Mrs. Wilma Mae Gurley
Rt. 4, Crab Claw, Okla.
Well, the first thought that loped across my brain when I got back to the 40 Winks Tourist Court this afternoon was how happy you will be to learn you don't have to work on the farm no more or drive around in that old blue pickup truck.
I know you have never been real strong on the farm life. I can't hardly blame you for not liking to roll out of bed at four o'clock in the morning in the winter. You have did more cooking, washing, chopping, milking and all-purpose toting than any woman in Crab Claw. You might of thought I forgot about the vow I made when I proposed marriage. While you was working like a dog all these years you might of thought I forgot that I promised you wouldn't have to be no farm wife stuck out in the country with nobody to talk to but me and little Wilmer and nothing to do all day but just slave away in general.
I didn't forget though. We are rid of that old farm for good, honey. You won't never again have to clean the plugs or grind the valves on that old pickup either. No sir, it's a whole new life for us from now on. I guess you can't wait to hear how it happened.
October 17, 1976
The big thing was when you won me that Texas vs. Oklahoma football game ticket at the shopper sweepstakes at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Eufaula.
If you had not of did that, I would not of been able to write you this letter about kissing that old farm goodbye. Because without that ticket I would not of come down here to Dallas on the Greyhound bus. Also I would not of met my new friend Lester McBath, who is the chief sport writer for the Terlingua Nugget newspaper. Lester would never of introduced me to Darrell Royal and Barry Switzer. I never would of saw the President of the United States up close in the flesh. I never would of saw the fireworks display at the State Fair of Texas. I never would of saw the hardest hitting football game since the Crab Claw Comets knocked Lowatha Springs out of bi-district in 1968.
There's so many things I never would of did without that ticket that just thinking about it makes me sigh and waggle my head like them old cows you won't have to milk no more.
I run into Lester McBath at the It'll Do, which is a place in Dallas where people go in the daytime for a beer and to meet new friends. It's a good thing I did run into Lester because there wasn't no hotel room come with the sweepstakes ticket, and there ain't a empty hotel room within 25 miles of Dallas on the weekend OU plays Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Even President Ford had to stay the night in Lawton, Okla., because there wasn't no place in Dallas to put him and his crew.
How I met Lester is some big old boy come into the It'll Do and Lester jumped up from the table where he was talking to a real pretty woman and kind of trotted over to the pinball machine and started calling me cousin. Well, I seen what the trouble was. So I took to staring real hard at the big old boy until he throwed a pitcher of beer on the woman and left. Lester is a skinny guy who wears a bow tie and a baseball cap with little holes in the back of it for the head to get some air. Lester was so glad when the big old boy left that he bought me a half a dozen Buds and said I could sleep on the floor of his room at the 40 Winks Tourist Court which is where I am writing this letter from.
"Grover," Lester said when he had learned my name, "I am a very famous sport writer and I have got to go talk to Darrell Royal, the Texas coach, who is real hot and up in the air today. Darrell never has liked me since I quoted him as saying his players was pigs that would jump in the slop for him."
Lester said Darrell used to talk real colorful like that. Darrell would say a tough football game was like putting stink on stink. He would say his boys was going to get on the other team like ugly on a ape. The way Lester told it, Darrell used to be about twice as funny as Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk rolled into one.
But now, Lester said, Darrell didn't talk so funny anymore because certain sport writers had took to quoting him as using colorful words like b—and c—. Darrell was more of a yes and no man now, Lester said. But if that is true I sure couldn't tell it.
Darrell was real hot at Barry Switzer and the other Oklahoma coachers because they had beat his Texas team five years in a row. Darrell claimed he had found out the Oklahoma coachers had been spying on his secret practices. Darrell is a Oklahoma boy hisself, from over at Hollis. He has did his share of chores and he didn't care for the farm life much more than you do, honey. Being from Oklahoma, Darrell is smart and has a temper, about like me.
"Grover," Darrell said to me, "I will give $10,000 each out of my own pocket to the spy and to Switzer and to Larry Lacewell (Barry's No. 1 assistant coacher) if they will pass a lie detector test that they ain't been spying on me. That is $30,000 in all, and they could snap it up right quick if they ain't scared to. We played Oklahoma real close the last two years and could of whipped them. I tell you, Grover, it is kind of amusing and kind of hacks me off that I will be playing golf in the summer and people will say Darrell I bet you can't wait until the fall so you can make up for last year. Last year we lost a real close game to Oklahoma that was No. 1 and a pretty close game to A&M that was No. 2 at the time and we beat Colorado in the Astrid Bowl. We was 10 and 2. So what is bad about that, Grover?"
Then Darrell said a very profound thing, honey. He said a optimist thinks the bottle is half full and a pessimist thinks the bottle is half empty. I want you to remember that when you are thinking about our new life together.
Lester took me over to see Barry Switzer after that. Barry was real hot too. Barry is a pretty good looking blond-headed guy that was raised on a farm in Arkansas. Barry got off the farm too, honey, just like you are doing. "Grover. I hope Darrell sees ghosts ever time he thinks about Oklahoma," is what Barry told me. "He is plumb ridiculous to keep accusing us of spying and cheating. Our players laugh about it. I don't want in no verbal war with Darrell. We will do our talking on the ball field."
I asked Barry who would win the game. He said his boys would. Barry has a way of making people believe him, except for Darrell. Keep that in mind too, honey.
Also I talked to Larry Lacewell. Larry played high school ball for the Fordyce Redbugs in Arkansas. I said that was sure a funny name for a team. Larry said the Crab Claw Comets wasn't no name that would make a possum quit grinning. He said OU had thought about recruiting Rupert Bodeen, the star tackle at Crab Claw in 1972, but Rupert wasn't stump broke. Larry talked a lot and was real friendly. Larry said the Oklahoma boys was going to win the game too.
I was feeling high as a pineapple by then. Lester McBath and I went downtown to visit the riot they have in Dallas on Friday night before the Texas-OU game. Some merchants had boarded up their store windows. But I have saw better riots. Soon Lester and me got bored and went to a Irish bar. Lester said you have never saw a Irishman until you have saw a Irishman in a Irish bar in Dallas. At this bar they throwed darts and drank whiskey and the band played loud Irish songs like "Good-Hearted Woman" that made me think of you.
It was so loud in that Irish bar that I hardly even heard myself make the bet.
One thing I haven't told you yet is the Oklahoma quarterback woke up a couple of days ago with what the sport writers called a "swollen testicle" from some kind of a infection or strain and was out of the game. But Oklahoma had another quarterback, a kid from Texas that Darrell had tried real hard to get. And by now I was about half full of Who Hit John and I got to talking to a guy with a mustache and white plastic shoes by the shuffleboard table at the Irish bar.
And so what I did is I bet him the farm and the pickup truck against a new Pontiac and I took Oklahoma and gave him one and one half points.
After a good night's sleep on the rug at the 40 Winks, I went with Lester to watch President Ford ride through Dallas in a open car. There was 2,000 Secret Service boys in town. The Dallas newspaper said it cost $32,000 to pay overtime to Dallas cops to watch Ford. But the Dallas people was good natured about it, and the President come into the Fair Grounds with 15 cars and three buses full of his folks, which is why it is no wonder they could not find a hotel room big enough.
You might ask what was the President doing in Dallas at a football game instead of back at Washington, D.C. studying up on Russia. Well, Lester said the President was a old-time football player hisself, and the Texas vs. OU game was on national TV for the first time since OU got on some kind of probation four years ago. The President was going to flip the coin at the 50-yard line with Darrell and Barry.
But you didn't see the coin flip on TV because of a equal time law. Lester said since it is a election year, the TV would have to let Jimmy Carter flip a coin too, and maybe even Lester Matlock and Eugene McCurdy. Lester, the sport writer, said the President would probably trip over the 50-yard line. He didn't, but he did drop the coin. Later the President went to the sideline and seen the Texas football boys sticking their arms up in the air to make what they call the Hook 'Em Horns sign, and he thought they was waving at him, and he waved back and made the Hook 'Em sign too. I know he meant well. It was just confusing.
By the way, I sold my football ticket for $200. That is legal to do in Texas now. The Texas legislature has made ticket scalping legal. Lester said it was a accident, like when the Texas legislature gave a honor to the Boston Strangler for his work in population control. Lester got me a sideline pass as the photographer for the Terlingua Nugget. I saw the game real good.
It sounded like a 40-car smashup on the Will Rogers Turnpike ever play out there, honey. OU couldn't make but one first down in the first half and if you count the penalties, OU came out losing three yards from scrimmage. But Texas kept fumbling the ball. Texas has got a freshman halfback named Johnny Lam Jones, the Lam standing for Lampasas, Texas, his hometown, who is the fastest running football player in the country. Johnny Lam has a hurt back and couldn't play in the game. Lester told me that was why Darrell got so hot, because Darrell was trying to keep it a secret about Johnny Lam and Barry found out. I don't know the answer my own self.
It was real old-time football out there. Both teams kept running the flying wedge, and neither one uses what they call the forward pass.
The Texas kicker named Russell Erxleben kicked two long field goals and in the second half it looked like 6-0 would win it for Texas. Then a Texas boy fumbled again and Horace Ivory, another one of them Texas boys that plays for Oklahoma, scored a fourth quarter touchdown with about a minute to go.
Fact is, there wasn't a whole pile of joy on my mouth when OU lined up to kick the extra point that could win the game 7-6. I had given the white shoe guy one and one half points, remember.
But for a second I thought I had won us a Pontiac.
The OU center flung the ball over everybody's head. The kick holder ran back and picked up the ball and throwed a pass. If the right OU boy caught it the score could be 8-6. A Texas boy caught it instead.
So the big game wound up in a 6-6 tie. Football coachers say a tie is like kissing your sister. Far as I am concerned, this tie was more like kissing your Uncle Gooch. But I remember my friend Darrell's advice, which I think is what it was, and look on the bright side.
The bright side is we don't have no new Pontiac, but we don't have no farm or no pickup truck either.
We do still have clear title to little Wilmer and the 12-gauge.
So get to packing, honey. I wish I could see your happy face when you leave that old farm for the last time. Lester has got me a job at the quicksilver mine in Terlingua and I will be looking for us a nice house with a view of Mexico.
Enclosed is $160. Lester is kind of strapped right now, so I had to pay our bill at the 40 Winks. No more farm work, hey girl? Our bottle is at least half full.
P.S. Lester showed me his story on the game. It started off: "Under weeping skies, they buried the Wishbone here today." Ain't that pretty?