Life's Experiences


Merry Christmas!
Santa jumping on a bag of toys

It is December and the jolly, ho, ho, ho season again. I trust that everyone has their shopping done, packages wrapped, and all the mixing, fixing, making, baking done?? Of course you don’t. That would be disgusting. Every year I say I’m going to be done by December 15th, but so far I haven’t achieved that goal. Whatever…..this is the season to hope for peace and love and fortitude to carry on into the New Year, and to reflect on Christmas’s past.

My reflections always have to do with the musician in the family. That’d be What’s-His-Name, and we’ve talked about him before. He’s been playing music for 70 years now, so I don’t think that will change anytime soon. His parents gave him violin lessons when they couldn’t afford it, but I think his mother had visions of a concert violinist, virtuoso type, so they made the sacrifice. Well, he dashed that dream when he kept cranking out the hoedowns when his music teacher asked him if he’d been practicing. She told his folks they were wasting their money and her time.

He moved on to college at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas where he majored in music, only to screw that up too by transferring to CSU in Fort Collins, Colorado where he studied something called Forestry and Range and acquired a degree in what I call Grass and Trees. That profession paid most of the bills while he continued to perfect the hoedowns and he’s played fiddle and mandolin in the bars ever since. I don’t think that’s what his mother had in mind.

Anyway, the Christmas story that stands out in my mind is the year he played in the band for Ron Adams on weekends at the Night Life casino and adult entertainment establishment in Helena. The “show” was on one side of a wall and the band and the dance floor on the other. Ron and Sandy decided to have an employee Christmas Party, and being an equal employment employer, no one was excluded from this festive bash. And Sandy, bless her heart, thought it would be fun to have a gift exchange, and since there were so many people involved, they’d draw names.

Well, the name Sonny drew was “Fawn”. He told me Fawn was a cocktail waitress. Yeah, right. I’ve told him in the past, and I’ll tell you now, this ain’t my first rodeo. But I’ve found through the years, when dealing with cowboys and musicians, you just let them think you believe everything they say, and then you make up your own mind.

Fawn had a figure that would stop a train, and a face to make your horse weep. Sonny didn’t know what to buy for Fawn. I said, “She’ll be easy to shop for, she needs clothes, right?” So he thought we’d start at Victoria’s Secret. “In your dreams, Cowboy! You want to buy underwear for Fawn, we’ll go to Big R or Bob Wards, get her some thermals.”

I couldn’t believe I was spending the last of the Christmas budget frantically shopping for a stripper! I think we ended up with some generic bath powder and a towel. I was disappointed the next year when he didn’t work there no more – I thought maybe he could draw “Bambi” or “Buffy” the next time.

I think he actually missed the place. What an ego trip!! One little piece of fluff slithered past our table while the band was on break, leaned over and told him, “You’ve got a cute butt for an old geek!” Now that news flash woke me right up out of a dead yawn, I’ll tell you what! I made a mental note here to check things out a little closer, see if anything’s changed.

And speaking of musicians, they tend to stretch the truth a little bit, maybe even more so than cowboys, if that’s possible. In the case of the band, one of them will lie and the others will swear to it, so as I said, just let ‘em think you believe every word. Like when he and his favorite guitar player, Jack Simmons, started this whole thing. They were just gonna “play for fun”, do a gig about “once a month”. Well, after the onset, they stayed booked almost every weekend for years. When Jack got a real job at Walmart and Sonny got old, those gigs slowed down to the occasional, which is what they were supposed to be in the first place.

One particular Christmas party a number of years ago, they were playing at the Elks Club in Anaconda. Usually the Elks Clubs are pretty tame. The eleven o’clock prayer when they all remember their dead brothers and pay tribute, sort of dampens the party spirit and things kind of wind down from there. But this particular night, Stiger comes home with this shiner on his eye and a big goose egg on his head, like he’d been talkin’ when he should have been listenin’. He tells me the mounted elk head on the wall behind the stage fell off and conked him! And Simmons swears this story is true! As I say, not even just my second rodeo.

Now, I went to high school in Butte, pretty close proximity to Anaconda, so the “real” story of what led to the nicks on his façade in the middle of the night probably wouldn’t have surprised me much. I’d have believed the raw truth easier than this tale they concocted. You see, they usually ride together to these music gigs, so they have a lot of miles to come up with these tales. But I don’t burst their bubble; they had to work on that one a long time.

I tell them from time to time, the music is TOO LOUD, and those knobs on the equipment turn DOWN as well as UP, but they haven’t figured out that operation yet, and they usually manage to crank it UP some more. Musicians are all deaf, in case you didn’t know. If it isn’t too LOUD, how come it’s reverberating off the walls enough to knock down a mounted elk head? “Must have been a loose connection,” says he. Musician Mentality is on a par with Cowboy Logic. I know about loose connections.

Ringing bells and Merry Christmas

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