A couple of years ago, I was in Fayetteville, Ark., having dinner with a few folks including two of the loveliest people I know — Gen and Frank Broyles.
Now, if you’re a college football fan, you’ll know whom the legendary Frank Broyles is. For those of you who don’t, he was a titan of football while reigning as head coach for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks for 40 years and leading them to a national championship.
He is from a by-gone era when college coaches became legends by staying put at one institution and building phenomenal programs. He was in the pack of greats that included Alabama’s Bear Bryant, Georgia’s Vince Dooley, Auburn’s Shug Jordan, Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd and Ole Miss’s Johnny Vaught. Those days are sadly gone, though, because over anxious fans will rarely allow a coach a losing season without shipping him out and shipping in some new hoped-for better thing.
Anyway, Coach Broyles, also the long-time athletic director, comes from that crop of greats. And like them — at the least the ones I have known, like Dooley and Dodd — he is a door-holding, chair-pulling-out, well-manned Southern man.
But he does have one fault. And, it’s not his fault alone. All men tend to have it.
While we were dining that night, I noticed a man come in with a group of people. He was wearing a Fedora and driving a motorized chair scooter. He looked so familiar but I couldn’t pin him down. I kept glancing over at him but wasn’t able to place him. Coach Broyles, who was sitting directly across me, gently rose to his feet at one point. “Excuse me for a moment, please,” he said and left the table. He went straight to the gentleman on the scooter, shook his hand and talked at length, both men smiling, obviously happy to see each other.
When Coach Broyles returned and took his seat, I leaned across the table. “Coach, who is that man? He looks so familiar.”
He smiled. “That’s Paul Prudhomme. I met him through the work I’ve done with Alzheimer’s.”
I did a double take. “That’s Paul Prudhomme? He’s so thin!” Anyone who has ever watched the New Orleans’ renowned chef knows he was always of substantial girth.
He nodded. “He’s lost a lot of weight.”
“What’s he doing here in Fayetteville?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine why New Orleans had come to Arkansas.
He shook his head. “I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
Okay, there’s the flaw. Men aren’t nosey enough.
“You didn’t ask!” I exclaimed. “You went all the way over there to talk to him and didn’t ask why he’s here?” He shook his head. It hadn’t even occurred to him to ask. “Well,” I continued, “That’s what we get for sending a man to do a woman’s job. A woman would have come back with all the details. No stone would have been left unturned.
Coach Broyles and Miss Gen, who find me entertaining, threw back their heads and laughed.
“Seriously,” I replied. “It’s no laughing matter. You men should be better at these things.”
When the Prudhomme party stood up to depart, a tall, lovely woman came over to the table to speak to Miss Gen. It was Prudhomme’s wife. After a few courtesies and introductions, Miss Gen barreled right in.
“What are y’all doing here in Fayetteville?” she asked.
Mrs. Prudhomme explained that they had business with Sam’s Club and Walmart, which was headquartered in nearby Bentonville. I smiled proudly. Miss Gen was pitch perfect. When the lovely Mrs. Prudhomme had departed, I raised an eyebrow and threw a forefinger in the coach’s direction.
“Now, that is how it’s done. Stick with us and we’ll teach you.”
He grinned and shook his head. “Some things,” he drawled beautifully, “are best left to you ladies.”
Yeah, that’s really what I was thinking, too.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should). Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.