At times like these, amid such hogaholic distress, people invariably encourage me to get back in touch with Bubba McCoy over east of here.
As you may recall, he majored in hearts, spades and dominoes from 1965 to 1970 at Fayetteville. Some seem to think he offers a kind of Arkansas quintessence.
It had been so long since I’d talked to him that I didn’t know whether he still operated Bubba’s Auto Emporium. That’s the used car lot he opened as Bubba’s Tote-the-Note with what was left from losing Mrs. Bubba’s daddy’s farm. He grew it into what he took to calling the Landers of the Delta.
I found him still going strong at 58. The triple bypass is holding, and he said he’d kept most of the weight off by abandoning Jack Daniels and gravy.
“Several years ago I decided to get every SUV I could beg, borrow or steal at auction,” he said. “I may not know much, but I know a good ol’ boy wants a pickup for every day but an SUV for Sunday. It’s the smartest thing I ever did. I still can’t buy ’em as fast as I can sell ’em. I can’t get ’em too big. I don’t think gas could get too high. If people had any sense, I’d be out of business.”
I told him P.T. Barnum had been given credit for saying essentially the same thing, though there’s research indicating P.T. might not actually have been the one to pronounce that a sucker was born every minute.
“Don’t think I know him,” Bubba said. “Where’s his lot?”
I told him never mind.
Certain courtesies needed to be dealt with: Bubba said he hadn’t heard from Junior in three years and assumed he was in prison. He said Yvonne was still happily married to the dentist in Memphis and had bestowed on him three precious grandchildren. He said Mrs. Bubba has had her ups and downs, but at least has been able to get out of bed and do a few things since the doctor changed her prescription, which he called subscription.
I told him the reason I was calling was that people wanted to know what he made of the Razorback football situation, what with losing to Vanderbilt and all.
“I quit sending ’em money and going to the games a couple of years ago,” he said. “It was just too much trouble to pay big bucks to drive to Fayetteville all the time. Little Rock was another story. And as I told Frank in that letter, ‘I don’t see why I orta hafta send you money so you can take some off the top to pay off Nolan Richardson’s contract.’ Now it looks like they’ll be paying off Houston Nutt’s.”
Well, what about that?
“I’m old enough to remember their heyday up there. And here’s the thing: We never did have necessarily the best players. But we did have the best coaches teaching the best fundamentals and putting in the best game plans. And you always knew that whenever we took the field, we would be better prepared, better executing, better on the strategy, and that nobody would gang-tackle more or give better effort.
“Remember when we’d all hold up four fingers at the start of the fourth quarter, because the fourth quarter was all ours? Now Vanderbilt — Vanderbilt — outscores us 15-zip in the fourth quarter. And remember when Broyles’ teams were always peaking in November? In ’64 we shut out the last five teams we played. Nutt’s teams peak in . . . oh, August, if ever.
“It just ain’t the same. Hasn’t been for a while. Doubt if it ever will be again.”
I thanked him and said good-bye. He said to wait. He said he was lookin’ at a low-mileage Hummer I’d look good in.