Why would anyone want to follow a man who runs the triple option against a traffic pattern? "I guess the big thing was I just liked him," says Mildren, now in the oil business in Midland, Texas. "People thought we'd lost our minds," says Switzer of the incident, "but, you know, I get emotionally swept up sometimes."
Like most anytime, even when he is presumably locked away from the world behind the steel "alumni-proof" front doors of his new $150,000 ranch home at 1917 Whispering Pines Circle. Less than a mile from the Norman campus, his sprawling retreat might just as well be on the 50-yard line at Owen Field when, as it inevitably does, the subject of football comes up.
"Boy, it's a great life," Switzer said one afternoon not long ago. He was lounging by his swimming pool in his bathing suit, still virtually the trim 6'1", 207 pounds he was when he played for the Razorbacks. "You know," he went on, "if it was not for football, I'd be working the graveyard shift at the paper mill. Oh, I guess I'll hang it up when it quits affecting me...."
Then, almost as if the first strains of the fight song were wafting through the pines, Switzer leaned forward, stuck out his jaw for emphasis and said, "But I don't see how that will ever happen.... Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner...I mean, man, when you take a team down that ramp to play Texas, you damn well feel the emotion.... Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner.... When you hit the floor of that Cotton Bowl, there's electricity. And if you don't feel it, you oughta go have your saliva checked, fella.... I'm a Sooner born and a Sooner bred.... You watch those young guys going in there for the first time and right away they know they're somewhere special. Whoomp! Whoomp! They hear that hitting, those sounds like two pickup trucks running together out there and their eyes start rolling.... And when I die, I'll be a Sooner dead.... And when you win, boy, that's the best part. Sixteen of us in that pool there at 3 a.m. whooping and hollering...Rah Oklahoma! Rah Oklahoma! ...Boy, that's fun! That's what comes with winning! ...Rah Oklahoma! O.K. U!"
Switzer's wife Kay, arriving with a tray of Coors beers, shook her head. "Oh, those parties," she said. "We must have 150 people in here after the games. The first season I stayed up till 4:30 a.m. making dips. Next season, no dips, just peanuts. This past season, no peanuts, just drinks. I don't especially like messing around in the kitchen but Barry's always asking me to make duck gumbo. You see, my daddy, Slick McCollum, has this duck hunting club in Stuttgart, 2,000 acres, and I know about ducks. Fried squirrel with biscuits and gravy, too, which is my favorite."
Switzer, surrounded by his three children, Greg, 7, Kathy, 6 and Doug, 3, told the youngest to "go get Mommy's duck caller." Kay said, "Sometimes I think the only reason Barry went out with me is because I knew where the bass holes were at Daddy's place. I drove the boat and he fished. One Fourth of July we caught 80 bass. We hunted rabbits, quail, dove, pheasant and chukar. We went frog giggin', too. You'd just run your spotlight along the irrigation ditch and when you saw those big old eyes, you had you a bullfrog. Best frogs you ever tasted, legs bigger than a chicken's."
Then, while Switzer looked on admiringly, Kay did a medley on her duck caller, ending with a fluttering mating cry. "Sure sounds like an oversexed duck to me," Switzer said.
Later, while Barry barbecued a steak on the patio, Kay readied her garlic grits in the kitchen. A petite, energetic brunette, she said, "I met Barry at Arkansas. I was the featured twirler, you know, the drum majorette, and he was captain of the football team. Sounds so silly, doesn't it? Anyway, I was up for homecoming queen and when I came off the stage, here was this big old guy waiting. And he said, 'Okay, little girl, let's go.' And I said, 'Okay.' I thought he was Jim Moody, who was another big football deal. So we dated around a bit, and we were married in 1963.
"We've grown up a lot since then. He's come into himself a lot more, but sometimes I feel sorry for him. There are so many demands made on his time. He's always off speaking somewhere. He hasn't learned how to say no yet. That'll change, I know, but in a way I don't have him anymore. He is the public's."
Switzer is most definitely the prize property of Greater Soonerdom, or "north of Dallas and south of Wichita," as he defines it. In one typically hectic week this spring he made his appointed rounds like a Dust Bowl twister, touching down just long enough to make his whirling presence felt.