State of the Hogs: Beauty of Life

There was no Arkansas football game Saturday, the perfect break for a beautiful wedding and a time to honor a fallen friend. Fair warning, this is likely to do to you what it did to me, leave my cheeks wet.

Got to see what life is all about Saturday. While putting the football season on hold, I took a little stroll down the aisle at Green Forest United Methodist Church.

It was a wonderful stand-in opportunity for my late friend, Dennis McCarty. I've written about Dennis. He passed July of 2009. He was my fishing mentor. Many in Fayetteville knew him.

He owned and ran Kwik Kar Auto Lube, next to Herman's, with his wife Pat. We were extremely close. We talked almost daily for about six or seven years. He was one of the men who taught me how to enjoy fly fishing.

Last spring, his granddaughter, Brianne Wesson, asked if I would stand in for Dennis. She wondered if I would walk her down the aisle on a Saturday in the fall to wed Craig Phillips. They had dated the last several years.

Craig drove Brianne and I to the cabin on the White River that July night where Dennis passed. I had taken Dennis over to the river three days before he died. We fished briefly one of those last mornings before Pat came to the river and I came home. It was a night neither Brianne nor I could handle driving. You get to know someone on a trip like that. I've loved Craig ever since.

Brianne didn't give me the date of the wedding when she asked last spring, just that it would be a Saturday in the fall. I told her immediately I'd do it. I knew it would work out.

A few weeks later it turned out the best available date for the church was also the open date weekend for the Arkansas football team. It did just work out, but I'd decided I was going to do it even if it turned out to be Alabama weekend, or whatever.

I had an easy part. Walk down the aisle knowing not a soul in the church would be looking at me. Their eyes would be fixed on real beauty, a bride on her day. I even had an easy line. When the preacher asked who gives Brianne away, I spoke with strength from above, "I do, in honor of her grandfather."

My beautiful daughters were there, too, smiling all the time. I gave them hugs afterward andknow I'd be ready when they were ready. They had both bet that I'd come down the aisle crying. I guess I was too worried that I'd mess up and step wrong, trip Brianne or myself on that beautiful wedding gown. I did cry at the reception.

I didn't at the ceremony. No fumbles. No wrong steps. No audibles. Just a sure hand-off to Craig. After the reception, I changed into my fishing gear. My wife and daughters headed to Fayetteville. I went east from Green Forest, straight to the Norfork River. I walked in at the spot where Dennis and I last fished. I was misty eyed as I stepped out on the gravel bar where we'd landed rainbows together the last time. It was too dark to fish and the river was up, but I didn't need to fish.

I needed to talk, to Dennis. I stood where the river lapped onto the rocks. My shoes got wet, like my cheeks. I turned up to Dennis to share the beauty of the day, the way Brianne had handled so many unique and interesting situations.

Indeed, it was a beautiful Saturday.

Clay and Brianne stroll down the aisle.

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