I’ll never forget coming home from work one evening in 2002, to find Rick excited about a new song project.
We were in the planning stages for his new CD, “Etchings In Stone,” and he wanted someone to collaborate with him in writing the title track. He’d reached out to several of his songwriter friends, but so far no one had been inspired. That was until that day.
He told me to go to the phone in the bedroom and he placed a call, then yelled for me to pick up.
I did and found our good friend, John Beam, on the other end.
“John’s written the song I need to put on the album,” Rick said.
Then he proceeded to ask John to play and sing it. Tears ran down my cheeks while I listened and I had chill bumps all over. The song was the profound emotion-filled song that we’d been searching for.
I’d love it, if you’d listen! “There once lived a man, who did etchings in stone. He told others’ stories, but could not tell his own…”
It was with great sadness that I learned of John Beam’s passing three days ago. He was only 61 and his story intertwined with our lives from way back in the sixties.
Rick and his band, The Rhythm Rebels, played the historic London Dance Hall near Junction, Texas, on a regular basis throughout the fifties and sixties. John Beam was just a little boy, and his family came to every dance Rick played. Even at that young age, John had the passion and desire to play music. He would stand in front of the stage, play air guitar and mouth every word to the songs that Rick sang.
In my book, “Flowers and Stone,” I wrote a scene where Luke Stone (aka Rick) was playing at the London Dance hall one New Year’s Eve. During the course of the evening, he got the John up on stage, strapped his guitar around the boy’s neck and lowered the microphone. John sang and played for the first time in public.
After that, he never stopped. Once Rick returned home from prison, John quickly came back into our lives and never left. At Rick’s funeral, John sat with our family. Why? Because he was family.
He and his wife and children lived in Mason, Texas. He was the first to raise his hand whenever anyone needed help and the last to back down when someone needed defending. He had a passion for classic cars, Harleys and country music. He loved his family fiercely and was loyal to his friends. He will be missed.
So, this post is a tribute of sorts to John Beam, the man and the music. You can find several of John’s songs on Reverbnation. But I am sharing one of the most personal songs he ever wrote, “Three Old Cans of Beer,” about the Vietnam Wall. John was a veteran.
I don’t know how to properly say goodbye or to give this man the credit he deserves other than to write about it. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting John Beam.
Life is short, folks. Friends are a precious gift. Don’t waste any of your gifts!
I can’t tell you why men write and I have
been thinking pretty hard on it these past few hours. It could be a man finds
something inside of him so damn beautiful that he wants to get it down on paper
before it slips away. I guess it could be that a man stumbles onto a thought so
damned earth-shaking he figures just about everybody should get a chance to
hear it. Who knows? Not me. I ain’t no writer. I’m a cowboy…
But, here I am writing!
It all started last night. You see, when
the whistling West Texas wind drives chariots of tumbleweed across this
God-forsaken plain, a man finds his body creeping closer to the fire as surely
as he finds his mind seeking the warmer memories of his past… and last night
was black ice, raw and bitter… and as surely as my fire drew me to its warmth,
one of my memories drew my soul… until… like a Roman Candle exploding in huge
darkness, I saw that memory in a new light… and I was wanting to write it down…
so I could share it… earth-shaking or not…
So, here I am, sitting on my saddle, with
a pencil in my ol’ paw and an empty stomach, doing two things I ain’t never
Missing breakfast and writing a story!
But, sometimes a thought can feed what a
meal can’t. Depends on a man’s hunger I reckon.
I know the thoughts in the Good Book used
to feed my mama, and I can remember a teacher I had once, years ago. They fed
me so much poetry that my heart was filled to bursting because I couldn’t let
it out for fear that my pals would laugh me to shame.
Funny, ain’t it… how one thought leads on
to another? And that brings me to the memory I discovered last night.
I grew into manhood on a rocky Texas
ranch. Pa died early. Ma still lives on the place. The soil ain’t good for
nothing but cactus and windstorms on that place and it weren’t no different
when I was growing up. But, we had some times on the old place worth
remembering, and I find it’s true the older I get, a few things happened there a
boy had to grow into understanding. My story’s about one of those things.
There was an old billy goat on our place. He was wild and wicked, crafty and cantankerous and smelly and scrawny. He was also lonely. His smell would gag a buzzard and he was so scraggly looking that the horned-toads paraded their ugliness past him like it was finery. Pa used to say, when we’d catch a glimpse of that ol’ goat, he was so poorly looking that he’d force a train to take a dirt road. I always smiled and nodded.
Pa died in the winter of my fourteenth
year. Later the same year, April I think it was, I came up on a sight which I
didn’t give much thought to ‘til last night. I was with our hired hand and his
boy, Junior Bascomb.
Junior was my best and only friend growing
up. He was two years older than me and I always thought of him as a kind of god.
I guess he must’ve known the answer to every growing-up question I ever wanted
Anyway, we rode up on one of the prettiest roses a man could ever want to see. Right next to that rose, laid out and dry, was the bones of that ol’ billy goat. I can remember Junior Bascomb saying, “Well, now, ain’t that the purdy’est rose you ever seen?” And his Pa answering, “It surely is.” I can remember how we all noticed the skeleton of that ol’ goat and sort of laughed when Junior’s Pa said the old billy would’ve eaten it sure.
Junior wanted to pick the rose for a
little gal he was seeing in town, but his Pa told him to leave it where it
grew. When Junior asked why, his Pa said, “Well, son, I think it’s kinda nice
for old Billy, onery cuss he was, to have such a purdy flower growing there by
And we rode on…
And I’ve been riding on ever since.
I’ll be fifty come June.
But, somewhere between then and now, I’ve come to look on that long ago day with a different view… and I guess my story is a little more than the story of an old billy goat and his rose. Just as a man sees things a tad different than a boy… because in my man’s soul I can almost see that old, lonely billy goat wandering through his empty days. That lonely little rose was solitary but splendid; nourished by a tiny stream and hemmed in by a few weeds.
I can see the old billy goat coming up to that little rose, and I can see him wanting to eat it, but he didn’t because he felt something just in looking at it that he hadn’t felt in years.
He felt younger, richer and less lonely.
So, he grazed all around the area and he
fell in love with the awesome intensity only an old creature can feel. The
sight of the rose made him spry and the scent of the rose put him in a romantic
mood. One day, he became so jealous of the weeds growing around his rose that
he tore them from the ground and gobbled them down in a frenzy that he hadn’t
felt in years. They tasted terrible in his mouth, but seeing them gone made him
feel pure in his soul. He had never been so happy. At night, the warm breeze
blew the fragrance of his rose softly into his nostrils and he slept well.
The summer passed well. Every day began
with the sight of his lovely, dew-kissed rose, and every day ended with perfume
But as summer ended and the rose began to
fade, the old goat began to eat less and less and worry more and more. When the
frost came, chilling and killing his love, it killed something in the old goat
too. One by one, the petals dropped from the rose into the dust and the old
goat followed soon after.
Every year, around spring the rose returned to bloom beautifully, beside the bleached bones of the old billy goat. Eventually, the sands shifted, covering both Billy and his rose…
But what is covered is not always
what truly matters finds a way to bloom again.
Even in the heart of an old cowboy.
For more about the life, times and music of Rick Sikes:
Myself and another Buddy staffer attended the event, at first thinking we were getting Press Passes, then finding out we only had general admission tickets. Considering the cost of those, it was still a good deal.
I had taken my book, “The Convict and the Rose” to gift to Willie. But, it became obvious, there was going to be no personal contact with him.
Why that book in particular? Because the artwork on the cover was done by Rick Sikes in the late seventies, commissioned by Willie for an album he wanted to release by the same title. But, as fate will sometimes do, around the time they were getting to release the project, IRS started looking at Willie and his attorneys advised him against having any contact with a convict. Therefore, the project was shelved.
In 2004, Rick and Willie reunited and Rick gave him all the original artwork.
Since Willie never used the artwork, when I wrote “The Convict and the Rose,” I decided to utilize it. And that is why I wanted to get the book into his hands last night.
After lots of dead ends, I reached out by text to Willie’s ex-wife, Connie. At her suggestion, I found Willie’s bus driver, known simply as Gates.
What a kind and sweet gentleman he turned out to be. When I told him Connie had told me to ask for him and he would get me what I needed he just grinned.
“So, what is it that you want to give Willie?”
I reached into my purse and pulled out the book. He took it and while I stood and watched, he went directly onto the bus and came back out empty-handed. He gave me a thumbs-up and a grin.
So, in a round-about way, a copy of “The Convict and the Rose” is now on Willie Nelson’s bus! Whether he’ll pick it up and read it is another story, but at least I accomplished what I set out to.
The show was sold-out. No surprise there. The Bomb Factory, which holds just under 5,000 people, had removed all tables and chairs and people were packed in elbow-to-elbow like sardines.
Willie played for 70 minutes. He did most of his classics and never faltered.
I am in amazement that at 84, soon to be 85, he is still going strong.
The lighting was terrible, so these pictures are very poor quality, but I was there and had a wonderful time!
And the best part…Willie now has a copy of my book! It was worth the cold misting rain and aching feet to accomplish it.
“Once the girls were tucked into bed, Luke and Darlina lay on their own bed snuggling close.
“Darlina,” Luke began.
Now, regretting her earlier
insistence that he tell her everything, she put her fingers on his lips. “Sh.
Let’s not talk anymore tonight. We need to rest.”
“But, I have so much to tell you.”
“Then tell me tomorrow. I just want
to lie here beside you and pretend everything is like it was a month ago before
all of this started.”
Luke gathered her closer. “I love
A stray tear escaped and she buried
her face in the covers. “I love you too, Luke Stone. Never forget that.”
Long after Luke’s breathing
steadied into an easy rhythm, Darlina lay awake with thousands of thoughts
racing through her head.
How was she going to hold all of this together and be everything for everyone who needed her? She couldn’t allow emotions to get the best of her. She had to keep up a happy positive front for Luke and for the children.
But, what if he didn’t survive the
surgery? A gasp caught in her throat. She must not have these thoughts. Surely,
he would be okay and they would have many more years together.
She looked over at him in the darkness and branded to memory the familiar silhouette of his face.”
“Darlina stood quietly by as nurses helped him into a hospital gown, inserted an IV, then shaved his left leg and chest.
Her eyes misted as she watched him joke, and make light of the situation. Every time he looked at her, she forced a smile, but it was almost more than she could do.
She watched the clock and as each
minute ticked away, her heart pounded so loud she wondered if others could hear
it. She wanted to yank that clock off the wall and stop the hands that measured
her time with Luke.
Finally, the nurses finished and
left the two of them alone.
“Come here.” Luke patted the bed.
Darlina climbed up and stretched
out beside him. He stroked her hair and she struggled to hold back the fountain
of tears that clogged her throat.
Words were unnecessary. They’d all
been said. They held each other tightly, dreading the sound of squeaky
All too soon, the curtain parted
and the anesthesiologist strode in. Darlina got off the bed, wiped her eyes and
watched while he put medicine into the IV that would put Luke to sleep.
She leaned over, kissed him on the forehead and whispered. “I’ll see you soon, my love.””
The good news was that Rick (Luke) did survive the heart surgery and lived another twenty years. Of course, I wouldn’t want to spoil the book for everyone who hasn’t read it. 🙂
In honor of that special day in 1989, I have reduced the price of the “Home At Last” Kindle version starting tomorrow. I hope you’ll pick up a copy if you haven’t already.
It’s been a while since I did any self-promotion. I do love supporting other authors and music artists. It makes me happy when I can help spread the word about the work of another.
But, today, I want to talk about a book that I am probably the proudest of, out of all of my babies, and that is the poetry and art book, DISCOVERY.
You may have noticed the author names include Rick Sikes. In truth, the only reason I included my name as an author, was so I could legally publish the book since Rick is deceased. And, I do write poetry, so I included some of my work in the back.
Several things about this book set it apart from other poetry and art books. Firstly, Rick wrote this book in its entirety while he was incarcerated in Leavenworth Prison. Secondly, he created all the artwork that is included in the book including the cover.
He’d always had artistic talent, but until he was locked behind bars, he didn’t discover it fully. The artwork represented here is what we referred to as ‘pen-and-ink’ drawings, but the correct name is Pointillism. The drawings are made up of millions of tiny dots. I loved to watch over his shoulder, after he came home, while he created a new piece. But, all the drawings in Discovery except for one of Willie Nelson were created while he was in prison.
The original title Rick gave the poetry book was “Etchings In Stone.” But, since we released a music CD with that title, I needed to find something different.
The first poem in the book is entitled, “Discovery,” and it tells of a turning point in Rick’s life when he decided to be, think and do only positive things in a negative situation. It was a resolve that served him well the rest of his life.
You’ll find everything from raw bleeding hurt and emotion, to off-the-cuff silly poetry, to strong political statements included in this book. It is a true baring of the soul.
The Forward to this book was graciously provided by Connie Nelson, ex-wife of Willie Nelson.
This beautiful book is available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats.
I am late posting my blog for today. But, better late than never, I suppose.
This past week, I have taken care of my three-year-old granddaughter every day all day long. Believe me when I say I had forgotten the amount of energy and attention they require. I fell behind on everything and dropped into bed exhausted every night. 🙂 All that aside, look at this sweet face.
That day we went to the Crayola Experience. 🙂
Then she has swim lessons every day.
Grasping at ideas for an activity, we painted sea shells. She loved this a lot.
I will have her again this coming week, then she will be back in school. While these are exhausting days, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
The other day, she said to me, “Mimi, remember before you were born that I was your grandmother?” Wow! That floored me. Who knows. Maybe she was.
And to go along with this theme today, here is a poem and artwork from Rick.
The air brakes brought the lumbering bus to a stop and the door flew open. Luke stood and gathered his meager belongings, consisting of a cheap cardboard case with a change of underwear, one change of clothes, a comb, toothbrush and shaving razor he’d been issued when he left prison. In his pocket, he carried his parole papers, which he’d glanced at often since leaving Kansas.
When he spotted Darlina at the entrance of bus station, he swallowed hard.
He maneuvered his lanky frame to the front of the bus and stepped off. He dropped his case and wrapped his arms tightly around her when she ran forward. They stood quietly, barely breathing.
His chest tightened when he saw big tears welling up in her blue eyes. He hated to see her cry, even if they were tears of joy.
“Oh Luke. You’re finally home,” her voice quivered.
Lily and Nicole bounded out of the front door before the car came to a complete stop.
The minute Luke opened the car door, they both flew at him. “Daddy, Daddy!” Nicole yelled.
“Let me get out of the car, girls, then I can give you both a big hug.”
Darlina watched, misty-eyed, as the girls grabbed Luke’s hands and pulled him toward the house. Luke glanced back over his shoulder at her. “Come on, Mama. Let’s join the party.”
She smiled and caught up with them.
The entire family had gathered to welcome Luke home and Mom Stone had prepared a feast including homemade chocolate pie.
Tears and laughter filled the air with joyous celebration.
When Mom Stone hugged her son, she sobbed into his shoulder. “Bubba, I didn’t think you’d ever get home.”
“Don’t cry, Mom. I’m here now and I’m not going anywhere else.” He reached for Darlina who wrapped her arms around them both.
Luke’s eyes misted when he hugged his only brother, which in turn brought a lump to Darlina’s throat. Because of cancer, Bobby no longer had any vocal chords and after suffering a stroke, he walked with a cane and dragged his left leg.
Voice hoarse with emotion, Luke hugged Bobby a second time. “It’s damn sure good to be home, stud.”
In the chaos of everyone talking and laughing, Darlina linked her arm through Luke’s. “We did it, baby. We finally did it. Are you happy?”
Luke gave her a positively sinful grin that made her heart lurch. “Darlin’, I’ll show you how much a bit later. Bet I can get you out of that beautiful dress in nothin’ flat.”
Darlina laughed. “Promises promises”
It was a very big day in the lives of Luke and Darlina Stone. One that would never be forgotten.
A union created in heaven and sealed on earth.
To everyone who has read and reviewed, “Home At Last,” THANK YOU!!
I very recently had the pleasure of interviewing the ever-enigmatic Kinky Friedman for a magazine feature. He has released an album after a forty-year hiatus, CIRCUS OF LIFE. I want to share two stories with you.
First, he talked about a phone call he got from Willie Nelson at 3 am. Kinky was in Texas and Willie in Hawaii. The conversation went like this according to Kinky.
Willie: “Hi, Kinky. What are you doing?”
Kinky: “Watching Matlock.”
Willie: “Kinky, that’s a sure sign of depression Turn it off. Turn off Matlock and get busy writing.”
And, so he did.
On this album, I found a tribute song to Willie, “Autographs in the Rain.” Kinky stated that he’d seen this happen many times. People would be lined up for autographs and when the rain started. the fans didn’t leave and neither did Willie. And, while I couldn’t find a photo of Willie signing in the rain, I did find one of him signing a woman’s boob. 🙂
Everyone loves Willie. And the main reason for that is he has always taken time to connect with his fans. He understood that if those people didn’t pay their money and spend their time to come and see him, he wouldn’t have much of a career. And, he’s always been sincere about it. Many of today’s artists have forgotten that or they are just paranoid to get too close to their fans.
I have met Willie personally on three occasions. Once, Rick and I even had dinner with the band backstage. I was awestruck!
I love Willie Nelson. He is now 85 years young and eventually, his journey here will end. That day will break my heart. Here are a few personal photos of the graciousness of Willie Nelson.
And, then last, but certainly not least, I want to share a pen and ink drawing Rick did of Willie. I thought he captured the essence of Willie Nelson perfectly!
I can’t say why I was particularly drawn to share this with you. Perhaps it was the conversation with Kinky that sparked it. The feature article will appear in the July issue of Buddy Magazine.