It was a cold, dare I say frigid afternoon. Just to the northwest of my location, a blizzard of epic proportions was ravaging small, unprepared villages and towns. It was impossible to know how many casualties such a storm would claim, and fear was beginning to set in across the state of Texas. Grocery stores were running out of bottled water and toilet paper. Bread and beer were the next items to go. Old Man Winter would seemingly show no mercy. We were doomed. I had no choice but to face my own mortality, and so I drove north from New Braunfels towards the capitol.
…At least that’s what it sounded like on the radio, as the Weather Man updated me every fifteen minutes. The storm would actually bring a dusting of snow to most of the state, but the various news outlets (desperate to scare us into listening) were almost certain that this would be huge. The Great Blizzard of ’09.
I picked up my traveling companion, Austin Collins at his house at 3 PM on Thursday, December 3rd, and we headed towards Fort Worth. Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t freeze, we’d be playing the White Elephant Saloon, the first of our dates on what has become my semi-annual East Coast tour. We arrived in Fort Worth an hour after darkness. This time of year never leaves me feeling unsettled when I am traveling to shows. It gets dark at 5 PM, and in my business darkness is usually equated to show time. I always feel like I’m late when it gets dark this early. We pulled into the back of the White Elephant, loaded in our gear, parked my trusty Honda Element (east coast tour vehicle of choice) down the street, and set up our equipment. First item of business– a Love Shack Burger. I prefer to order the “Dirty Burger,” (I think that’s what it’s called) which covers several food group necessities as it comes complete with vegetable (lettuce and pickles), fruit (tomatoes, though I always remove them, and yes, it is a fruit), meat (the burger of course), and quail egg (the egg food group… trust me, I know all about food groups). After satisfying my dietary needs, and fortifying the meal with a frothy brewed beverage, we got to our main order of business– the show. I enjoy playing the White Elephant. It’s located in the Stockyards, and because the area draws a wide variety of both locals and tourists alike, you never really know what you’re going to get. On this particular evening, we got a solid crowd complete with your stereotypical Request Guy. Request Guy (tm) never really seems to understand why we can’t play every song he’s ever heard. Now, I am by no means lodging a complaint against Request Guy. He listens (most of the time), and that’s what we want. While I share his love of obscure Robert Earl Keen songs, as well as his passion for The Dixie Chicks (sort of), my brain only has the capability of remembering, say, 100 songs. Unfortunately for Request Guy, most of those songs are ones that I have written myself. Sadly, his requests went unfulfilled, although I wanted to play each and every song he asked for. I have to admit, I felt bad that I couldn’t enhance his White Elephant Saloon experience.
I felt less bad when he stumbled drunkenly into a support pillar.
I decided that even if I had known every song he requested, he probably wouldn’t remember me playing them when he woke up in the morning. Or afternoon.
We played a lengthy four hour show, trading off the hits in rapid succession. That’s what you get when you come to one of our shows: the hits. The evening came to a close, and we headed off to take lodging in a fantastically redecorated room at the Motel 6. Kudos to you, Motel 6– this room was great, and well worth the $45.
Turning in, I wondered how many feet of snow The Great and Vengeful Blizzard of ’09 would deliver us by daybreak. We would be making the 6 hour journey to Jackson, Mississippi… and I wasn’t about to let a blizzard stop us.
The alarm went off at 8:30. I got up and readied myself for a shower… but then I remembered The Blizzard. I walked over to the window, and took a deep breath. Slowly, I pulled back the curtains… revealing… nothing. Oh the humanity!
Squeaky clean, but bleary eyed, Austin and I walked the 100 yards across the parking lot to the nearby Waffle House for some coffee and breakfast. Not only was this Motel 6 wonderful on the inside, it was also convieniently located next to this 24-hour Friend Of All Who Travel And Are Hungry. Sweet, sweet Motel 6, how you keep on giving.
Properly nourished, we headed east on I-30, and then eastward again on I-20, bound for Jackson. We passed through several remnants of the Great Storm on our way, dodging between the flurries, undeterred. After one minor vehicle malfunction, which was quickly remedied at Bowdy’s Quick Lube in Van, TX (it would have been ironic if we were driving the van, I thought), we pushed on to Jackson, arriving at 3:30 PM.
The McGuffie family is a collection of musical Saints and Patrons who live on a picturesque spread of family land just outside of town. The beauty of their property is only trumped by the beauty of their souls– always full of love and appreciation. I’ve played for them on several occasions, and I have to admit, I always feel like I’m giving them the raw end of the deal. My music can not be an equal trade for their hospitality and spirit, and as hard as I try, I always leave their company feeling as if I’ve somehow gotten away with something. They are the pinnacle of kindness and generosity, and I appreciate their friendship in a way that I fear I will never properly be able to articulate. We began the evening being treated to a feast of epic proportion, complete with their secret weapon– Captain Rodney’s Dip. I have no idea how to create this diabolical concoction, but I am sure that if we could produce it in massive amounts, and ship it to our enemies around the globe, that there would be no traces of ill will or thoughts of war on this grand planet. It’s that incredibly good.
Stuffed to the gills, we set up under 15 foot ceilings and played acoustically for a good two hours to a silent group of angels. As we finished, snow began to fall outside. Perhaps we had not escaped the storms’ fury as we had previously thought…
The next morning we found a beautiful dusting of snow on the ground which quickly melted once the sun broke free of it’s cloudy captors. We packed our things, headed for lunch in town with the McGuffie’s, profusely thanked them for their immense hospitality, and then took off, bound for Oxford, Mississippi.