By Rachel Gray
I am not your typical Hog Tales story. I didn’t go to school here. I didn’t grow up cheering for the Razorbacks. I had not even been to Fayetteville until I was 21 years old. So how did I end up in love with this institution, these people, and this community of alumni, friends and family? I’m glad you asked.
I grew up in a small southeast Arkansas town. Fayetteville is five hours away; it is faster to get to Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and even the University of Alabama from my hometown than it is to travel to the University of Arkansas. To compound the distance, my dad is a rice farmer. His busy time of the year (harvest) coincided perfectly with football season. So if we happened to catch three or four Razorback games a year on television we were doing well.
When it was time to pick a college, I chose another in-state institution and afterwards settled down in Little Rock. Then it happened. I met a man who, as a third generation Arkansas alumnus, bled red. He could rattle off statistics on every football team since the year he was born. All his family were season ticket holders. And he could sing every verse of the alma mater (which, let’s be honest, is quite a feat! Have you tried to sing all the verses of Mother of Mothers lately?). I thought he was a lunatic. Lovable, but obsessive to put it mildly.
The first time he brought me to Fayetteville was the summer after we were engaged. He showed me all the sights like DWR Razorback Stadium, Old Main, and all his family members’ names on Senior Walk. He told me this was where he envisioned raising a family someday. I chuckled. Moving from Little Rock? Please. That would never happen.
Until that Monday when my employer announced they were relocating me to- you guessed it- Fayetteville. A short two months later we were living in this place I had been to only once before. I felt completely bewildered.
I remember the poor decision of desperately craving Chickfila on a Razorback game day. Terrible idea. I remember my first game and Calling the Hogs with a packed stadium. I found myself jumping to my feet like I hadn’t since high school. The atmosphere was electric. Contagious. My job at the time had me partnering with the Arkansas Alumni Association; staff members here were some of the first friends I made.
Without realizing it, this place I had never been to before started to become something more. The University of Arkansas was drawing me in. I began to follow the teams with interest. I walked the Farmer’s Market on the Square, and ate at Hugo’s, and did all the things the real locals did. We bought a house and season tickets. And that group of people who became my first friends? They became not only my friends but my coworkers.
It happened slowly, but one day I woke up and this place was home. It was something I didn’t imagine possible. I came here just shy of kicking and screaming in protest. But the University of Arkansas has a way of drawing you in. There’s something in the air here. I don’t know if it’s the echoes of the Hog Calls, the friendliness of every person you meet (which, to the woman who loaned me sunscreen at the first football game this season, I haven’t forgotten your kind deed!), or the legacy of those generations of names on Senior Walk.
But four years later, this southeast Arkansas farm girl is now a dyed in the wool Razorback, and mother to (what will hopefully be) a fourth generation Razorback.
In our upcoming Hog Tales series, we are asking you to tell us your story. What made you a Razorback? Were you born and raised? Came to school here from out of state? Or did this place just adopt you like it did me? How has this university had an impact on you and where did it take you in life? Each week we’ll be featuring a new story highlighting the connection one person has to their Home on the Hill. We look forward to hearing from you, and hope to share your own Hog Tale soon!
To share your Hog Tale, email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.