"If I had asked the Lord to design me a perfect wife it would have still turned out to be Homerline," says Jerry, but eugenically speaking she might have been bigger or else brought a little speed into the family.
"God is going to kill me for this," Clower has said, "but I have always wanted to get a baby out of old Lance Alworth and one of these big Russian women that run so fast."
"Jerry's greatest ambition in the world," says Jackson, "is for his boy Ray to make a great football player, which he is never going to do. Ray is aggressive, but he's not big or fast enough to be more than a good junior-college guard. I know it hurts Jerry on the inside. But he acts like that was what he had picked for him."
Certainly, Ray, although he has always worn his father's old number, shows no signs of having had any parental frustration worked out on him. He seems as secure and solidly engaging as his three younger sisters, and in fact he finished up an exemplary career as a 200-pound guard at Holmes Junior College last season by being named to the junior college all-state team. In the spring of his junior year in high school, he nearly died in a car wreck the night of a big dance.
"I ran down there and talked to the driver of the car," recalls Jerry with great emotion, "and I asked him if Ray was drinking. He said, 'No, Mr. Clower, not Ray.' And I found out that was true.
"So I sat down in the hospital while they worked over my son and said, 'Lord, whatever happens, I'll praise yo' holy name. I never did get to play high school ball, and he done kicked 38 times for a 44-yard average. Lord, don't let him die.'
"And he didn't. And the first practice that next fall, Ray and Larry Kramer, who'll be a senior back next year at Ole Miss, come together like two young bulls. Kfwap! And I was afraid that lick on the head was going to reoccur. But old Ray got right up off the ground and run back to the huddle and never had any more problems with his head."
Clower may be one of the few current-day Christians whose prayers the Lord looks forward to, if they are anything at all like the rest of his conversation, and if such odd elements as punting statistics keep turning up in them. But anybody looking to brand Clower as a regionalist or redneck might accuse him of espousing conventional pieties. Each of his albums includes an entirely un-humorous sermon on Americanism and decency, and he never says anything bad about sports. "The field of sport could be the thing that's come nearer to bein' perfect than any other profession," he says. "I love college football better than any other thing that happens in the world today, except the salvation of my soul and my family.
"Football has enabled many a country boy to get an education," he recently reminded a big banquet audience that hardly needed to be reminded. "Without football I'd have still been hauling pulpwood. And it's also the only sport I know about where ever'body can get his lick in ever' time the ball is snapped. I try to tell young folks, 'If you want to get attention, play football. Not only can you get attention but they'll even play a band for you while you perform.' "
If anybody deserves to express such unhip sentiments, Clower does. They have worked for him and for a lot of boys he has counseled, and he held to them at Mississippi State in the face of strong discouragement.