What's better than a road trip with your father? Well, absolutely nothing. What if you throw in great barbecued ribs and six hours of talking Razorback football? Nothing could be finer. And, what if your father happens to be the foremost authority on the Razorbacks?
Okay, you got the picture. Friday was a sweet day for yours truly. It was a day that both myself and my father had been talking about for several months. My father, Orville Henry, has been battling pancreatic cancer for the last two years, so just the thought of making such a trip, from Malvern to Tuscaloosa, Ala., was too good to be true.
And, we'd been talking about where to have lunch on Friday for several months, too. We both had stopped twice in the last four years (both times on the way to an Arkansas-Alabama football tussle) at a barbecue stand in Greenwood, Miss., that features grand barbecue ribs. Dave Clark, who promotes himself as The Barbecue King, does ribs right and he didn't disappoint.
When told of our mission ... taking legendary writer (and my dad) to an Arkansas football game ... Clark served up a few extra ribs and even presented us some free samples as he was piling them on our plate. Clark knows how to do it. And, he came out of his trailer/cooker to pose for pictures for this story without much prodding. He waved to us with a big thumb's up sign as driver/photographer Tom Ewart wheeled us back on the highway.
After our huge lunch, OH stretched out in the back seat of Tom's big SUV for a nap (complete with snores) before we got down to the real business of discussing the 50-plus years of Razorback football stored away in OH's great mind. It was out of this world, even better than the ribs. I have it on tape for future reference (Heck, I'm guessing it's actually worth something!) and we'll cover a few topics in this story.
There were two topics that I'll cover in brief fashion in this story, because they'll do your heart good, just as they thrilled mine. I asked OH to talk about his favorite Razorback player and his favorite Razorback game. I could have guessed one of them, but would have missed the other.
The first question I asked: Tell me the Razorback player that made you smile the most, specifically, your favorite all-time Razorback.
"It was Lance Alworth," Orville said. "He was the Razorback who made me smile. The funny thing, I'm not sure Arkansas got the best from Lance. He was much better as a pro. He was unique, in that he was married at age 17 to his sweetheart, who was 15. He came to Arkansas as a married player, but that didn't stop every co-ed on campus from chasing him, and Lance did his best to accomodate them. Heck, the wives of the coaches chased after him, too.
"He was unique because even with all of that around him, he was always a humble person. He didn't understand that he was a special athlete and a special person. He was just Lance. He never changed. I loved to talk to him. And, I was thrilled to watch him play. He had so much athletic ability. He just played at Arkansas with only a part of that natural ability. They used him as a running back, and we know that he was much better as a wide receiver when he got to the pros.
"I'll never forget when we were asking players to donate items for the museum that Lance told me that he would give me every single thing he had ... everything from high school, to college to the pros. He gave us his Super Bowl ring, the only one he had. He just said, 'You can have every bit of it.' A lot of people didn't do that, I mean a lot. And, he was gracious to give us EVERYTHING."
What was your favorite Arkansas football game?
"It had to be the '64 Texas game, the one in Austin," Orville said. "It was a great, great victory, and it put Arkansas football on the national map. It led to the national championship, and it had everything ... all the special ingredients.
"There was the punt return by Ken Hatfield with all the great blocks. There was the goal line stand at the end where Arkansas recognized Darrell Royal's substitution to take out Ted Koy. With Koy out, Wilson Matthews knew it was going to be a pass. Wilson called the perfect defense for the play that he knew would be coming and they smothered the play. And, then afterwards, Darrell was just so gracious in his praise for Arkansas and that play.
"I remember the Arkansas fans, all in that end zone ... the same end zone where they lost a possible national title in '62 ... coming out of the stands after the game to take a piece of that grass where Arkansas made the stand. That's what I remember and it's the game I remember the most as my favorite. And, there are a lot of favorite games."
There were many more subjects on that tape, enough to fill several more stories like this, and that will be done in the coming weeks. I look forward to sharing them with you, as my father does, too. We are going to fill some more tapes on the trip home, if he still feels like it.
Clay Henry (left) and Orville Henry sample a rib from the Barbecue King in Greenwood, Miss., on Friday.
OH and Clay place their order with Dave Clark, the Barbecue King.
Tom Ewart got a few extra ribs for the road. First, he had to pose in front of the main building with the Barbecue King's logo.
Orville Henry (from left) and Clay Henry (right) pose with Dave Clark, the Barbecue King. Clark's stand is on the main drag in Greenwood, Miss. He has a portable stand outside his restaurant.
Photos by Tom Ewart and Clay Henry