This is part of a series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a bus full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
THE CHRISTMAS SHIRT
by Rick Sikes
“This is one of those “too-human” stories that took place in Houston in the late sixties. We had played Christmas Eve at Dancetown USA the night before. And, we were playing in Victoria on Christmas night. So, we drug ourselves out of bed and finally found a scroungy looking cafe to grab breakfast. The plan was to eat breakfast around 10 am, get to Victoria and set up at Schroeder Hall. Then we’d get a bit of supper before the gig.
But, back to the story. Being Christmas morning, there were just not any restaurants open except this one little dump. We go in and sit down. Right behind us comes in a hillbilly guy with two backwoods gals. He was puttin’ on the dog for the ol’ gals, and they were giggling and carrying on.
One of the guys in the band said, “Hey, y’all check out the Christmas shirt.”
It was one of those embroidered wagon wheel Yankee cowboy shirts with the folds from being in the package still there. He had on a pair of short-topped Sears & Roebuck boots, a small brimmed Roy Rogers type hat and some kind of cheap blue jeans. He looked at us and asked, “Y’all like my shirt?”
Everyone nodded and someone said, “Yeah man, that’s a cool shirt. Did you get it for Christmas?”
“Yep, shore did, podnuh.” He leaned back in his chair and hooked his thumbs in his belt.
Well, one of the ol’ gals with him was terribly cross-eyed and she started flirting with us…blinking and winking as only a cross-eyed gal can do. It just all came to a head at once. We were all looking at each other, then at them all grinnin’ and carrying on. The ol’ boy told the girls some jokes or riddles or something. The cross-eyed girl got tickled at one of ’em and laughed until tears rolled down both cheeks.
Being the damned fool I am, I looked over there; the ol’ boy doing all sorts of “monkey-shines,” and the gals laughing so hard, and I busted into one of my “rare” moments when I get so tickled that I laughed until my sides hurt and tears streamed down. Often I’d get down on the floor because I laughed so hard. Well, this was one of those times of great mirth. I made an ass out of myself rolling around on the floor laughing. It was just too damned human.
A poor ol’ hillbilly boy dressed to the aces charming two lovely backwoods ladies, plus entertaining a band and the people who worked in the place was just “too human.” He saw his good looks, charm and being well- dressed and dashing for these ladies pay off. And, we got to see a first class show that would have done Tennessee Williams and Erskine Caldwell proud, and supposedly “cool” musicians becoming a fool.”
I hope this brought a chuckle, as that was all Rick intended by telling the story.