Saturday, July 14, 2012

And There Were Those Same Two Men, Again, Beside That Same Stew Pot

Libby and I went on a "Southwest Tour" back in '03. What happened was, Libby booked a dance gig in Tucson and then told me either we go do that gig, or we put some more gigs on the route and have a "tour," but either way we were going to go see the Grand Canyon. I called a few folks, and found us a few nice places to play, starting in Fayetteville, AK, at a great old frame house where this guy lived in an upstairs room and had turned the place into a concert hall whenever he felt like it. We got there about 10:30 pm the night before the gig and ate venison stew in his kitchen. It had snowed just a little, Arkansas snow being kinda like what we get here in NC for the most part. There was a cold wind, and trees were just flowering, and it was the very end of March.

After the concert, we lit out the next morning for New Mexico, driving all day and into the night, our little Tacoma nearly being blown off I-40 a couple of times by the chains of road tractors we encountered going past Amarillo. Earlier, when we'd just crossed into Oklahoma, we stopped at a gas station and noticed there was all this kinda random stuff about Woodie Guthrie we could buy--post cards, ash trays, that kinda stuff. I got a neat Route 66 coffee mug that was the first souvenir to break when we got all the loot home, and we went on up to a little grocery store deeper into the town, where Libby found a nice kid who was getting off her checkout shift and told us, "yes, this was where Woodie Guthrie was born," and then led us in her car to exactly where that was. That's the lot, with Libby standing beside a tree trunk that a guy carved "This Land Is Your Land" into, as a wonderfully fitting memorial. We then drove down to the old main street, where there was another more masonry oriented memorial, erected by Arlo when he started a folk festival in honor of his dad, which still happens I believe.

We took some time to appreciate the little park--as you can see, it's a lot between two store fronts. Then we headed on west, down that ribbon of highway--bits of 66 but mostly I-40, ending up at the Palomino Motel in Tucomcary, NM, which was a pretty nice place to spend the night. Used to be Tucomcary was the midpoint between a trip from Amarillo to Albuquerque, and there were fifty motels lining the main street, which was Route 66. The motels are mostly still there, but I-40 bypasses the little town, and the water's going as well, and you can get from Amarillo to Albuquerque without any need for stopping over.

If I wanted to go somewhere to live for a while, and write a dusty novel about cowboys and detectives with broken hearts and a mystery on their hands involving a blonde who looked too much like Veronica Lake to trust but so far, maybe I'd go rent a room at the Palomino for a while. I could watch the flickering little TV when I couldn't think of the next sentence, and drive out past I-40 to a rise, and watch the trucks all night with a pint of Dewars for company.

Happy 100 Mr. Guthrie. Damn if you didn't try to tell us the way, for all the good it did.

By the time we got to the Grand Canyon the Hopi were having prayer dances for one of their own, who ended up being one of the first casualties of the fresh new Iraq War but at that time was missing, along with the Lynch kid who was later rescued and for a short time made into a somewhat fake war trophy by the Bush Administration. After they knew the end of Lori Piestewa, and with considerable and entirely unnecessary effort (caused by the usual suspects) on the part of the Native Americans in Arizona and the Southwest generally, they got something formerly called "Squaw Peak" near Phoenix renamed for her--the first female Native American soldier killed in combat. A couple of weeks after the Grand Canyon, looping back east, we drove through Pecos, Texas, and saw signs commerating their first casualty, Johnny Mata, a career soldier who'd grown up there. The Dairy Queen where we stopped for a dip cone had a big banner up: "Thank You Johnny Mata." He got a memorial too, eventually, and the Army has named a building after him.


  1. you need to play at the woody guthrie festival in okemah. i've been many times; it's great.

  2. Please click the link in Laurie's comment, gentle readers, for a further report from Okemah. Libby and I would love to go back there and play--maybe next year? It's a durn sight further than the Food Lion in Siler City, I have to say, and we're still driving that same Tacoma that got us out there it its youth.