Rita Howell 11/30/12

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2012

Even though I am an Ole Miss Rebel fan, I suspect that memories of Egg Bowl 2012 will always bring back a gnawing in the pit of my stomach. The game was amazing and rewarding for those of us who have sat through two seasons of dismal performances and embarrassing losses. The 41-24 victory was so sweet.

It was only afterward that I felt the same angst as those defeated Bulldogs.

They lost their trophy.

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I lost my purse.

We had been to the Grove for our usual pre-game picnic with Cousins Janie and Mark and assorted fellow fans. Anticipation was high as we packed into the stadium. There was a logjam at the gate as officials checked purses for contraband alcohol and cowbells.

The game was exciting, with the first half dominated by tit-for-tat scoring drives that left a 17-17 tie at halftime. The Rebs dominated the second half and as the final seconds ticked off, we could see students from the South End Zone massing at the fence, poised to take to the field once the whistle blew.

Sure enough, no attempt was made to hold them back as the Golden Egg trophy was brought out and hoisted above the shoulders of the players who passed it around. Students poured out of the stands and covered the field in an exuberant mass. You couldn’t see the green turf for all the people. The only nod to official decorum was the ring of security officers around both goal posts, stationed there to prevent any expensive celebratory vandalism.

So Rupert and I stood there by our seats for a long time, savoring the moment. The crowds in the stands thinned. We took pictures. Rupert had me move several rows down then face him to get the full effect of the student body sea behind me. I turned around toward the field and watched some more. Finally, Rupert said, “Let’s go.”

He collected our stadium seats. I was still carrying my blanket and red pompon. We reached the portal to leave the stadium and I realized I didn’t have my purse. I went back to our seats to retrieve it. It was gone.

In an instant my mood crashed from euphoria to despondency.

My purse was gone.

“Are you sure you had it with you?” asked my helpful husband.

He might as well have asked if I was sure I had my clothes on.

OF COURSE I had my purse with me.

I ALWAYS have my purse with me.

It is genetic. I come from a long line of purse-carriers.

Our family lore recalls Mamaw’s readiness to go anywhere, at anytime, with anybody.

Her oft-stated response to “want to go to the store? (or gas station or theater or laundromat)” was “let me get my purse.”

My own lost handbag was no prize. That’s why I couldn’t believe it would look attractive to a thoughtful thief. Surely there were enough Coach bags or Louis Vuitton clutches among the well-heeled fans Saturday to take the heat off my tacky purse.

It is at least 10 years old, purchased from Target, and made of, well, plastic.

I carry it only on game days at Ole Miss. It is navy, so at least I coordinate with the school colors. It is shaped like a lunch bag. The reason it is my preferred football purse is because it sits flat on the stadium concrete behind my feet and holds my binoculars, my wallet, my red pompon and will still accommodate two fully dressed, foil-wrapped hotdogs from the Pope Chapel AME Zion Church concession stand. With the purse straps draped over my shoulder, my hands are free to carry two drinks to wash down the ‘dogs.

(About Pope Chapel: various non-profits are contracted to operate the concession stands all over Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium. South Panola’s AFJROTC cadets sell pizza. But I’m a good customer at Pope Chapel’s spot, where I usually get in Justin Pope’s line. The guy can bark out his orders and keep his line moving. I usually don’t miss much of the halftime show.)

After my initial panic, Rupert and I wandered around in the bowels of the arena looking for “lost and found,” just in case someone found it and turned it in.

My worn pocketbook was not among the purses in the security office (there were at least three others who lost theirs that night, too). But they took my contact information just in case someone happened to bring it in later.

I left feeling every bit as dejected as Dan Mullen.

On the way home I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the radio followup or rehash the game with Rupert.

I used his cellphone (mine was in my purse) to call some guy in India to cancel our credit card.

We were creeping past Manning Way, in bumper-to-bumper traffic. A highway patrol cruiser was making its way through, lights flashing.

“I can’t hear you for that siren,” said the guy in India as I tried to explain that my purse had been lost with the credit card inside and I needed him to shut the account down before someone used it to do their Christmas shopping.

We rode on home in silence.

Until Thomas called to say the University Police Department had telephoned our house to report someone turned in my ugly purse.

OK, it wasn’t instant euphoria. I didn’t know what was left inside the purse. But at least I could get it back Sunday.


Sunday morning at the UPD the nice officer told me the purse was locked up and the man with the key would be back Monday. I was only a few feet away from my purse, but I couldn’t see inside it. The officer couldn’t see inside it.

Rupert later called the UPD on a landline while he dialed my cellphone on his. As he talked to the officer he could hear my phone ringing in the background inside my locked-up purse. So I knew the phone was still in the bag.

I went back to the UPD Monday afternoon after work. The man with the key was not there. He was summoned. My purse was released. With EVERYTHING inside.

Best I can figure, a good Samaritan thought it had been abandoned, even though Rupert and I were only a few feet away the whole time.

No harm was done. I even have a new credit card already.

In the end the Ole Miss Rebels and I both recovered what we’d lost.