Six weeks have almost passed now. It’s hard to believe that much time has trickled by. Robert has been away working in South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee…those southern states where people drawl out their words like hammocks between two trees and eat lots of fried stuff. Time has crept past, time has flown, I don’t remember all of it or how being alone unfolded for me, since he left so long ago. Days were eternal and short, elastic and snapping, yawning and sluggish. Oh! There was a terrible ten day period when I had an awful cold! I remember that. I was in Seattle for a bit. I worked. A lot. The weather turned nice, then ugly, then nice again. Now it’s been raining and squalling for a few days in a row and the wind, my friends, has been righteous and bitter. When I come down off the mountain at night with the dogs I can hardly feel my hands, though they are bundled in mittens and shoved in the pockets of my down vest.
So yes. Time has passed, slow or quick, or both at times. It has passed.
This week I reached a point of deep weariness. I took a day off. Then I worked a couple of days in a row. I failed to answer your emails (still working on it). My phone broke. Again. Then a friend of mine, one of my favorite Wyoming girls, came to visit. Last night, she and I went to the Don Williams concert at the Pocatello performing arts center. It was sold out. We were like sardines in there. Do you remember how Robbie bought two tickets for my birthday? Well. Obviously my fella’s early season work detail in the glorious South of the USA prevented him from being my date (for so many things in the past six weeks) so I took my Wyoming girlfriend with me instead and she was marvelous company. Let me tell you, Don Williams is 73 years old now, a true country music legend, a Prince of Nashville, and when he opens his mouth to sing these days, he still sounds exactly like he did thirty years ago, just like his recordings. He sounds like warm, liquid velvet pouring over a stack of haybales where a pair of country folk are kissing in the light of a harvest moon. He sounded SO good. And when he stopped singing, his voice was the deepest, growliest voice I have ever heard in my life and he kept slowly exclaiming, because he does all things slowly, “You guys…you guys are somethin’ else…oh mercy…” While he strummed his guitar and sang, he rocked one of his snake-skin cowboy boots back and forth, back and forth. For upbeat songs, he added a sort of wiggle to his rocking boot. I couldn’t stop looking at that boot. I know it was snake-skin because we were five rows back from the stage and I could see such details. He has silver hair that really glimmers in the spotlight and covers most of it up with a funny old hillbilly hat.
He is dearly beloved by Idahoans. This became very apparent to me last night. We stomped our boots. We hooted. We hollered. We clapped our hands until they turned to stumps in the cuffs of our plaid shirts. We sang along to all his songs and a few times, he sat back from his microphone and simply played his guitar while we carried the song for him, gladly and merrily, like an enormous church choir, and he looked so pleased, like his tall, narrow frame was fat on our love and appreciation. I wish Robbie could have been there. I’d have kissed him hard during a couple of those songs and I’d not have cared if the people in the row behind us gawked.
Hearing Don sing some of his songs live made the lyrics seem that much richer and I was reminded of why I love country music, country people, small towns, horses in pastures, wheat stubble, pick-up trucks, worn in boots, flocks of wild turkeys and combines taking up both lanes on the highway. I remembered it all. Then I thought about how many beautiful people have fallen for each other while two-stepping to his songs, or while laying in the back of a truck with nothing but the radio on, under the stars and owls and quiet blinks of the jack rabbits. I thought about how his music carries us to times and places, over and over again, like the scent of spruce in winter or the feel of sun on skin. I keep thanking him for that, today, over and over again. His music is honest and at times, purely a manifesto of his very is-ness. What a man. His songs take me back to New Zealand, when I was 19 and Robbie was 21, and we used to drive around and listen to Don’s greatest hits album. Robbie and Brady would throw back their heads and fairly howl along to his music while the ocean wind blew in the windows and sand of Raglan Beach burned black under the sun.
So hey. Thanks for a great night, Don. You’re going to live forever in our hearts and on our radios.
And thanks to my Robert. Baby, those concert tickets are one of the best birthday presents you’ve ever given me. I wish you could have been here for it, but I know that sometimes a man has got to work — and I’m so thankful for your hard work. Get home soon, so I can treat you right.