ROLL EAGLE—WAR TIDE!
THE NIGHT THAT BENJAMIN ASKED ME TO MARRY HIM
My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon.
Well, the event of the year is drawing near one more time—and I’m not talking about Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’m talking about the IRON BOWL, battle of the giants, competition between Good and Evil, War of the Worlds. Auburn versus Alabama!
I remember when I didn’t know Auburn from University of Alabama. I didn’t know they had a football game or any other rivalry. I got my first clue on the subject when I was passing through the teacher’s lounge at my first teaching job after graduating from Berry College. Two of the school coaches were discussing the lawsuit of someone known as Coach Bryant and speculating that “Bear” was bound to win the suit he’d brought against a magazine that claimed he’d fixed a game. I heard “Alabama” and said, “That’s where my brother John is going to school next year.”
“I thought John was going to Auburn,” one of the coaches answered.
I shrugged. Auburn? Alabama? “What’s the difference?”
The coach laughed. “A whole lot if you’re talking football.”
Well, I wasn’t talking football, and I didn’t care who won or lost, or who played the game. Little did I know how fortunate I was.
Two years later, I was just as ignorant when my sister and I drove over to Alabama at our mother’s urging to see what kind of boys John was rooming with while working his every other quarter co-op job with NASA. Mama was afraid that with money in his pocket and who-knows-what-kind of boys for roommates, he might just go wild the way Daddy had in his youth.
John had not gone wild, and neither had his roommates. In fact, the next night at an impromptu party John threw to introduce us to his friends, I saw one of his roommates doing the worst Twist in the history of dance and promptly fell in love—or at least into deep infatuation. I even loved his name: Benjamin. No matter that back in Georgia I had a boyfriend my age with a full-time job and a car, I wanted this guy. And I needed to impress him. So at the first opportunity, I decided to pull out what I thought was the Auburn slogan. “Roll Tide!” I said with great enthusiasm. Every person at the party froze, “No University of Alabama fans allowed!” they chorused.
To show you that my interest was fully returned, Benjamin kept on dancing with me. I went home the next day and broke up with my boyfriend, who was suddenly as boring as dirt. Benjamin and I began a long distance courtship. By the time we were engaged, I knew his father was an Auburn graduate. Eventually, we had two sons who were also Auburn grads, and the older one married an Auburn girl. Now we have an eighteen-year-old grandson who will soon be a freshman at Auburn. I even attended Auburn myself for one quarter. I think Auburn was mandatory if I wanted to stay in the Gibbons clan.
Unfortunately, membership in this select family comes with a price. I had to start knowing and caring who wins the big game. Though three months later I won’t recall which school triumphed in the Iron Bowl, I root for Auburn to win every single year. Just don’t make me watch. I still don’t give a toot for football. Watching grass grow is more exciting!
Sometimes—especially those years when Auburn loses—I wish I could get back to those days when I didn’t know or care.
In this case, ignorance really was bliss!
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