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Core Samples

My buddy Hargus loves a good challenge. He also enjoys harboring a grudge well past its due date.

And, as the fates would have it, he will be able to employ both as he puts together his plans to drive, not fly, to New Orleans for the January 2, 2009 Allstate "Praise Jesus They Bailed Out AIG" Sugar Bowl football game between his beloved Utes and some grits-and-gravy bunch from Alabama.

The last time the University of Utah received a BCS bowl bid, Hargus had flown to Phoenix for the Tostitos "Guacamole with a shot of Habeñero" Fiesta Bowl matchup with the University of Pittsburgh.

The rest of Utah’s rabid fan base had packed their vehicles and, resembling a tank invasion rolling across the North African desert, moved en masse toward their chosen field of honor. Hargus is like that. When everyone else drives, he flies, and vice versa.

He recalls reading stories about how the Subway sandwich shop in Kanab, Utah, had been overrun early on as the land invasion, not unlike locusts, ate their way to Phoenix. When the famished were finished, there wasn’t a bun, olive, tomato, jalapeño, deli-sliced foodstuff, or shred of lettuce to be had.

Well, just in case the red-splattered armored divisions once again rolled through town, word had it that they certainly weren’t going to be caught short of sandwich fixings this year. If the Utes were returning to the Fiesta Bowl, Kanab would be ready. Their distribution network would make the Berlin Airlift look like a pizza delivery. Visions of feeding the troops and raking in the cash danced in their heads.

Hargus harbors an issue or two with the folks of Kanab, however, which goes back to when either their City Council or Chamber of Commerce let the word go forth that "environmentalists" and their kind were no longer welcome to set foot in their town.

Well, he took it personal and swore never to leave a dime in their fair city if he could possibly help it. Over the years he got in the habit of topping off the old fuel tank in either Mt. Carmel or Page and traveling with a cooler-full of liquid and solid sustenance in the back of his rig so as to have zero consumer needs while rollin’ through that particular flower of the desert.

No doubt the cultural chasm had its roots in the war over the Kaiparowits Plateau and whether or not it would look better draped in drilling rigs and draglines than it did in its natural state. If memory serves, this was back when the local townsfolk were keeping warm by burning Robert Redford in effigy whenever the sun went down.

Well, anyway, when the BCS bowls were announced this past Sunday afternoon, Hargus saw the decision to send the University of Utah and its red-clad fans to a too-far-to-drive destination like New Orleans as a commentary from God concerning the isolationist politics once expressed in the financial centers of Kane County, Utah.

There’s really no talking to Hargus on this. Changing his mind is out of the question. The fact that more sensible members of Kanab’s governing bodies back in the day spoke up loudly against such knee-jerk reactions matter not a whit. Somehow, he figures just driving through town with a wide grin and his doors locked is payback.

Hargus still hasn’t forgiven the Franciscan monks for Dominguez and Escalante’s decision to go over Diamond Fork rather than through Heber on their way to Utah Valley back in 1776. He’s a stubborn sort. No doubt he’ll punish Santa Fe and Zuni Pueblo, their respective stompin’ grounds, in similar fashion as he continues his pilgrimage to the Sugar Bowl.

And there’s no way he would pass up the opportunity to relieve himself of a burden, or two, as he passes through the LBJ Ranch in the Texas hill country just west of Austin. It seems Hargus voted for Johnson and has never forgiven himself. As is fairly evident, he has trouble letting go.

Not that his upcoming travels will be governed solely by negative vibes. Fond memories of time spent hanging out in the Cajun country around Lake Charles and Lafayette and the road-house music up near Eunice and gorging himself on crawdads down in the swampland is about all he’s talked about since his trip began to evolve.

And then there’s New Orleans itself. He knows it won’t be the same "Crescent City" he had his way with during his youth, what with the ravages of Katrina and Ike, but he’s hoping the French Quarter with its chicory and beignets and jazz and all-night joints will treat the wandering Ute fan well.

Hopefully his dealings with Alabama Crimson Tide fans will be fashioned in moderation. He says he hitchhiked through Tuscaloosa once back when "Bear" Bryant ran the show but can’t remember much about it, other than it being very, very "white." Back then, according to Hargus, Joe Namath was about as colorful as they got.

If the "Tide’s" game with Florida is any indication, it looks like the Utes will have their hands full in the Sugar Bowl. But you never know. They looked like they were coming up short more than once this season before staging rallies that gave them last-second wins. Hope they have their "game faces" on. Hargus has been wearing his since Sunday.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.


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