What up Pigeon Handlers?
For the past few weeks or so, I have been searching for a new topic to write about. Mostly because I am a procrastinator and I very much have projects that I need to work on. Anywho, I had the idea to link my “mediocre writer” status to my “world’s okayest musician” self-appointment-ness and wanted to showcase a few of my favorite musical acts that lean toward entertaining story telling. Most of the ones I had in mind are probably a mystery to those outside of the Lone Star State (although friends to the North might recognize one in particular [I’m talking about Canada]), thus the need for enlightenment. I’m The People’s Writer (a Writer for the People) by golly, and the people need to be informed.
Sadly, as I mentioned before, I am a procrastinator and up until now had not been able to find a good starting point. But as I ‘twas sitting in bed facebookin’ putting off sleep, I came across a post that is super bummer-worthy and a catalyst.
I may have brought it up a while ago in my post about Winding Roads that I happen to be a fan of a one Charlie Robison, especially the album Good Times. Tonight, I read that Mr. Robison is going to hang up the guitfiddle and power down the mic, retiring from the stage.
This may not mean a whole lot to a lot of folks who have no idea who Charlie Robison is, but that’s kinda the point of this series.
Pick up the pizza [Pineapple-Ham]
So as a young lad growing up in the South Texas sun and being around-ish the Texas Music Scene at an early age, I had been aware of songs like My Hometown, Poor Man’s Son, and Barlight. I learned about waltz’s, play-on words, and tongue-in-cheek humor all from the song Life of the Party. To this day, I believe that they need to make a movie out of John O’Reilly. Either that or have a dude in a ghillie suit follow Conor McGregor with a go-pro. But the album and songs that stuck with me through my youth to now would have to be Good Times.
The summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of High School was without out a doubt one of the greatest summers of my young life. No, I didn’t go on vacation to the beach or travel the world or sit on the couch playing Halo. I got to work on a preconditioning feedlot with one of my best friends and had an absolute ball (even after my first day when I dismounted off my horse, walked into a thicket to bust out a feeder calf, and got absolutely trucked like I was a soda can on the highway).
I told ya’ll all that to get to the music part. Every day after lunch, my buddy and all the other cowboys would take a siesta (a “nap” for all you pinche gringos like me). Me the Lad was an odd little man. Among other things, I wasn’t a fan of naps and instead stayed in my truck listening to the radio. One such day, I slid Good Times in and leaned the seat back.
New Year’s Day
El Cerritos Place
Big City Blues
Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Hungry
Something in the Water
Those 11 Songs, 48 minutes and 13 seconds, as it turns out, equals the amount of time it takes a group of ranch hands to sleep off a midday food coma. Thus every day for the rest of that summer while everyone else went to sleep, I had my own little Charlie Robison Concert on repeat.
The Flatland Boogie
The aforementioned panhandle adventure was a prime example of carrying Charlie’s music with me years later to the college days, but The Flatland Boogie made a semi weekly appearance back in Aggieland as well.
At a little establishment known as “The Dixie Chicken”, responsible college students would gather on Saturday nights with their practice exams, quizzes, textbooks, and homeworks and all study together in the quiet of the quaint little eatery. If you believe that, you probably also think that precious Timmy and Ol’ Rock the Good Ag get together for Sunday brunch at the Blue Dolphin Bar and Grill. Everyone knows what the Chicken is. Pool, Dominoes, Lonestar and Shiner Beer, and the finest Texas Country you and your sweetheart could dance to.
On the rare occasions that I got the better of a low tolerance and made it to closing time, something wonderful happened. The last few songs of the night were mandatory sing-a-longs (TAMC has some of the best acappella vocalists around [don’t believe me? Go to Kyle Field for a football game]). The ending playlist shuffled around from time to time, though more often than not you’d get Robert Keen’s Road Goes on Forever, Goodnight Irene, and occasionally Sweet Caroline.
Every once in a while, after a tune would end, the joint would get reeeaaal quiet. The murmurs were low and even the rattlesnake in the back was silent. Then, the piano keys that made up the bulk of the rhythm to Flatland Boogie would echo and every guy and gal in that place became Charlie.
New Year’s Day on the Border
Post College and a bit of time into my tenure into the Oil Patch, my dad and I were invited to make a trip down to Zapata, Tx and meander around a hunting ranch. We drove and drove, taking in all the beautiful scenery that is the white brush of South Texas, and finally arrived. I think it was about dark by the time we got there so we settled into camp and hit the hay.
The next morning, we got up and commenced to wander around, not really hunting so much as enjoying getting away from the hustle and bustle of being oil field trash. I remember us climbing up on top of a mound of caliche and scoping the area. Pigeon Handlers, I’m pretty sure that from where we were, we could see some mountains from across the border. I’m like 80% sure. I could be wrong. That was years ago and recalling that moment, I may be trying to paint a prettier picture. If you are up and up on your geography and say I’m full of shit, keep it to yourself. There could be a pretty gal from California or Sweden reading this and I want to impress her. Where was I? Right.
So there we were, sitting up on a fairly large dirt pile, gazing out over into Mexico and I remembered what day it was. Yes, for all of you who can follow context clues, it was New Year’s Day. I cracked a smile as I played the song in my head, thinking I will probably never get the chance again to say “I think I’ll stay.” I’ll also probably never get that chance again to scare off a big ole buck by not so quietly talking to myself.
We’ll See You Around
I’m not gonna sit here and write you a novel about each and every one of my favorite Charlie songs. First off, I have already established that I don’t have the attention span to write novels. I write novellas. Fight me. Also, I already have a novella I am supposed to be writing.
More importantly, I’m not going to tell you why these songs are special because I want you to take the time to go give these tunes a spin for yourself. I’m not one to throw around guarantees, but Charlie Robison is a damn fine songwriter and I’m sure you’ll find something that you can tap your foot to. Hell, hopefully you can have one of the songs around while you’re making a memory. And as for Charlie himself, don’t let the bastards get you down and thank you for the Good Times.