Tusk to Tail: Samford and Sun produce tailgating delirium

The members of Tusk to Tail have their sanity questioned regularly. As last year’s 4-8 “Season from L.” wore on, we were continuously asked,“Why do you spend so much time and money following the Hogs?”

The question has merit. We often wake before dawn to set up an elaborate party at a time you could shoot a cannon through the rest of the tailgating grounds without hitting a soul. We all travel to most of the games, but Craig May’s streak of only missing one game in the past 15 seasons borders on the absurd.

So as we sat under our 200-foot tent Saturday afternoon, crouched in the sliver of shade while two industrial-sized fans blew hot air across our sweat-soaked shirts, I understood how someone could ask that question. Dale Cullins, who joined May, Jack Clark, Jason Parker, and Jordan and Jamey Johnson for the 6 a.m. load-in, said, “When it’s too hot to drink and have fun, which negates the entire reason for tailgating, it’s almost too hot for football.”

“It’s too hot for hell,” countered Mark Wagner.

Maybe we have lost our minds. Perhaps the heat induced some sort of delirium. If not a mirage, I would be hard-pressed to explain some of the things I saw at War Memorial stadium and the surrounding golf course on Saturday.

The Razorbacks dominated a very good Louisiana team just one week prior. Surely Samford from the Football Championship Subdivision was not leading Arkansas 21-17 before we put it away with two 4th quarter scores from running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Even if that happened, Collins is far too mature to get a celebration penalty following his first touchdown, right?

I must have imagined parts of the tailgate, too. How else could you explain a guest list that included long lost friends and the world’s most interesting man? It should not be a surprise to see Atlanta newlyweds Jeff and Hope Laman. We told Hope back when they were dating at a game at Auburn that she would know Jeff was serious when he brought her to a home game. And after seeing Grant Smith, my best friend from our days growing up in Hot Springs, along with his wife Amanda and daughter Gwyn, anything seemed possible.

It would seem like the food and beverages we served was an illusion. Everyone knows that the drink of choice at a Tusk to Tailgate is Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka. So why was the gang frequently seen guzzling water? And kegs of beer are forbidden on the golf course, aren’t they?

It is a given that Cullins will melt a crock of cheese dip, and Jamey’s smoked pork butts are always a hit. But May’s brother-in-law Walt Gall brought authentic Shack barbecue, complete with the original sauce recipe from 1939. Surely that doesn’t just happen unless someone is planning to bring back an old Little Rock tradition.

Tradition and history were a prevailing theme all week. In light of renewed talks of moving Little Rock’s games back to Fayetteville, May wrote, “It’s important to understand and appreciate the history of Razorback football in Little Rock.” So if fans wanted to fight to keep the games in Central Arkansas, it seems crazy to think that the smallest crowd since 2002 would show up.

The nod to history continued at our tent via tributes to family members. A framed photograph of Jamey’s father Pete enjoying a previous tailgate with his family adorned the buffet. Todd Rudisill’s stuffed wild boar’s head is named Lamar in honor of his Razorback fanatic grandfather. On a night honoring military heroes in a stadium named for fallen veterans, the memorials to lost loved ones seemed appropriate. If it really happened, that is.

Looking out from our tent as the neighboring trees finally began to offer shady relief, I realized Tusk to Tail had not lost our collective mind.  It was hot, but we were doing what we love. Tailgating and Razorback football are two of our greatest joys in life, and we were enjoying it with more than 60,000 of our best friends on the War Memorial Golf Course.