I'm not sure retirement came easy for Harold Horton. But now that July has been torn from the calendar, he's all in and will handle it perfectly. There may be more crappie fishing and duck hunting than he ever imagined possible.
Perfect is the way he's done everything since the early days at DeWitt. He's never complained. All he's done is win championships or pad the rolls at the Razorback Foundation. He's handled every task with class, always with great effort and perfect execution.
Heck, he never complained about having to hitchhike back and forth to games and practices to play for the Stuttgart American Legion baseball team as the lone DeWitt member.
I'm lucky because my life has been intertwined with the Hortons since I was small. And the mesh became tighter when I started to court DeWitt's Jean Ann Ashcraft. Well before we were wed, it became clear that I was marrying into two of DeWitt's first families, the Ashcrafts and the Hortons.
Harold Horton's brother Don married Mary Jean Mills. Bobby Ashcraft, my wife's father, married Wanda Jo Mills. George "Porgie" Mills ran the DeWitt water works and also was one of the best outdoorsman in Arkansas County. He was duck hunting guide for Nash Buckingham, a legendary Memphis writer.
All of this is important because it put me in many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with the Ashcrafts and Hortons. And it earned me a spot on some of the trips to the woods or rivers with the Horton boys. I will never forget the time Don invited me to bream fish an Arkansas County lake.
The trip to the fishing spot was incredible.
First, we went to the White River where a nice boat was tethered. There was a 15-minute ride down stream. That boat was beached and we carried two ice chests across a bean field. Eventually, we got to a farm reservoir where another boat awaited with a trolling motor. The fishing was fantastic. The real job was to carry two ice chests full of bream back to the first boat.
The Hortons don't do anything half way. They treat all with respect. That's the way Harold did it as an Arkansas player, coach, administrator and when he won national titles at Central Arkansas.
If you got to hunt or fish with Porgie (or a Horton or an Ashcraft), it is a great day. It is done perfectly, with belief in God first. If Harold tells you he's going to pray for you, that's an every night thing.
I was the sports editor at the Log Cabin Democrat when the UCA job came open. Harold called to find out the lay of the land. I gave him two key names. I'm not sure he needed any help. The UCA president said he didn't need any references to hire Harold.
I was asked to speak with Harold at a wild game dinner at Central Baptist Church a few years ago. We drove to North Little Rock together.
Harold handed me a 10-page, hand written speech when we got into the car. I realized that my 10-minute personal testimony needed to be reduced to one because Harold had written his entire life and how his faith figured every step.
"How does it read?" he asked.
"Perfect," I said. "Don't change a thing."
Come to think of it, that probably fits for Harold's whole life, not just the speech. He got it right when he married Betty Eldridge. And they've gotten it right as they've raised their family, starting with Holly and Tim, and now with grand kids.
He got a standing ovation that night in a packed church. I got up and thanked Harold for letting me read his first so that I was prepared for my time slot. I got an ovation for being brief.
I loved the story about playing for Stuttgart since DeWitt didn't have an American Legion team. The Stuttgart folks let him out of the car on the highway that led to DeWitt after road trips.
"That was good," Horton said. "I didn't care. I never walked far and It helped me go a little harder when we played Stuttgart in the rest of the sports."
That wasn't in his speech at the church. Maybe he told it to me on the road between Morrilton and Conway. Or maybe it was in a duck blind in between deadly shots with his 10 gauge when I thought the birds were out of range.
About the time I saw them, Harold had already knocked them out of the sky. They may have been out of range for me, but they weren't for him. Ask about him any place in Arkansas and you will be told that Harold Horton always gets it perfect.
State of the Hogs: Harold Horton
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