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Lewis: My First Trip to the Grove at Ole Miss

Photo by Amelia Camurati

It was the morning of October 21, 1995. I woke up early like most 11-year-old boys do on the weekends ready to see what fun I could get into. I ran down the hall to the kitchen and was met by my father who told me, “Son, get dressed. We’re going to the Grove.”

Now, I had heard of the Grove and I knew a lot about Ole Miss Football, but I had never been to a game before. In fact, other than catching a few Fighting Okra football games in Cleveland, I had never been to a big college game before.

I was very excited. I ran back to my room and got dressed and when I came back out wearing a t-shirt and jeans my mom shook her head and told me that wouldn’t do. She then proceeded to pull out clothes from my closet. I was shocked because clothes that hung in my closet were meant for Sundays, but I found out that the dress code for Sundays and Saturdays in Oxford were pretty much the same.

Photo by Amelia Camurati
Photo by Amelia Camurati

After my khaki pants and button down polo shirt received my mother and older sister’s approval, we loaded up in our minivan and set out on the 145-mile drive from Madden to Oxford.

We arrived on campus, parked and began our walk to the Grove. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, it didn’t make much sense to me at the time. A bunch of tents and people eating and hanging out in a field before a game. Why couldn’t they just grab a hot dog at the stadium?

After a pretty long walk through campus, for the first time in my life, I saw the Grove.

Nothing anyone had ever told me about it did what I was I seeing with my own eyes justice. I remember being a little intimidated by the size, the number of people and tents and the towering trees, but following along behind my family, I headed in.

Photo courtesy Ole Miss Athletics
Photo courtesy Ole Miss Athletics

We were in a hurry for some reason. My dad kept saying “I think they are about to do the walk.” I didn’t know what “the walk” was at the time, but I could tell dad wanted us to be there when it happened. We fought our way through the crowd and made it to the sidewalk just in time to see the Rebels walking through. It was incredible.

After the players had gone, we headed back into the mass of people and tents. The Manning’s were there. I remember my dad introducing me to Archie. As I shook his hand he smiled and said, “Get ya something to eat”. Now, Archie is as nice a man as you will ever meet but his hospitality that day was simply the way things are in the Grove and among the Rebel Nation.

The whole afternoon was amazing. Although, I didn’t really know anyone there, they all sure felt like family.

That day would also be my first time in the Vaught, but that’s another story altogether. The Rebels lost the game that day 23-9 at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, the loss didn’t take away from my experience. I left Oxford that night, a place I had never been before, and all I could think about was how soon I could come back.

Webb Lewis of Southern Elite Sports Media is a HottyToddy.com contributor and can be reached at sesmississippi@gmail.com.

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