As the state of Arkansas reintroduces itself to Texas Hate in the buildup to the 2014 Texas Bowl in Houston, it's fun for those of us who grew up with the Southwest Conference to reflect, and well, sharpen a rusted blade, as it were.
Hating Texas is part of Razorback DNA, and it shouldn't matter if you were born in 1965 or 1995.
Even still today, the sight of a shorthorn logo for me automatically induces a down hook 'em sign, just like the doctor checking your reflexes can induce a kick.
And for me, it goes back a ways. I was alive for the Game of the Century, but in 1969 we were living in the Philippines, where my dad was stationed as a Navy flight surgeon.
I was born in Little Rock to parents with deep roots in Desha and Nevada counties, but three of my earliest years were spent as a Navy brat at Naval Station Sangley Point in the town of Cavite across the bay from Manilla. I actually have many fond and vivid memories of that place including getting picked up by the Shore Patrol one night after "running away." That particular memory, more vivid than fond...
But my first memories of Arkansas entail going out to eat with my mom and grandparents at the legendary Franke's Cafeteria on Capitol in downtown Little Rock after flying back across the Pacific via Tokyo. Literally, airport to Franke's.
My first Razorback memory, though...the awakening within me of what's a part of my DNA...took place that preceding Christmas, our last overseas, in 1969. You know, the one that went on as planned in Arkansas despite the Game of the Century. (For a true feel of the significance of the Game of the Century and the times in which it was played, I highly recommend Terry Frei's fantastic Horns, Hogs, & Nixon Coming: Texas vs. Arkansas in Dixie's Last Stand.)
Santa, of course, delivered to southeast Asia, as he does everywhere, and doting grandparents sent packages there too. The last one I opened that Christmas was from my grandparents, the ones to whom I'd soon be bound to Franke's. (For some reason, I want to remember it as the last present that day.) And for all I know, it may have been sent from Little Rock before the Game of the Century was even played.
So, I get to this present from Gran and Papa, who up 'til then must've existed to me almost strictly as fictional characters, and in comes another of those vivid Filipino memories: my mom helping me with the box and my pulling out a red stuffed animal the shape of which I'd never seen before. And it had a white A on the side.
I distinctly remember being truly perplexed at this strange red animal I couldn't quite place or to which attach a firm mental grasp. It wasn't an elephant; it had no trunk. It wasn't a tiger or any kind of jungle cat. Of course, it was much better, the befuddlement relieved when my folks explained to me what it actually was that I was holding, and what it meant.
It represented where I came from, they told me, and who I was: A Razorback.
I was 5, and my pilot light was lit.
My second Hog memory takes place not long after that Christmas epiphany. We'd moved back to the States...been to Franke's... my parents had divorced (the magic of the South China Sea having worn off, I suppose), all before the following football season.
Game of the Century II featured No. 4 Arkansas and No. 1 Texas in Austin, and my dad and I listened to it on the radio in his Ford LTD. In the immediate aftermath of the divorce, he got to see me only on Saturdays, and that particular Saturday we spent driving around central Arkansas listening to the game.
I remember the intensity on his face as we listened, and I remember gleaning from the voice of Bud Campbell that nothing seemed to be going right for our red Hogs with the white A on the side.
Texas became the big bad boogeyman for me that day, and SWC refs their enablers if not minions.
So, asking me about my hatred of Texas is a bit like asking someone what they love about Christmas. There's just not enough time or, in this case, cyberspace available.
We did whoop Texas in Little Rock the next year, but after that it was a dry run through 1979, when the Monte Kiffin-led Hog D stifled the No. 2 shorthorns in a 17-14 classic at War Memorial. It may surprise some to know that in the 60s and 70s, the Hogs and horns met as ranked opponents 13 of 20 times and in nine of those meetings both teams were ranked in the top 10.
That doesn't happen very often, and that's the significant history us old-timers embrace. There was a time when Arkansas-Texas annually was one of the premier college matchups in the country.
Fast forward six years from that '71 game and the No. 8 Hogs are hosting No. 2 Texas in Fayetteville in Lou Holtz' first year on The Hill. I'm just weeks shy of my 12th birthday, and still cried -- bawled, really -- after every loss.
This one featured not only another top 10 matchup with Cotton Bowl (and "national championship") implications, but the two best kickers in college football, perhaps in the history of the sport: Steve Little of Arkansas and (gag) Russell Erxleben of Texas.
Neither team sniffed the end zone, really, all day. Erxleben staked UT to a 6-0 first quarter lead with FGs of 58 and 52 yards (yes, I had to look up some minor details, but I did remember that they were long ones). Little answered with two in the second, his second kick good from 67 yards tying the college record. Yes, a 67-yard FG.
(Kickers once upon a time were weapons. Today I say grace over PATs and we revel over anything above 40.)
Little's third FG, a 25-yard chip shot, gave us a 9-6 lead headed into the 4th. Indeed, for most of the game, we led and controlled it. Half way through the final period, it looked good for us. Hey hey, ho ho, and all that.
But welcome, kids, to the Texas narrative. And enter Earl Campbell.
Held basically in check for the most of the day, the Bo Jackson of his day, only with more blunt power, began to take advantage of a tiring Hog D: Corralling that young man was a chore. He wound up with 188 yards on 34 carries that day, and it seemed like most of them came on a late fourth quarter drive on which No. 34, contacted at the line of scrimmage, drug Hog defenders down the field, literally carrying them on his back.
It was like watching your beloved sick dog pass before your eyes, the inevitability of it taking hold like the slow ache of a knee to the nether regions.
Ham Jones (remember him?) got to cap it with a 1-yard scoring run with about 4 minutes to go.
Walking out of Razorback Stadium that day as the shorthorn band celebrated a 13-9 UT win that sure didn't feel like justice, I caught the eye of a Texas band member whooping it up. (Back then, Texas and A&M, and maybe sometimes Baylor, would bring their full bands to games in Arkansas.)
Our eyes met, mine full of tears; his full of, well, satisfaction I guess. He went right on whooping.
My hatred of Texas, I believe, is innate, but that painful memory sticks out. When I was 5, I could grasp that our team lost and that playing Texas was big, but by 1977 I was old enough to fully understand what was on the line and it was personal. (Of course, I could harken back to '85 and '87 for more especially painful losses...sigh.)
But hatred of Texas, for true Arkansans, is part of your DNA whether your Razorback recognition was awakened in Atkins or Asia. Our struggles against that behemoth, against which on paper we should never even stand a chance, sum up our state -- overlooked, not fully appreciated yet scrappy, tenacious and hard to keep down.
But nevertheless, usually coming up just a bit short. And that's not far afield of our SEC narrative. Only there about 6 "Texases" in the SEC. It's a shame, really, that younger Hog fans haven't had that one boogeyman on whom to attach all the evils and injustices of the world.
Maybe LSU will continue to build into a bona fide rivalry. Maybe Ole Miss will become what it was once in the 60s, a nasty border feud. Heck, maybe even Misery will get there.
Perhaps those who've grown up with Razorback Nation toiling away on an island within the SEC can embrace the hate of the old timers for Texas. The shorthorns, I know, haven't been as easy to hate the last 15 years or so, Vince Young title year notwithstanding.
Still. It's Texas. And they continue to believe they're better than anybody, certainly us included. We may never have mattered to the burnt orange hordes as much as OU and A&M, but I promise you there was a time when we mattered to them, and mattered a lot.
Rivalries aside, I have a feeling the narrative of Razorback football may be changing as Bielema and this staff continue to build for the long haul. Given where we've been the last two years, a win in the Texas Bowl against the hated shorthorns, in front of as many fans in cardinal as in unfortunate orange, would be a fine way to start.