story by Jack Clark
Editor’s note: Welcome to the fourth season of Tusk to Tail – the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise 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. Tusk to Tail is managed by Talk Business & Politics. Legal representation is iffy at best and professional psychological help is typically ignored, if not mocked.
The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail
Admittedly, I have been tired. I still hadn’t fully recovered from the cold and wet from our big win in Oxford when I found myself walking down Bourbon Street, well past my normal bedtime, only a few days later.
It has taken two trips to the doctor, mountains of cold medicine, and countless tablets of Advil to get me to this point in the season. Throw in four trips to Fayetteville, two trips to Mexico and a weekend in Dallas and I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m tired. And don’t forget the long Blues-fest and Bama weekend only a few weeks earlier.
Eleven weekends of football are tough, even for a young man. But Tusk to Tail never yields, right? Despite my weakened condition, I got my packing list from tailgate leader Dale Cullins, loaded my son Henry in the car, and made the trek to Fayetteville on Friday night. Since I was bringing a generator and a cooler, my presence would be needed. That’s the beauty of a team like ours. Everybody does their share.
So, with that being said, I followed the time honored tradition established by David Rice, whose post-game words usually appear here, and I skipped the morning set-up for this weekend’s tailgate.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, I was awakened by my phone literally having vibrated off of the night stand. By now, the group’s text thread was in full game day mode. And I was late, way late. Where are you? When are you coming? Why aren’t you here? I was so late that even our Facebook page, with photos of the set-up, had dozens of likes already. A plumbing problem at the house we stayed would keep Henry and me from arriving until noon. As we arrived at the tent, my tail fully between my legs, I tried in vain to sidestep Cullins, knowing full well my ass may be grass. After all, there are standards to uphold around here. I feared facing Dale much like one fears going to the principal’s office.
Again, as has been stated here numerous times over the years, this is group of tailgate professionals. In any other group you can tell someone you’ve been to all the home games and you will be showered in accolades. In Tusk to Tail, attendance of less than 10 games in a season will be met with ridicule and disdain. This is a big boy league for sure.
Fortunately for me, this is a team sport too and I’ve got great teammates. By 6 a.m. that morning, Tusk to Tail’s Godfather of Tailgating, Craig May, had filled his SUV with fellow Tusk to Tail’er David Rice and his son Jackson, and friends Jamey Johnson and Thane Chisolm and departed Little Rock. They would end up arriving by 8:30 a.m. to help Cullins and Mark Wagner set up everything. A team sport indeed.
By 1 p.m., guests were showing up, booze was flowing, the food was hot and ready, and more importantly Cullins had forgiven me for my tardiness. Our tent was cozy and warm and after a quick walk around Victory Village I noticed our party seemed to be the biggest one on the block. As I made the trip up the hill to visit my friend Les Pedeza, I couldn’t help but notice the unlucky tailgaters who were set up at the top of Victory Village. Those poor saps had to battle the 25 degree wind chill all day without tent walls. So you rookie tailgaters take note: If you want friends to come to your outdoor party in November, then you had better make sure they are warm. On that note, Tusk to Tail would like to thank Jeremy Veteto for bringing the heaters and propane tanks this weekend.
By 3 p.m., I wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of the long season. Craig, David, Mark, John Scott, Dale and Sean Casey, drinks in hand, had all found their way to chairs in the front corner of our cozy den. Content to just relax with two great games to watch on TV – the Ole Miss-LSU game and the Michigan St.-Ohio St. game – we just sat and laughed and drank and stayed warm under our propane heater. Each of us looked relieved to be sitting down, catching the last little bit of rest before the game. After all, this was our 11th time to get together this season and the moment was much like the calm before the proverbial storm. Later, as we heard the Razorback marching band pass just a few feet from our party, I said to Craig that I’ll take our spot in Victory Village any day over a spot in the grove at Ole Miss.
Tusk to Tail travels together, we watch great football together, we eat great food together and, on every Saturday night somewhere out there in SEC country, we set-it-all-up-and-tear-it-all-down-to-get-ready-for-the-next-one together.
After the game was over, as we huddled under the now cold tent, there still remained the one last hurdle of the day, the dreaded trailer load-up, which always requires some unlucky schmuck to have to walk up a long, steep hill to retrieve Dale’s SUV. The problem is that we can’t park the trailer at the tailgate until all of the traffic has passed and because the game went down to the last minute, Maple Street was a mess. There we were, all of us, slaves to that traffic light at the top of the hill.
As I looked around at my group of now shivering friends I realized three things: First and foremost, despite a long, cold day and the game’s outcome, the air was still filled with high fives, fist bumps and smiles, proving once again that Tusk to Tail never loses a tailgate. Second, as we grumbled about the strangers loitering around our tent, I realized the best way to make people leave a November tailgate is to turn off the heaters.
Lastly, as we watched the traffic get thinner, and after I put my cold hands inside my pockets to warm them, I came to my last realization: Alas, I was the schmuck with Dale’s keys.