Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Going to Luckenbach Texas

I mentioned in my post on Culla's Tavern that a certain Jerry Jeff Walker was one of our favorite performers back in our college days.  He sang a lot of songs about friends, and drinking beer, and cowboys, and drinking beer, and traveling, and, well, you get the picture.

Our softball team was called The Armadillos after a Jerry Jeff song, and one year we decided we needed to have Armadillo Spring Training at Luckenbach Texas.  Why? Well, because Jerry Jeff had recorded his classic album "Viva Terlingua" at that tiny hamlet which had become something of an artist's community in the hills near Fredericksburg.

So my brother, myself and our cheerfully irresponsible sidekick Danny hopped in a tiny Japanese subcompact one fine early Spring day and with no planning whatsoever just headed south.

I remember the trip in fragments, as is the case with events of more than half a lifetime ago.

Sleeping on the roof of a public rest stop in Kansas when the ground was drenched.

The worst hamburger of my life from a Wendy's in Muskogee Oklahoma.

A roadhouse where the locals befriended us and the bartender showed us how he actually could open beer bottles with his teeth, such as they were.

Eventually, and after various diversions, we made it to Luckenbach.  It was a ramshackle country store, a dance hall under renovation, a few old houses.  Chickens wandered in the single dusty street.  We got out the gloves and ball, played a little catch on the lawn of the store.  Afterwards we had a nice chat with the owner over a couple of cold Lone Star longnecks.

She said "Yep, Jack (Jerry Jeff) was here a couple weeks back.  Drank 'bout a case of beer, looked at all the tourists and said he just had to get outta here".

Luckenbach had by this time attained a degree of celebrity from the Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings song about the place.  Ironically neither of them had much connection to the town and had borrowed the tune from somebody local.  Tourists were not exactly overrunning the joint-it was hard to find even when you went looking for it-but in a place that small even a few are a presence.

So we paid our respects and headed back north, at one point driving through a horrific blizzard that I shudder to recall even now, over three decades later.

Such was 1979.  It was a watershed time.  The guys from the softball team were starting to drift off into relationships and careers.  For all our apparent irresponsibility I look back at the ball team and realize that they turned out just fine.  A couple of physicians, a University professor, teachers and engineers.  No wonder we seldom won games, there was too much studying going on.

I have a distinct memory of my future wife shaking her head over our foolish journey.  But as is also often the case it is a false memory, one I concocted from later head shakings over later follies.  If my memory does not betray me in the clutch here, I met her about six months later. 

So the head shaking was retroactive.

Jerry Jeff is still around, enjoying semi-retirement after a productive career.  Riding High  My youngest son has discovered him and has amassed a collection of vintage Jerry Jeff vinyl.  I approve, minus the drinking, as the legal age has moved up to 21 in the intervening years.

Even Luckenbach is still there.  Mostly anyway, they had a flood that washed away just about everything but the iconic store and dance hall.  You can rent out the latter for special events.  This website even has directions, a distinct improvement over our 1979 dead reckoning navigation.

We don't see Danny very often, he joined the Coast Guard, married well and still lives by the sea.  He is said to be little changed from bygone times.

My brother and I make the same claims before we fall asleep at 10 pm following two beers.

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