First leg: Midland, TX to Canyon, TX: 222 miles
Second leg: Canyon, TX to Tulsa, OK 381 miles
Music for first leg: none, Brad and I wouldn’t shut up long enough to listen to music.
Music for second leg: a bit of Sonia Dada.
What I read before bed that night: nothing. I was too exhausted from driving.
Sunday Brad and I were outta there.
Did a bit of last minute driving around Midland to see a few places, then snatched him and hit the road.
But not before stopping to drop a postcard in a mailbox. Problem was that, after I’d dropped it, Brad commented that the complex looked kind of old.
I looked and couldn’t breathe.
This one last thing, this one last image of Midland, is of boarded over doors, broken windows, chipped paint, overgrown weeds.
“They might not even pick this mail up,” Brad said.
Turns out they did, but it look a helluva long time for that postcard to get where it was going.
So we left and I realized it was over.
The weekend had gone well. I hadn’t embarrassed myself, had mended a few fences, and had laughed quite a bit. That’s a good few days. Add in the book sales and all was well in my world.
I realized, too, that in an odd way, now that all the emotional bullshit and high school baggage has been jettisoned, I’m looking forward to the next one. Thirty years ain’t that far off….
So we headed north for Canyon, Texas, home of West Texas State University. At least, that’s what they used to call it, before the entire university went on the auction block and Texas A & M snatched it up for a regional campus.
(why in hell Texas Tech, mere miles down the road from WTSU, didn’t grab the university for their empire is beyond me…yet another example of Tech screwing up a nearly free lunch)
Every summer, the three band directors most influential in my life teach at a band camp. Brad and I had each gone to that camp year after year after year. It was foundational in our lives.
So we decided to stop and see those three men: Randy Storie, Bruce Collins, and Don LeFevre.
It was incredible. Bruce and Don didn’t know we were coming until just a few minutes before and I think all of us got entirely more emotional than we were comfortable with. I hadn’t seen Bruce or Don since high school graduation and it was the most amazing thing.
All three men were exactly the same with the same sense of humor and love for their students and their music. We ended up grabbing dinner and sat for a couple of hours telling all the old stories and laughing and carrying on.
Randy Storie was my high school director and he and I battled it out constantly. He threw me out of band about every ten minutes and the next day I’d come wandering back as though nothing had happened.
But Bruce Collins was the man who got me where I needed to be. Brad and I were always together in music and he always did just a bit better than me. More natural talent and a better innate ability to understand music.
And when I’d get frustrated at my inability to beat him in a chair tryout, I’d want to quit.
Bruce never let me. Basically taught me that as long as I did as well as I can, then I have nothing to worry about, corny as that sounds. But he also taught me to keep hammering away and eventually, I’ll get where I want to be.
That lesson has served me in good stead in my writing. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep on keeping on and you’ll get somewhere.
But also in Canyon, we discovered that an old private teacher from Midland had managed to scratch and claw his way into a management position.
WTF? This guy was a moron way back when. In fact, I was never totally sure about him. When I’d finish a lesson, he’d slap me on the ass as we walked down the hallway. Never really knew if he was going to shove his tongue down my throat or not.
His was not a name I’d ever expected to hear again.
With that ringing in my ears like a two-by-four to the head, I drove outta Canyon and settled in for a few hours driving.
After a couple of hours, we stopped in a tiny hamlet called Alanreed, Texas
I noticed, in this odd little gas station/market/hotel, they had some miniature bottles of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. Being contrary, I asked if they had Jameson’s.
“We got Jack and Jim.”
“No, Jameson’s huh?”
“Jack and Jim.”
“Too bad. I’d love some Jameson’s.”
She looked at me like I was completely stupid. “Jack and Jim. And tequila.”
As though the sudden addition of tequila made everything okay.
So we left. And drove and drove. We talked all night, listened to a tiny bit of music, but mostly just talked. The years between us, though we’ve kept in touch, melted away. We jabbered and jabbered and then found ourselves in Tulsa for the night.
Nothing funny happened on the road. Nothing dramatic or scary or anything else. It was just two best friends putting miles behind them and making sure every connection was plugged in tight.
That’s what most of the weekend had been, in fact. Making sure every friend out there who’d moved away or moved on or whatever was still connected.
To my delight, they all were.