Friday, March 16, 2007

Slow Ride in Tyler Texas

Whenever you hear a song from your past, the memories flood back in an instant. You may be transported back immediately to the beach, or in the student center of the high school or the parking lot of the Weingarten’s grocery store. It may be an idyllic vacation spot in the Hill Country, or some East Texas lake. Almost any Chicago song takes me back to a certain ’64 Ford Falcon in Texas City.

But the song “Slow Ride” by Foghat whisks me away to Tyler Texas on a rainy weekend thirty-something years ago. An odd journey, you might say, but the story is tattooed on my brain. And the brains of three others in the geezer demographic.

Our families were always together, at church, after church and many times in between. The Dickson and the Soderberg adults got along famously, completely compatible in every sense. The kids always had a great time together, too. I think WE had more fun than the parents, but that’s just from our perspective. We played 8-track tapes and laughed a lot.

This particular time, we had all made a pilgrimage to the East Texas town of Van, the old homestead of our friends’. The town was so small, there was no lodging any closer than the pulsating metropolis of Tyler. There were numerous stop lights and even a motel, where we stayed Friday and Saturday nights. We roamed around the back roads of Van on Saturday, everybody piled into our truck (an early SUV; camper shell decked out with long bench seats and a vinyl “boot” connecting the cab and the camper) looking out the windows while stories about long ago ran around the space, with everyone laughing and imagining the old days.

My Dad and Mr. Dickson went and tromped around in the rain on some stickerburr-infested property that was owned by Mrs. Dickson’s family. Everybody else sat in the truck and waited for them.

So where does “Slow Ride” come in?

On Sunday morning, the day we were to leave, we were having breakfast in the diner associated with the motel. As usual, the adults were in one booth, and us kids were at another. The place was quiet at 7 a.m. on that morning, with older couples eating their waffles and eggs along with cups of coffee, their spoons quietly tinkling in the thick ceramic cups. Mostly rural types; farmers and retired oil field workers, ready for a quiet life in a quiet town.

That was all about to change, because we had decided that it was a little TOO quiet. Donna, being the youngest, was instantly and wordlessly chosen to take the magic quarter and feed it to the jukebox we spied up by the kitchen door. I don’t recall much convincing going on, so she innocently strolled up to the jukebox, coin in hand. We also didn’t make any specific requests for a particular song or kind of song, as far as I can remember. Just that the stirring of coffee and soft murmurs in the background perhaps needed a soundtrack.

We watched as she made her way to the jukebox, perused the offerings and made her choice. She spun on her heel and quickly retreated back to our booth by the window, but not before the strains blasted out of the speakers...NAA NUHNT- DA NAA NUNT- DA NAA NUHNT-- NER NEER NAAR - NA NUHNT-DA NAA NUHNT ...ReeeeReeeREEEEEee “SLOW RIDE...TAKE IT EASY...”

It sounded like they had been holding a dance the night before because the decibel level was absolutely off the chart! As Donna flinched and slunk down the aisle to our booth, leading EVERY EYE IN THE DINER right to the small group of stunned and laughing teenagers, the coffee cups rattled on their saucers as forks and knives were dropped next to the fried eggs. As the gravy congealed in the cold stares lowered at us, the manager exploded out of the kitchen scowling at us, and without looking, yanked the jukebox’s power cord out of the wall. He never took his eyes off of us.

I am wondering if the reaction would have been so swift and severe if the choice had been Willie Nelson warbling “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”. Most likely not, though we can never actually know. I do know that I will likely never venture into Tyler again. Even with the radio off.



*UPDATE*
My lone commentor, so far, has corrected the date of the aforementioned Ford Falcon's model year. I said '64, the former owner says '66. Believe him about that. Believe ME about EVERYTHING ELSE!
Thanx, Falcon!

1 comment:

Mr. Dicksons mature "Off"spring said...

Obviously over the years the fear and embarrassment that I felt at the time caused my brain to re-act with some sort of amnesia which had fogged my memory of this incident until now. Upon reading this story, a renewed sense of fear and embarrassment flooded back, but was quickly replaced with a huge grin.

Aa, you certainly have a gift of “almost” perfect re-call [I’ll explain the almost later]. Those were heady times, considering my head was full of long hair to my shoulders. Now the only hair I have on my shoulders is when my dog jumps into my lap licks my face and she sheds on me.

Donna, and I went to Tyler/Van last weekend for our Uncles funeral and I caught myself wandering (like my Dad would have) through the briar infested yard of my grandmother’s old homestead out in the sticks. We were taking my Mom around all of her stomping grounds from years gone by. Tyler has changed quite a bit since our journey some thirty years ago, but Van has changed very little. I doubt “Foghat” would shock the local Tyler patrons now, but I am so glad now that we didn’t stop in Van to eat.

Your Dad’s (ahead of its time) “SUV” and the friendship, fellowship and journeys we enjoyed in that truck will never be forgotten. I would give anything to have had a video camera back in the day and captured some of our conversation and debates in the back of that truck.

By the way it was a ’66 Ford Falcon as an explanation for your “almost” perfect memory.

Bye, Bye Miss American Pie, drove my falcon to the levy……..