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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Taming of a Texan... Part III

With every adventure in live music, there is always the crazy stuff that happens that you talk about first. “Yeah, the show was great but…” These past months in Navasota with all the deluge of live music has been a barrel of monkeys. That’s right, brass monkeys. I’m about to do a photographic end-of-the-year retrospective of all the fun, so you won’t forget, and perhaps in your next lifetime you will choose to get out and enjoy art like you should.

My trek to see Michael Martin Murphy was no exception. I was given the privilege to accompany his escort to pick him up at the hotel where he stayed in Houston. True to authentic cowboy fashion, we hauled him in a dirty, messy pick-up truck. When he came out, he was wearing a camo jacket, but he was still Michael Murphy. I was thrilled to meet him again. Perhaps this time it would not be so rushed.

I was wearing a leather frill coat with beadwork. I felt like Hans and Franz in their phony muscles when Schwartznegger came out on SNL and grabbed them by their necks… Like a teen ager, I jumped in the junky back seat, as there was no place else for a person, unless I wanted to ride in the bed. Michael Martin Murphy soon turned up the radio, when he heard the music of one of his protégés. “That’s Lester Flatt,” he smiled. He and the driver talked bluegrass as we pulled up alongside a car at the red light. The lady in the car next to us stared real hard, knowing that the guy over in the next lane could be somebody… I could almost read her mind as she told herself, probably not… and then she looked straight ahead.

When we got to HBU, I sat in a stupor, wondering how in the hell can a person tell somebody else how much their art had meant to them for thirty five years. There was no time, and besides, I was looking at the back of his head. I just blew it off. Where do you start, he’s got a lot on his mind, besides, he has heard all that stuff before. I thought of my daughter, an accomplished musician, who never was much for conversation right before a performance. He probably was somewhere else anyway. Once she forgot her guitar as we drove her to a little gig in Hempstead. Had to go back and get it… And I know all performers are running a thousand things through their minds right before they go on.

Anyway, just as I thought I had my shortened speech ready, we were there. Perhaps I could at least shake his hand and wish him well….The truck stopped, Michael Martin Murphy jumped out, pretty spry for an old guy. And closed the door. I’m behind him in one of those cabs that the back folds out, only if the front passenger door is open. I can’t even get out. Murph hops away, and I sit there considering my options. I called for help, and the driver soon reopened my side, and we chuckled about it.

Hey, there was no offense intended, and none taken. Cowboys have done much worse to each other. Like the time my boss on a ranch let me drink tap water from his hose for two weeks before he told me there was a dead possum in the well. Now THAT would make you mad.

Anyway I got to see Murph again as it turned out, and go through the Bible museum at HBU, and share some of my heritage. I showed him and others my mural of the Battle of Galveston inside the Museum of Southern History, in the same building. He seemed to enjoy the museums, and his associates were so well informed about the Bible and the exhibits that they could have been docents. Everyone was amazed at the spiritual and intellectual level of these men. Murphy, like all successful people, has surrounded himself with very able men. That may have been the highlight of the evening, which sure ran long, as these entertainers stopped and considered the various ancient translations of the WORD. I think the museums made as much of an impression on them as their performance had on us.

When we finally got to my mural, everyone was dragging, but Murph hung in there, so graciously, and I was almost embarrassed to take up his time. I stood in shock, because I had ever seen the mural without a huge cannon that used to set in front of it. In fact the missing cannon was carefully placed so that it appeared as if it had just sent a projectile that was exploding in the painting. It was gone… My 30 foot mural, much to my dismay, was a smoking gun with no gun. So I told them about the Texans like my great, great grandfather, who took back Galveston Island with cunning and subterfuge, inflicting minimum of casualties, yet handing the Union Navy the single most humiliating defeat in American Naval history. And then I gave him a line that ought to be in a song; When the Rebs got back their strategic port, they claimed they would never lose it again in battle, because they “would fight until hell froze over… and then fight on the ice!”

That’s the kind of people that built this Country. They believed in something. Our challenge is to be careful what we embrace, but realize that some things are worth sacrificing and even dying for. Michael Martin Murphy seems to have discovered those things, and is touring the state to get his message out. And doing it in a beautiful way. Hopefully he has found that a lot of people, including me, agree with him, his style and his substance, and see him as a Godsend to this Country.

I’ll gladly take a back seat to a man like that any day.

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