Somewhere there’s some old black men
‘Round an iron stove, drinking beer
Talking ‘bout places that they have been
A long, long way from here
And every line in their worried brow
Shows a lifetime of being used
Every inch in every mile
Between a love song and the blues.
It is very important to never forget where you come from. All the events and forces, both internal, and external that made you what you are make up the structure of your life, spirit, mind and understanding. When you deny these things you deny self, and when you deny self you have nothing left. Going home will surprise you. The very things you fought so hard to get away from welcome you with open arms, and you wonder why you ever left in the first place.
The ambition of every kid from Simmonsville was to get out of Simmonsville. The little hamlet in Central Texas was a hodge podge of blacks, Mexicans, and poor white trash, myself being the latter. We didn’t know we were poor white trash, we thought we had it going on. Never mind the fact that none of us had ever seen a color TV, and our shoes smelled bad, we had an equal chance to be president someday. We were delusional.
I kissed my first girl in Simmonsville. Pam Burns. She was a short blonde with a red coat and a booger in her nose. I crappith thee not! When I smacked her I saw it. Still, it was a learning experience. If you were from Simmonsville you had to date girls from Simmonsville. That’s ‘cause you had no money and only girls like that would forgive. They’d be happy with a forty-five cent burger from Burger Chef, and didn’t mind riding in the trunk to get into the drive in movie.
Everybody’s dad had a job in construction, and they were all drunks. That just went with the territory. Back in those days a six-pack was a very big deal. Whiskey was sold by the half pint, and the beer was terrible. Boys always drink the beer their dad drank, and our dads all drank some rank stuff. The beer they drank is long gone because there are laws now. The plan of action was to get girls like Pam Burns drunk. It never worked out. Never try to get a white trash Texas girl drunk. She’ll go from flirt to fight in sixty seconds and doesn’t mind walking home from the movie, whereupon her dad comes looking for you. Forget all that nonsense about assault on a minor, RUN!
If you got lucky you had to get married. Just the way it was. If you got married your life was sealed. Oh, it’s great for about the first week, and then the realization of your social status comes home and there you sit with a girl who has a booger in her nose, only now she’s pregnant. Time and tears go by and one day you are sitting in your truck, out in the yard (no driveways folks) drinking the same beer your dad did, and you begin to understand!
I never married a girl from Simmonsville. I had a habit of marrying Yankees. Been through six or so. In Texas you are allowed to marry up to seven times. I have one more tag left on my “Dear” license, better make the last a good one! Went back to Simmonsville some time ago. It was cold, and I ended up in one of those abode huts that still dot around here and there. There were a bunch of guys there, and they had this old potbellied stove. They had cut up come two by fours, and were feeding them into the stove, passing a bottle around, and of course, there was beer. It was like I never left. New York, L. A. and Austin never happened, and I was just “Billy.” They weren’t impressed by anything I’d written, but they did like some of the dirty songs I’d recorded thirty years ago. I left, got in my Mercedes, and drove away. As I pulled out onto the highway I looked back. I wondered, “Who am I?” Why, in spite of it all, I’m really just a kid from Simmonsville.
Simple Ol’ Boy From Austin