The bravest in the Houston Oilers' entourage is Art Horridge, "The Roughneck" personifying the oil field wildcatter.

He is going back amid those hardhat Pittsburgh fans again, armed only with a 48-inch rig wrench, at age 42.

Horridge is the mascot you might have seen on television leading cheers, wearing a player's uniform in scarlet, Columbia blue and white, including shoulder pads but with an oil field tin hat insted of a helmet.

He recalled the 1978 championship game in Pittsburgh.

"Some of the Steeler fans got a little rough," he said. "They had a little "influence (booze)" in them. They came onto the field at the end of the game (a 34-5 Pittsburgh victory).

"One guy grabbed me and shoved me down, but I chased him and got my hat back. One guy kicked me.

"He said to me, "Get on back to Texas, where you belong. Get your --- out of Pittsburgh.'

"They better not get close to me this year; I'll have a real Rigid Wrench instead of the plastic one I had before. This one weighs 44 pounds." w

Horridge has rspect for the 50 or so "shot-and-a -beer" Pittsburgh fans who went to Houston this season for the Monday night game.

"It was those 50 against 50,000 Oilers fans," Horridge said. "But they had their little fun.There were some fisticuffs."

He sounded not at all fearful that someone may shove the handle of the wrench up his nose. "I was a roughneck in the oil fields for a long time before I became a car salesman," Horridge said. "I carried a lot of pipe."

In the friendly Astrodome, he gets one side of the crowd to yell "Houston!" and turns to the other side and beckons it to shout the counterpoint, "Oilers!" With no place for the unceasing bedlam to escape to, the sense of hearing is deadened by the end of a game, particularly a winning one. Bob Griese of Miami has a lasting dislike of the sensation.

Horridge once sold peanuts when the Oilers played at Rice University Stadium. He has missed only three games since the team was formed in 1960.

"I once asked the guy who dresses up in a Viking uniform for Minnesota how to become a mascot. He told me to 'just walk in the Oilers' office in your outfit,' I did, and the public relations man said, 'You look just like a roughneck. You're hired.'

"They used to have a logo called 'Oscar Oiler' a guy shown on top of an oil derrick. Now they call me The Roughneck. Everybody called the office and said they like me. The Rigid Wrench Company donated one to replace my plastic one."

Horridge may end up in a disguise, sort of. The weather was so bad last year that he took one of the plastic bags the Steelers fans' Terrible Towels came in, poked holes in it for his eyes and mouth and made it serve as a face mask.

Told that there wil be snow Sunday, he said, "Somebody up there might not like us; whoever has control of the weather in Pittsburgh does a pretty good job. The wind blows in three directions.

"It's a Yankee conspiracy. I'd ask you to say a little prayer for us, but this time the Oilers are so fired up the Steelers will think it's Dante's (quarterback Pastorini's first name) Inferno."