Our town is home to many treasures and wonders, a rolling panorama of travel-writer pornography, an orange sunset over the Square, a walk through Bailey’s Woods, a Saturday in the Grove.

Worthy of a space alongside these little poems, though, is the magical perfect drunk and/or hangover food: the Coop DeVille’s chicken bacon Ranchero.

Or, I guess I should say, was the perfect food.

It appears that The Coop, and its signature sandwich, have gone to the big Hoka in the sky. The phone number is disconnected. The website doesn’t work. There’s no information on the closed sign.

It looks abandoned.

The fryers have gone quiet, which is good for my arteries, but bad for my heart.

Maybe the owners got abducted by aliens, or Mississippi State fans, and maybe the place will come back as quickly and mysteriously as it disappeared.

I am fairly sure that if we snorted the old fryer grease we’d all become immortal.

Maybe it really is gone for good. Someone called me with the news a month or two ago, passed along in a solemn whisper. Because I refuse to really accept the fact that I’ve recently turned 40, I continue to occasionally eat like a 19-year-old, which means Sundays on the couch, football game on, pounding coffee and Gatorade, surrounded by a Styrofoam armada of grease and saturated fat, swimming in oceans of high-fructose corn syrup and MSG. I’m speaking, of course, of the little white time capsules delivered stunningly late by a stoner driver bringing over three different kinds of wings and, for me, the Ranchero.

I mean, what isn’t made better by ranch dressing? Someone told me a dirty joke once: How do you make an Ole Miss sorority girl (um, fill in your own blank here)? Put ranch dressing on it.

The food can be eaten in one frantic rush, or slowly over a long afternoon, but when you’re done comes the most important part. Quickly, those clamshells must go into the trash can, destroying the evidence, to get rid of the mounting shame spiral of guilt at the wreckage of tiny chicken bones and soggy piles of uneaten fries.

Few things suggest a reordering of priorities more than the evidence of a Coop fix.


I mean, what isn’t made better by ranch dressing? Someone told me a dirty joke once: How do you make an Ole Miss sorority girl (um, fill in your own blank here)? Put ranch dressing on it.

f I were rich like Dick Scruggs, I think I’d hire someone to travel with me, like that guy who carries the nuclear football around with the president, and his entire job would be making sure I could have a Ranchero at any moment of any day.

People would ask him what he did, and he’d smile thinly behind his specially made chicken frying sunglasses and not make a sound. It’s like they say. People who talk don’t make Rancheros, and people who make Rancheros don’t talk.  (I’d also have a guy who oversaw a room full of televisions, and every time the announcers of a golf tournament talked over a player and caddie conversation, I’d shoot holes in the TV and this guy would quickly replace the shot up screen with a fresh, pristine one, hung right there on the wall. I think I’d make him always wear a tuxedo. But I digress … )

Right now, I am sitting in an airport in Boston, waiting to catch a flight back home. I miss a lot of things about Oxford when I leave: the bar at the City Grocery in the fading afternoon lights, or a double cheeseburger from Handy Andy’s, or walking along the trail out near Chucky Mullins Drive. Also on the list is the Coop on a slow-moving Sunday, after a weekend of revelry and fun. I’m bummed I won’t be able to order it next time I make a series of terrible decisions which can only be remedied through fried chicken and bacon.

I don’t want to make too much of a single restaurant closing, or make it into some metaphor for our disappearing past or any babble like that. It’s just a place that fried chicken wings and brought them to your door year after year, from dorm rooms to the adult houses that still feel like something our parents should own. Sometimes my wife and I laugh and say that we can’t believe they let us be in charge of ourselves. Those conversations were often accompanied by heaving containers of The Coop, proof that your misspent youth was always just a delivery call away.

Adults don’t order fried chicken sandwiches. The kid in all of us wants to do it every time they can.

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine.