Daddy first laid eyes on Mamma as he was pumping high octane ethel into a customer's ol' jalopy. The gas station where he worked was directly across the street from their hometown drive-in restaurant, Bootle's Barbecue, where Mamma worked as a car hop.
From the first time he saw her, there was not a day went by he didn't drive his model-T Ford across that highway to have lunch, hoping to catch a glimpse of her beautiful blue eyes as she went from car to car. She hadn't been working there very long before Daddy asked one of the other car hops for her name, which she gave him. But in his excitement, he misunderstood her, believing she had said her name was Lula Bell. So, naturally, Mamma didn't know Daddy was referring to her as he drove around and around Bootle's on two wheels, honking his home-made ooga-ooga horn and yelling at the top of his lungs, "Hey, Lula Bell! Lula Bell!" Mamma told me that she was extremely shy so she must have thought him quite crazy for carrying on like that. Back then, those type of antics were simply not done.....but, that was my daddy, for ya. It was antics such as that which eventually won my Mamma's heart.
The day he proposed to her, she walked over to retreive the tray from his car window and saw something unusal sitting on it. Instead of his usual tip, Daddy had placed an open engagement ring box there on the tray for her to see. When Mamma saw it, Daddy said to her, "I couldn't help myself. I'm in love with you. If you like it, put it on." That was so like Daddy, too...no beating around the bush for him, that was for sure. And because he wasn't one to beat around the bush is one of the reasons you are here viewing this memorial to them. As way leads on to way, I am a future consequence of her decision to pick up that ring.
Before they were married, Daddy and some of his buddies, which he called "the boys" had gotten together and started a country music band. Then ten or so years after I came along, he had me listening to all of his 45's, copying down the lyrics into a notebook, so the singers in the band could learn them. I reckon, after hearing those songs over and over again, the music and the lyrics simply embedded themselves into my ten-year-old noggin. This might explain why, after I began composing poetry, I suddenly (?) got this hankerin' to write concerning people's relationships. One of my co-workers was also a catalyst. After reading some of my first work, she insisted I should consider country music lyrics. "After all", she said, "that's all country music lyrics are.....poetry set to music".
So, I decided to give it a shot.......and have decided to share them with you.
The background picture is one of my daddy and two of the boys in his band. I believe they called themselves the "Falcons" when this picture was taken. They were also called "The Hucklebucks" at one time or another. The song you hear playing reminded me so much of their style, I couldn't help but use it. Not only did Daddy know how to play the steel guitar, but he learned to play several other instruments as well: the saxophone, fiddle, harmonica, drums, electric and box guitar and clarinet. One day while Daddy was at work, he fell and hit his head which caused a cerebral hemmorrhage. A week after the fall, he complained of a terrible headache and told my older brother to crank the car because he needed to go to the hospital. Two hours later, he was dead. Daddy was 39.
The black and white picture of the band below was taken in 1957. It was the first band my daddy joined when they called themselves the "Southern Rhythm Aires". I found a card paper-clipped to the picture advertising their gig at a high school dance. The cost of admission for one adult: 75 cents! Ahh, now those were the days! But then again, back then, he only brought home forty dollars a week.
As we got a little older, Mamma, on occasion, would take a well-deserved break from rearing us rambunctious six children and go sit and listen to Daddy and "the boys" play. She never admitted it to me, but after Daddy died, I am sure she missed those escapes into the world of country music. I will always cherish these memories, those songs of wine and roses, cheatin' hearts, walking floors and tear-filled pillows. After being separated by death for twenty-five years, Daddy and Mamma were finally reunited when her frail body lost the battle with bone cancer. She was 63.
Whenever I put on some of that good ol' country music, I can't help but hear Mamma's sweet warbling soprano voice echoing through the chambers of my mind, crooning out those lovesick tunes Daddy used to play on his steel guitar. If they could see this page, I am sure it would put a smile or two upon their faces. And I like to think that when they were reunited, Daddy looked into those beautiful blue eyes he fell in love with, as if seeing her for the first time, and without beating around the bush, told her true, "Daisy Bell, I can't help it if I'm still in love with you!"