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 Ibent down to give my boots a spit swipe before sound check and when I stood up there he was, The General. I had never seen him in daylight before. The entire tour he only ventured from his coach long enough to accompany his granddaughter on
the mandolin for “Are You Tired of Me My Darling.” Then, leaning on his cane, he’d make his way back across the stage while frantic roadies formed a hu- man chain against the crowd that bayed like hounds after convicts. Now he stood so close I could smell where he nicked his shave. I took off my ten-gallon and I would have removed my head just to signal my utmost reverence.
family that I should be sent to Oregon to work with Miss Annie Sugar, songwriter par excellence and get the thing done.
“My faith in you is a faith in myself,” the General had whispered to me on the way to the airport in his big, black customized El Dorado limousine, “Don’t fuck it up.” His words still rang in my head as I boarded the plush bus that picked me up at the airport in Port- land. I was its only passenger. I came all the way up front and sat down behind the driver with my arm around my brand new Martin.
“Bring many folks up this way?”
The driver didn’t turn his head, but I could see his eyes check me in the rearview. He was a squirrelly looking fellow, neither young nor old.
“Know anything about Miss Annie herself?” On both sides of us and in front and back was a continuous green curtain of the tallest trees I’d ever seen, stag- geringly tall. As for the mountain we crawled up to it so fast and yet with so far to go I felt like a fire ant in a lush lawn.
“She’s worked with Tualatin Tex and the Rose City Rubes.”
“I don’t recollect the name.”
“It’s blue grass. Don’t you follow music?”
“They have blue grass in Oregon?”
“This is the country, dude. This is where blue grass is from.”
I turned in my seat and pitched my hat forward. I lose my sense of speech in front of fools. Tree after tree passed in a gospel of green so I did not even see where we turned off the main road. The cut of the en- gine woke me. The driver unloaded my duffle and a couple of boxes out of the belly of the bus and swung back into the cab and onto the highway without a farewell.
It could not have passed unnoticed that an enormous bus had deposited a sole cowboy and some groceries virtually on the doorstep. But the little house with
its moss-draped porch was absolutely still, except
His famous blue eyes glittered under a cap. “You there. You have a gift,” he said.
“Sir” I said, “This is an honor. Sir, I have been playing the bass since I was old enough to hold one upright.”
“The bass?” said the old man. He seemed genuinely surprised. “You call that crap ‘playing bass’?”
“I meant your song writing, son. Did you not write that song?”
At that I blushed like a slapped virgin. His words pre- sented me with an ethical dilemma such as the Sisters taught us in the orphanage where I was raised. I could not rightfully call myself a songwriter since Bill G.
was the official songwriter. I wrote only the one.
But the General only leaned closer. His gnarled hands clasped the top of the knob of the cane and shook with a tremor it turned out was his laugh. He said, “Do you know my granddaughter Lureen? Perhaps you have heard her sing.”
Those were his very words. Even at that moment I could almost see them released into the world where they were to swarm and sin and multiply and grow fruitful until six months later when I found myself betrothed. The General gave his nod to the love Lureen pledged straddling me in the tall grass, her vintage Mexican circle skirt spread across us like a picnic. I felt like a fellow who’d been buried under a bag of gold. She was straining at the gate to wed and chomping at the bit for a number one hit and there was nothing standing between either but a few good songs. Therefore it was the reigning opinion in the
Heart of The South
Merridawn duckler

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