I'm trying to remember when I've had a better Christmas. There was a pretty good one in 1967. There was that awesome chemistry/science set that year.
One of the gadgets that I rigged was a rain alarm. There was wiring out the second-story bedroom window on Fair Park Boulevard. When moisture hit the aluminum foil, the buzzer went off inside. That lasted through the first two rains of 1968 before my father asked that I take it apart and figure out other uses for the kit.
One of the worst presents had to be in 1964 when there were four identical navy blazers with a UofA patch. My mother thought her four boys were precious at the Cotton Bowl in those jackets.
We all thought we looked stupid. The bad part was the realization that there were two blazers in bigger sizes that I could grow into. My younger brother reminded me in the fourth quarter of the Cotton Bowl game when the Razorbacks raised four fingers, "That's how many I'll get to wear."
Christmas at our house usually included something with a Razorback on them. Sometimes it wasn't as bad as blazers. There were some pretty neat sweatshirts under the tree. Or, maybe footballs for everyone.
My father was sometimes just back from the Look All-America show hosted by Bob Hope in New York City. He often came back with those white autograph footballs signed by all of the nation's stars. Those sometimes ended up under the tree. By the middle of Christmas morning, there were usually a few names that couldn't be recognized after hitting the asphalt as we chunked them around the neighborhood.
I remember some of the family reunions around Christmas time. There was the time that all of the Henrys (my father had seven brothers and sisters) came to our house with a wrapped present for me. I had complained that my brothers had eaten the last bag of chips before I had gotten even one bite the night before. There were 31 bags of Doritos wrapped with my name on them. I thought that was pretty neat until it was time for everyone to leave and 30 bags disappeared. I did get to keep one, but it didn't last long.
Mostly those big Henry get togethers revolved around golf. My dad and his brothers (and some of his brother-in-laws) grew up as caddies at War Memorial Park Golf Course. It was called just the Fair Park in those days. Several of my uncles were golf professionals. It wasn't unusual for them to ask to see my grip, or for them to take me to the backyard to see my swing.
The advice was always the same, "Easy does it. Pause at the top."
I hid under the table as my father and uncles told stories. I loved the one about leaving home in the mornings with a nickel and a Hershey chocolate bar for their day of toting bags at the golf course.
The nickel was for a Coca-Cola. Grandma told them to lick the candy bar all over when they unwrapped it — because the bigger boys wouldn't try to take it from them if it was already sticky.
Moving to modern times, our family usually was planning a bowl trip around Christmas time. I'd stuff the tickets in my daughter's stockings.
There's no bowl tickets in the stockings this Christmas, but I think we all figure it's just a one-year blip on the football radar. This year, it's just stuff like eye liner, lip balm and lotion. Remember, I've got all girls. They seemed happy, but they love the bowl trips. There's good shopping in Dallas and Orlando — their favorite bowl destinations.
We made a drive to San Diego for a bowl trip when the girls were young. There was a Christmas Eve stop in Deming, N.M. We put up a small tree in the motel room. The girls were stunned that Santa found us. They went to bed early that night, convinced Santa's early stops were in the West. To this day, the girls think that was one of the best bowl trips and best Christmas mornings. I have never explained that the car was just as full when we left home as it was when we got home.
There was the one bowl trip to Shreveport. The media hotel was in Bossier City. There are still stories about the gas station near the hotel where they had an armed guard. They'd had four robberies in the previous week. They liked the looks of us and allowed us to buy some fuel to get home.
After that, I am generally happy to be home around this time of year and not in Shreveport. That's the curse of winning just six games. You might have to go to Shreveport.
I like the idea of having everyone right here for Christmas. That's why this holiday season seemed so good to me. Plus, I've learned how to do Christmas. This year, I didn't get out the smoker. I grilled. It's much quicker and everyone seemed to like the outcome. That may say something about my ability to run a smoker.
What did I get for Christmas? What was under the tree matched my list at McLellan's Fly Shop. The haul included wading boots, long underwear, fishing gloves and a windstopper hood/mask. I'm ready for a long boat ride on the river — or an airy ride in Santa's sleigh.
State of the Hogs: Christmas
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