Friday, March 17, 2006

Missing Willie (another Father Friday)

I was 12 years old and not a fan of country music. In fact, listening to the tunes of Crystal Gale, Anne Murray and Merle Haggard for the last three hours was enough to put anyone over the edge. My Mom, Dad and I were riding in our powder blue Mercury Grand Marquis on our way to my grandparent's house from Houston. I was sprawled out in the back seat listening intently to my Walkman--probably a cassette of Cool and the Gang if I had to guess.

[...Get down on it,
Come on and
Get down on it
Baby, Baby...]

Part of this trip involved a mission. A schoolteacher friend of my mother's had requested that we stop by a certain golf course in the nearby town of Spicewood to pick up a souvenir T-shirt. This was no regular golf course, though. It was Willie Nelson's Perdernales Cutt and Putt, a professional golf course owned and operated by none other than country music legend Willie Nelson. My father was overjoyed at the thought of being on the property, but my mother saw it merely as a doing a favor for a friend. I, of course, wanted nothing to do with it.

Mom: Honey, I think this is our turn right here.
[Dad drives past turn].
Dad: That one? Jeez. You gotta tell me sooner than that. I can't just slam on the brakes and put her in a tailspin.
Mom: Well you wouldn't have to slam on the brakes if you weren't driving so fast.
Dad: I wouldn't be driving so fast if we didn't have to make this 50 mile detour to get a t-shirt.
Mom: Oh stop it, you know you want one, too.
Dad: No, I don't.
Mom: Yes you do!
Me: Ugh. {Turns up Walkman].

[...Get down on it,
Come on and
Get down on it
Baby, Baby...]

Finally, we find the club house. The task is simple: Go in, buy a t-shirt, get back in the car.

Mom: Dave, run in and get a t-shirt for Mrs. Patterson. Here's $20.
Me: No, Mom. I'm not going in there by myself.
Mom: Honey, why don't you go with him, to take a look around.
Dad: No, you go. I just wanted to see the place on the outside. There's nothing in there I want to see.
Mom: Maybe you'll see Willie!
Dad: Don't hold your breath.
Me: I'll probably have to what with all the pot smoke.
Dad: [laughing] Shut up and get in there.
Mom: Wait, I'll go with you.

My Mom and I enter the building and snake through several poorly marked, dark paneled hallways. Finally we see a sign that says "Pro Shop." We make a right and open a huge wooden door. A tiny bell rings at the top.

Shop worker: Well, Howdy y'all! Come on in! Wut can I helpya with?
Mom: Hello, we just need to get a t-shirt for a friend, something with the name of the golf course on it.
SW: Well I gotsa buncha them. [Points to glass case]. Take a look up in der and pick yerself one out.

My Mom and I consult for a few minutes on the size and color. She holds several up against me to get the right fit. We decide on a bright yellow one with an obnoxious screen print of rattlesnakes chomping at the heels of Lone Star Beer-drinking golfers. As we're paying, the tiny bell rings again.

I saw him first in the mirror. He was wearing nothing but running shoes, a pair of paper-thin running shorts (in the shape/colors of the Texas flag) and a red bandanna. He was glistening with sweat. His long and ratty beard was held taught by a series of rubber bands. He was fantastically in shape, but also the quintessential hippy. A true original. Lo and behold, standing right behind us in all his glory was Willie Nelson.

Shop Worker: Hey folks, y'all meet Willie. [We turn around and face him].
Willie: Hi folks. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. Please pardon my attire, ma'am.

We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and he signed a couple of calendars my Mom decided to buy at the last minute. It was definitely a cool experience, even if I didn't appreciate his music or his personal style. As we once again made our way through the wooden maze towards the parking lot we contemplated whether or not we should let Dad know what he missed.

Mom: I don't think we should tell your father about this, he'll be so disappointed.
Me: Are you kidding me? Of course we have to tell him. I want to rub this in.
Mom: Don't be mean about it, let me break it to him slowly so he doesn't get upset we didn't come and get him.
Me: He's not going to be upset. He's the one that didn't want to get his lazy butt out of the car to come in.
Mom: That's true.

The car door opens. The teasing, the laughing and the start of a lasting memory begins.

Me: Hey Dad--GUESS WHAT????


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