The central Texas landscape, vast and western, welcomed me Saturday morning, made all the more palatable by the Razorback app on my iPhone and the voices of Scott, Rick, Quinn and Chuck in my ear.
(One could argue that South meets West once you step out of the east Texas piney woods.)
Of course, calling the Hogs from the comfort of Razorback Stadium always is preferable, and witnessing Tretola Left in person is something folks'll talk about for years to come - a new entry in the Razorback lexicon. But I never mind too much when circumstances force me to listen to the Hogs on the radio, actually my preferred medium for baseball.
Barreling down I-35 south of Dallas into the heart of once-enemy territory, and literally right past Baylor's impressive new digs on the Brazos, I thought of my friend Greg Bellmer. Headed to his funeral in Georgetown, I imagined him hovering over Fayetteville on Saturday morning and wondered how he'd feel about his service being scheduled not only on a game day but during the game itself.
[Note to wife, so it's out there in writing: If I die in the fall and there must be a service, just let it be a watch party.]
Greg was an adopted Texan, but I never held it against him. A Sylvan Hills Bear from back in the day and a Hog to the core - literally, to the core - Greg was an old sportswriter buddy of mine who passed away last week at the premature age of 45. Hadn't seen him in more than a decade, but we emailed regularly and solved all problems associated with Razorback Nation.
He was a good man. His two boys were raised in Texas, but raised right, as Razorbacks. Fortunately, so was his younger brother Tim, another Sherwood expat who emigrated to Texas with Greg in the ‘90s. While Greg was in Georgetown, Tim settled in Houston but like his big bro, remained a Razorback missionary in the heart of burnt orange and gig em darkness.
Unless they were watching the Hogs together, Greg and Tim would touch base during every game to provide a score update. Even though each of them knew the other was listening or watching and very much aware of the score. It was tradition, a special one shared among brothers.
And it was one for which I was grateful on Saturday. Sly as ever, Tim shared that story as part of the service, an excuse to provide a second-half update. (Several of us at the service, including Greg, were decked out in Hog gear, so that update for some proved both emotional and practical.)
It was halftime when the service started, and I walked in content in knowing we were on our way to perhaps exorcising some Georgia demons. Given the circumstances, of course, the game wasn't important.
But Greg would've been smiling at halftime seeing the Hogs early and methodically put away a team it was supposed to beat down. His trademark grin - literally, it stretched ear to ear and is a part of almost every memory I have of him - would've been out in full force for Tretola Left. He would have appreciated the clean game and the perhaps underappreciated defensive effort against a decent offense, C-USA or not.
He would have loved seeing the backs roaming free again, the deep ball to Morgan and the 49-yard field goal. And of course, he would've sighed heavily with the rest of us over what was left of special teams.
Right now, he'd be analyzing how we're gonna beat Mississippi State in Starkville this week.
And why not, he'd ask. If we don't shoot ourselves in the foot (and I'd follow Trent's advice to pooch kick), does anybody really believe we're not capable?
Tim Bellmer won't get to call his brother and provide a score update this week, and that's gut wrenching. But he'll be there for the LSU game to toss some of his brother's ashes onto the field of Razorback Stadium.
That's fitting, because Christopher Bellmer's favorite Razorback-related memory of his dad is the reaction to that triple-OT win in Baton Rouge back in '07.
"If the neighborhood didn't know Dad was a Hog fan before," he said. "They did after."