‘Tis the Season in which I died…

This installation of the Franklin Stove Blog is a departure from the usual format.

It’s fictional, based on accounts of actual events.

It might even be considered a ghost writ post.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

Photo by Cole Keister on Pexels.com

Hi, it’s me Rose. At this time of year I’ve always reflected on the circumstances of my death on Christmas Day.

In 1968 the Crimson Tide’s football team, which was coached by Paul “Bear” Bryant, had by Alabama’s standards a less than stellar year. By the end of the season it had an 8-3 overall record, with two South Eastern Conference losses.

I traveled to Legion Field in Birmingham with my BFF Estelle for the November 3oth, 1968 Iron Bowl. Estelle wasn’t all that into football. She made sure that I was aware of the black “ghetto” that surrounded Legion Field. Every Bama football game in Legion Field was a windfall for the blacks that crammed their yards with as many cars as could possibly fit. Most of them were renters. I don’t know if they split their parking revenue with their landlords.

We watched as my brand new red AMC AMX was somehow parked in the small space that was left in a yard. The guy said that he had never even scratched a car while he was parking. He assured me that he’d never want to damage such a “beaut” of a car as mine.

Actually my Dad chose the car which was painted “Matador” red with two white racing stripes on the hood and trunk. It also had a red interior. The steering wheel was wood rimmed. Its V8 engine was actually too sporty for my tastes. I seldom drove it. On the trip to Birmingham Estelle insisted that I exceed the speed limit, until the highway to Legion Field became so crowded we had to move with a snail’s pace. I was dreading having to drive it home for Christmas Break. My Dad would be salivating at the prospect of getting his hands on it. He was probably looking forward to driving the car at least as much as he was to seeing me again.

The Crimson Tide beat the War Eagles 24 to 16, in a game where the outcome was uncertain until the end when Mike Dean iced the game with a 30 yard field goal. The quarterback Scott Hunter was responsible for most of the Tide’s heroics.

The Tide’s 49-27 victory in the 2022 Iron Bowl in Bryant-Denny Stadium was much more decisive. I wouldn’t attribute its win to the students who’d managed to return to campus after a Thanksgiving Break. As the team spirit I floated among the obnoxious fraternity and sorority students who seemed to be more interested in saying insulting things to any Auburn students in their vicinity than the game. Some Auburn fans began to throw drinks at Alabama students. At the start of the fourth quarter the Godawful flashing red lights started up to the tune of the hillbilly anthem “Dixieland Delight.” Most of the students reverted to a formerly banned practice during the song and periodically chanted “Fuck Auburn.”

Fits my life, oh so right,
My Dixieland Delight.

FUCK AUBURN!

The Rammer-Jammer chant at the game’s end was more vitriolic than usual too.

Hey Auburn!
Hey Auburn!
Hey Auburn!
We just beat the hell outta’ you!
Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
Give ’em hell, Alabama!

Every December I always have thoughts about how I left my mortal existence. After Tutwiler Hall, my previous home away from life, was demolished on the Fourth of July, I didn’t wind up in Heaven or Hell but in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

In 1968, I’d returned home from the University of Alabama for Christmas break. I had recently, as a sophomore, moved into a room on the eleventh floor of what was then a brand new Tutwiler Hall. That was the second long road trip in my new AMX.

My parents, particularly my father, were perhaps the biggest Alabama football fans in the world. My Dad lived by the gospel of The Bear. He considered Paul “Bear” Bryant as the “winningest coach of all time,” even though he was really down on the list for coaches with the most victories. I was even named Rose after the 1926 Rose Bowl victory of the Crimson Tide over the Huskies. If I’d been born a boy I might have been named Johnny after the Alabama quarterback Johnny Mack Brown who led the team to victory. Or maybe even Paul. I was their only child so Dad never had a son that he could name Johnny or Paul. Of course, that’s also why they insisted that I enroll at the University of Alabama. Dad said that he worked too hard to go to many games. I had been his representative at games.

My parents had decorated the house for Christmas in 1968 with an Alabama theme. The tree had crimson balls and had houndstooth, black and white ribbon interlaced in the branches. Bear Bryant was known for his iconic houndstooth fedora. Mom had covered the dining room table with a crimson velvet tablecloth. The wreaths that hung on the sconces were decorated like the tree, with crimson balls and houndstooth ribbons. It was truly a Yule Crimson Tide décor.

The dress that I wore, while walking into my parents’ bedroom on Christmas Day, was also made of a crimson velvet material. I actually matched the tablecloth in the dining room. I was feeling kind of bored, while waiting for our traditional Christmas day “feast.” I aimlessly searched through the drawers of the bedroom dresser. Then I discovered Dad’s handgun. I didn’t know anything about guns. I picked it up and thought about carrying it with me to the dining room. I would aim it at my head in front of my folks as a gesture of my abhorrence towards the Yuletide spirit.

I rehearsed pointing it at my head in front of the big mirror that hung over the dresser. I didn’t know that the gun was loaded or that it had a “hair trigger.” The next thing I knew was that, after my brains were splattered over the bedroom’s walls, I found my spirit transported back on the eleventh floor of Tutwiler Hall. One thing was certain. My parents’ Christmas celebration had turned into a nightmare for them.

My friend Estelle was searching for me after the Christmas break. She’d bought me a present. I never found out what it was. When she found out about my “suicide,” her eyes welled with tears and her body shook as she sobbed uncontrollably. I wish I could have reached out to her, as my spectral form stood right next to her. I would’ve told her that what happened wasn’t really a suicide. It was just me being stupid and melodramatic. That was the beginning of my over fifty years of haunting Tutwiler Hall. Every Christmas I’m reminded of how I ended up in my home away from life. This is the first Noel that I’ve haunted Bryant-Denny Stadium. I’m having another Yule Crimson Tide, but this time I’m truly the team spirit.

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