This was parent weekend at the University of Arkansas. We got to see Evan, go to the game, and all manner of other fun stuff.  I shall now describe them as humorously as possible.  When the mascot is a gigantic hog, it isn’t hard to find jokes.

We did what we always do: stayed at my brother-in-law’s “estate” south of town.  He bought several more acres at the back of his property and now owns not one but two ponds.  But first we went into town to pick up Evan who directed us to the Flying Burrito which is a local favorite.  We then dropped him and Erin off at his dorm room while Mel and I went to a parent wine-n-cheese thing at Carnall Hall, one of the older restored buildings.  It was originally a women’s dormitory, while we were in school there it was a classroom building, and it is now a bed & breakfast.  After that, we found that Evan had taken Erin (along with all his friends) to the Red & White game so we found them there.  Evan’s dorm room is literally a stone’s throw from the basketball arena so that was convenient. After meeting a few of his friends and calling the hogs, we took Evan with us down to the farm where he could study in quiet all the next day.

So on Saturday while he studied, I relaxed.  The BIL took me with him to check his trot lines on one of his ponds.  While he canoed around checking the lines, I wet a hook (literally that’s all I did since I am no fisherman) from the bank.  He had two large catfish on the line which he brought ashore and cleaned at a little fish-prep table that he keeps in his truck.  These went straight into the kitchen where they made up our lunch. Most of his pond fishing is of the catch and release variety but sometimes, he’ll eat the results.  Even though I do not fish much, this proved relaxing as the morning was beautiful. He gets a few people who stop by and ask to fish; apparently there are people who specialize in stock ponds.  These guys are friendly, always release everything they catch, and seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of pond ecosystems. They advise him on what to put on the surrounding fields so that the runoff ends up balancing the pH of the water so that fish are maximized and weeds and scum are minimized.  I never knew there was that much to learn about the subject.

The trees were beginning to turn and the pond surface was like a mirror.  I could have stayed there all day; as it was, we messed around doing this or that (laying in a hammock in the sunshine) until mid-afternoon when it was time to go to the game.

The parent association had arranged a tailgate party which was actually quite a ways from the stadium so we arrived at three.  I had not ever been to an elaborate tailgate party like that before.  The only one I’d ever been to had been literally a picnic on the tailgate, or more correctly, out of the trunk of someone’s car in the parking lot of the stadium.  Times have changed and now these things can get huge.  There are prizes for the best ones and there are dozens to chose from.  Ours was in two huge tents and even had a live band: “Ultra Suede”.  The alumni association must employ lots of demographers because they know how to play to an audience; this band played stuff that was popular when I was in college and that could not have been an accident. There was barbecue galore and we tanked up for the long evening in the cold.

There was a huge food tent outside the stadium called “The Trough”.  When your mascot is the razorback hog, this is more or less appropriate but I still think it’s funny and it’s even funnier that nobody around there thinks it’s funny. Personally I refuse to eat at a place called the trough.  I also refused to eat at a place in Fort Smith called “Brangus Feed Lot”.  It would be amusing to have a credit card receipt from there though so maybe I should rethink it.

It was a beautiful day but it was forecast to be pretty cool for the game so we were prepared.  We headed to the stadium with our blankets which was a bit of an adventure because the Student Union building where the party was is on top of a hill and the stadium is at the bottom of it.  A steep hill.  So we negotiated the maze of stairs and elevators until we reached our gate and then negotiated a series of switchback ramps until we made it to our seats in the upper deck which ended up being higher than the hill we had been on before.  We were higher than everything except Magazine Mountain.  If there had been a flyover during the national anthem, I could have seen the top of the planes.  I don’t look forward to the day when architects figure out how to build seats that hang above the field from the roof because those are the ones that I will have.  And as fun as all this was I must go on record as saying that I had the:

WORST. SEATS. EVER.

In addition to being further away from the actual field than the athlete’s dorm (except vertically), my view was obstructed by the railing of the stairs that everyone comes up to get to their seats.  As is human, everyone got to the top step and paused to look around and find their row and section and so there was a continual blockage of my view. Most people aren’t there to actually watch a game; they are there to be a part of the spectacle and so a great many arrive late.  By the time the late comers have arrived, the early comers are leaving to visit the concession stand or the restroom.  I ended up watching much of the game on the jumbotron scoreboard in the endzone.  Arkansas was playing Ole Miss and the game was pretty close so it was worth watching. The sound from the band was similar to what you hear when you’re actually outside the stadium in the parking lot.  After halftime though, the band sent little ensembles up into the upper deck to entertain us.

Evan texted us from the student section where he reported that he was on the second row and in the thick of everything.

We left a bit early in order to catch the shuttle bus back to the parking lot. This turns out to have been a non-issue; the university and the city have made a science out of crowd control and the buses went quickly and the streets out of town were all one way out so it was quite easy and quick to get home.

We spent another night out on the farm.  The room we were in was upstairs with a huge window facing east and so we awoke to the sun rising over the pond with mist rising up from it and fall colors all around.  Mel had picked up some sort of ear infection along the way and was dizzy from this so we had to take it easy that morning (as if we weren’t taking it pretty easy anyway). She seemed exasperated that I had to drive half an hour just to get to a store while I was thinking that it pretty cool that we were staying at this beautiful place and only had to drive a half hour to get to a store.  Half-empty, half-full – you decide. Of course she was the one who was nauseous and needed medicine so her impatience is understandable.

We met up with Evan at his cafeteria for which we had passes for brunch from the parent association.  We ate briefly and I noted that the food had not changed at all from 25 years ago.  Neither had the decor.  It seems that the acoustical surface of the ceiling is laced with asbestos as there are signs all around warning students not to fly remote controlled helicopters in the great hall. If you hit the ceiling (as you inevitably will), it will knock fibers loose and set off the detectors that are set up for that.  Just to be a rebel, I gave Evan just such a helicopter. If he feels like he a rebel for doing minor stuff like that, perhaps he will not be a rebel in the more severe sense.

We indulged in the last step of the ritual which was to take him to WalMart to stock up on toiletries and PopTarts.  Then we dropped him off and drove away.  We see him pretty often since it’s only two hours away but we had all had such a good time that it was sad to put an end to it but he had a chemistry test on Monday so we had to leave him to it.

I hope we have parent weekend every year – somehow I got the impression that what we had attended was just for freshmen.

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