story by David Rice
Editor’s note: Welcome to Tusk to Tail, a special “web reality” presentation of the tailgating experience as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together for more than a decade. Members of the Tusk to Tail Team are Sean Casey, Jack Clark, Dale Cullins, Greg Houser, Craig May, David Rice and Mark Wagner. Link here for the explainer story and the photos and “stats” of the core Tusk to Tail crew. Tusk to Tail is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Preferred Office Products.
Follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail
The Razorbacks closed out their travel schedule this weekend. The good news is that Tusk to Tail loves a road trip. The bad news is that the trip was to Starkville, Miss.
Starkville is the farm pit of the SEC. The good news is that four of us were taking our sons, all age 10 or younger. The lack of a vibrant nightlife would not affect us this week.
Tusk to Tail's Team Little Rock was glad to welcome Sean Casey from Northwest Arkansas to our father-son getaway. This was Sean's first road trip of the season, and his boy's first time to see the Hogs away from home ever.
The bad news is that Dale Cullins and Greg Houser sat this one out. In addition to their charm and charisma, both bring an element of planning that we have come to rely on. Dale relishes his role as our navigator to the point that we call him "The Map" from the days when our kids watched Dora the Explorer. We would miss both of them throughout the journey.
The good news is that our plan to meet at Craig "The Godfather" May's house at 4 p.m. would allow us to beat Friday's rush hour traffic. The bad news is that the weekend's construction project on Interstate 430 had already created such a logjam that it became faster for the Caseys to drive completely around Little Rock and come in through downtown.
The good news is that despite their delay, Sean was able to meet us before time to leave. The bad news is that it took us nearly an extra hour to find the car keys that May's 4-year-old daughter had lost.
It seemed like bad news when our guest Jim Harris asked if we could stop by a drug store or his house on the way out of town. Harris needed to pick up some heartburn medicine so he could enjoy ribs at the Rendezvous when we finally made it to Memphis. This type of request would generally be met by Craig politely inviting Jim to make love to himself.
The good news is that Craig was in a good mood, telling us that "all requests will be honored" following our patience while he found the keys.
Multiple accidents on I-40 were bad news for everyone attempting to drive through the construction zone. The good news is that Tusk to Tail's caravan was already planning on circumventing that part of the interstate on Highway 70. The bad news is that the accidents channeled all traffic to Highway 70. The worse news is that the influx of traffic created a series of new accidents. The good news is that we weren't in any of the accidents.
The bad news is that we arrived in Memphis at 8 Friday night, nearly two hours after originally planned. The good news is that the late arrival led to perhaps the shortest wait for a table any of us have ever experienced with a group at the Rendezvous.
Maybe it was because we were so hungry. Maybe the late hour allowed the ribs to cook longer. Whatever the reason, nearly all of us agreed that the Rendezvous barbecue had never tasted better. Great news, right?
Not for the Godfather, whose stomach was all bad news Saturday morning. The rest of us ate continental breakfast in the lobby of our Tupelo hotel. Craig drank from a bottle of Pepto-Bismol he bought at a gas station.
For a group that loves to tailgate, the weather forecast was terrific news. Saturday in Starkville was sunny and clear, with a high temperature in the 60s. Yet for the sixth time in the past seven weeks, the Razorbacks had an 11 a.m. tee time, far too early to justify much of a party. It is never good news when the stadium announcer welcomes the crowd by saying, "Good morning."
We thought it good news when the Razorbacks scored on their first two possessions. Then the Bad News Hogs took over, allowing 38 unanswered points to lose 45-14.
"I would call that a dumpster fire, but that would be an insult to most dumpsters," Mark Wagner said after the game.
Since Sean had an extra three hours of driving, he left with Jack Clark and their sons immediately after the game while we waited for Mark to pack up his camera gear. Upon leaving about 30 minutes later, we noticed their kids had left some games and a jacket in the back of Craig's car. We called to give them the news, and they decided they needed the stuff before we saw them next week. The good news is that Craig drives fast, so catching up to them was no problem.
You could probably see the bad news coming from a mile away. That is probably where the cop was sitting on Highway 70 as we blew through De Valls Bluff Saturday night. For the third time this season, Craig was pulled over for speeding. The other two occurred on the weekends of our only conference wins. The wins may have lifted some spirits, because Craig had escaped both with a warning. We were not so fortunate this time.
The ticket was a disappointing end to a largely disappointing weekend. There were high points, punctuated by time spent with our sons that we will always cherish. Our meals at the Rendezvous and Gus's Fried Chicken in Memphis were both served on paper plates, yet may be some of the best food we ate all season. And even a day of bad Razorback football will be missed during the long uneventful offseason.
The loss ended all hope for Arkansas reaching a bowl game, which would typically be bad news.
However, considering all that has occurred this season, knowing that the John L. Smith era will last only four more quarters may be the best news of all.