Getting dressed for a dental appointment in mid-December, I decided to don my workout clothes. I planned to attack the indoor track at the church afterward. Luckily, I topped off my tights with my long, gray Georgia T-shirt. I say luckily, because we took an unplanned detour before I got to the church, and I needed street cred at Moe’s Barbecue.
I had dragooned husband Bill to drive me to the dentist. The appointment took longer than I anticipated, but when I got back to the car at 4 p.m., I suddenly remembered something. Famed UGA Coach Vince Dooley would be signing his two books in Mobile, just across the bay, at 6 p.m. The venue would be the Original Moe’s Barbecue.
“Why don’t we go over to Mobile?” I enthused. “We can eat dinner at Moe’s before Vince gets there. We’ll get a good place in line.”
We found a parking space right across the street from the restaurant. The bartender said Coach Dooley would be signing in the back room.
Upon entering the cavernous space we discovered we were the only customers. After we ordered, another couple moseyed in, both wearing red shirts. Whew, more Georgia fans. Moments later another couple joined them. Things were looking up.
“There’s Vince,” Bill said, as Coach Dooley and a small entourage entered.
Dooley and his staff set up a table on the far side of the room near the Christmas tree. After I polished off the last of my dinner, Bill said, “If we go over now, we can talk to him.”
No announcement had been made, nobody was approaching the table, and the two couples I had mistaken for Bulldog fans were not the least bit interested in Coach Dooley. Smoothing down my Georgia shirt, I stood up, grabbed my purse, and led the way to the deserted signing table.
The first person I encountered was Barbara Dooley, the coach’s wife. I had last seen her while I was a student at UGA.
“You’re still so pretty!” I exclaimed, and she is.
We approached the table where Coach Dooley stood behind an array of his books. As I shook his hand and asked for two books, he and I began talking about the first time we beat Alabama after he took over as coach at UGA. “We beat Michigan that same year,” he said, obviously eager to talk with someone who remembered so far into the past and still had her marbles.
“Oh yes, the whole campus went wild that Saturday,” I said. “We usually stayed in our dorm rooms on weekends listening to the away games. But that Saturday after the win, we were parading in the streets, driving around honking our horns. We went crazy!”
Vince beamed as I described the celebration his win had inspired.
“Remember when Auburn had Sullivan at quarterback and Beasley as his favorite receiver?” I asked.
“Yes, Pat Sullivan,” Barbara said.
“All day it was Sullivan to Beasley, Sullivan to Beasley. They beat the socks off us,” I said. “After the game the Auburn fans broke branches off our hedge and took them home. I’ve never forgiven them.”
“Yes,” Barbara said. “And the time they turned the fire hoses on us!”
“When did that happen?” I asked.
“We were playing them at Auburn and we won. Then they turned the fire hoses on us!” Barbara said, obviously still irked.
“But we didn’t turn them on the fans,” a man to my left said. “Just on the kids on the field.”
I had noticed the big guy standing next to me, tall with curly brown hair going gray. Beside him stood his wife, I assumed. Neither wore Bulldog regalia.
“Did you go to Auburn?” Barbara demanded.
“Yes,” the man admitted.
“So did I,” his wife added shyly.
“Well what are you doing here?” Barbara asked with mock indignation. I liked her tremendously for this.
Vince, in the process of signing my books, leaned toward Barbara and murmured, “I invited everybody.”
Truth be told, Vince and Barbara are both Auburn grads. Vince even played football there under Shug Jordan. But we don’t talk about that. After all, a lot of good people get off on the wrong foot sometimes.
Since the only other people even near the table were the two Auburn fans — and who knew what they were up to — Vince quickly acceded to our request for a picture with him. While we were posing, I hugged him tightly from the side, saying, “I’m so happy to finally meet you.”
When I told my Alabama-born-and-bred friend Maggie about our visit to Moe’s, she said in awe, “My gosh, Carol, you had a private audience with Vince Dooley!”
Only then did I realize the significance of our encounter. It was like an obscure Auburn fan reminiscing with the late Shug Jordan. The moment of a lifetime.
Carol Megathlin is a writer living in Savannah and Fairhope, Alabama.