and the Limelighters. She has that unique voice, which carries such a pure sound that I'm mesmerized just listening to her sing.

"Here is Joan singing what sounds like a sure hit," the disk jockey said.

I can't remember the song, but it was an immediate hit with me, and I kept the radio playing for most of the day. It was a time if you wanted to hear a song again or a singer, just stay tuned in, and if it was a hit, or even popular, the station would play it again, sometimes every ten minutes.

When I was back in L. A. the week before, I asked Vertis, who I was dating at the time, if she had heard the new song from the Kingston Trio, "Tom Dooley," as in "Hang down your head Tom Dooley, hang down you head and cry... poor boy you're about to die." Well, no she hadn't, so we just pulled over in the parking lot in front of the Rialto Theater, and I tuned in the radio to KELD.

We probably sat there and courted for not much more than ten minutes when "Tom Dooley" played again, and I smiled as if to day, "Big deal college boy is with it." And she nodded and said, "Yeah; let's go to the Dairyette and get a coke."

Vertis was more of an Elvis fan. After we married and moved to South Texas, we and our closest friends, Marilyn and George, drove up to Houston to take in an Elvis show in-person at the Astrodome. It was okay, but at the end of the show, when Elvis made a slow circle of the arena standing up in a golf cart next to the seating, Vertis and Marilyn ran down the aisle to the rail separating the audience from the arena, along with about a thousand other squealing women.

George and I didn't move of course.

But back to that Joan Baez day in Fayetteville.

I remember thinking it might rain, and since the Hogs were playing TCU in Razorback Stadium that afternoon, and I had my student ticket, I figured I might get wet, but it never crossed my mind not to go. I had been a Hog fan as long as I could remember. It had only been a few years back when I was in high school, and on a Saturday afternoon, I very clearly remembered when late in the game, a touchdown pass against a powerhouse Ole Miss team gave the Hogs a 6 to 0 win. This 1959 team seemed to be nearly ready win some big games, but TCU was a heavy favorite.

No, I didn't get my rain coat and umbrella out because I didn't have either, and at the point in my life, those items didn't seem necessary.

Well, I kept listening to the radio, and they kept playing Joan's new album, and after hearing one more of Joan's songs, I headed for the stadium. It had started to sprinkle, and I could tell from the lines going into the stadium some of the fair weather fans were going to listen to the game on the radio instead of sitting in the rain, but not me.

Well, as the game started, the rain picked up somewhat, and the wet ball, and a gritty Arkansas defense along with a grind it out offense made for a low scoring game. Eventually, the ball was centered directly to Arkansas's tailback, who on third down, instead of plowing up the middle for a two yard gain, punted. I don't know when the first pooch kick happened, but I can tell you this: As the opposing linebackers got ready to tackle a bull of a tailback by the name of Bobby Burnette, it must have been a shock to see the ball sailing over their heads instead of a charging tailback, and I would imagine the crowd was also in shock. But, rain, the pooch kick, and Arkansas's defense and lack of an offense held the score down. Yeah; it was 0 to 0 at the half, and a lot of the crowd, which was already a little sparse, headed for the house.

The student section mostly just evaporated with some leaving and the rest of us going down to sit in the empty fifty yard line seats. As the game continued, it was still 0 to 0 at the start of the fourth quarter, and the rain had become harder. I'm sure most of the few folks remaining figured it was going to end scoreless. I know I did.

Then Mississippi fumbled again. Well, there were plenty of fumbles, but this one was in Mississippi's end of the field, at somewhere around the 30 yard line... I think.

It seemed, if things went like they had, Arkansas would either fumble or just bang into the middle of the line and turn the ball over to Ole Miss. However, a surprise; Arkansas made a first down! Well, our hopes were dashed when three more run it up the middles yielded only five yards, and the field goal unit trotted onto the field.

I remember sitting there with it raining cats and dogs thinking, wet, soggy football etc, and I don't think there were two Arkansas fans in the stadium who would take an Arkansas bet that the field goal would be good.

The ball was snapped and the sparse crowd groaned. It looked low, short and off center. There was a pause, and then the two officials at the goal-line both signaled "good." Yes, we yelled, but when you are that miserable it was more like a groan with a scream. 3 to 0 and much to everyone's surprise, the game ended that way.

You don't remember those 49 to 0 games. It's the unusual nail bitters that flash through your mind.

I remember several more. Being in Austin in the early 60s, and standing up as time ran out on Texas. "That's three in a row!" I yelled.

Then I remember going to College Station to play the Aggies, and being impressed as the Corps marched in, but then they embittered me forever. Those sorry, worthless, Aggies, started booing as the Arkansas Band played the school anthem, and they booed, and not just a little subdued boo. It was a loud full-throated boo that drowned out the Arkansas band. Of course we whipped their sorry asses, which made me feel better.

But all my flash memories aren't positive. I remember being in Austin and late in the fourth quarter with Arkansas ahead 7 to 3, with 4 minutes left, when Texas slowly marched 80 yards down the field to score and win 10 to 7. What really made it worse was an earlier Arkansas drive that failed on the Texas one yard line, and what made it even worse was that we went with Texas friends to a Texas after-the-game party, and one of their friends stopped by our table and said to me. "My gosh; you look so glum. You'd think we'd lost."

Richard Mason is an author and speaker. He can be reached at [email protected]

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