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Commentary: Tales of an old ‘rocker,’ a country Rabbitt and more odd wonders

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Dr. Lucas Boyd, Columnist

Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and may be contacted at coondogspress@bellsouth.net.

Most of you have probably seen the bumper sticker that says “Stuff Happens.”

I’m not sure those are the exact words, but it’s close enough. Anyway, if you hang around this world long enough, “stuff” will happen.  

It’s happened to Honey and me several times as well as to all our friends.

Evelyn enjoyed traveling. Many people like to bring back souvenirs — a T-shirt, a trinket to set on a shelf, a picture — from their travels. Evelyn was no different, but she saw no reason to spend money on useless items, so she would pick up a rock and when she got home, she would label it, date it and place it in a little basket. After a few years, she had a basketful of little labeled rocks, all different and good reminders of her trips.

Then she took her first trip out of the country. At that time, custom folk did not pay a lot of attention to older people as smugglers of contraband. But when the agent asked, “Do you have anything to declare?” Evelyn, being the honest person she was, replied, “Nothing but my rocks.”

Suspecting that these were just a cover for something more sinister, agents unpacked and examined everything in her luggage, even her underwear. It took a long time, but eventually she and her rocks were allowed through. 

And on future overseas trips, she always answered “no.”

When I started college at Ole Miss, William Faulkner had just won the Nobel Prize for literature and could be seen around Oxford quite often.  

Most every morning he met with a group of his local cronies in a back room at Leslie’s Drug Store for coffee and conversation. He usually wore wrinkled work clothes, an old slouch hat, and a several-day growth of beard.

One day I was on the sidewalk going toward the square. As I started to cross a blind alleyway, a rattletrap pickup almost ran over me, but I managed to jump out of the way.  

There was Faulkner at the wheel, driving as he usually did. He neither slowed down nor looked either direction but just drove on out into the main street and turned toward Rowen Oak.

In thinking about the incident later, I realized that had I not been so quick on my feet, I could have been a footnote in the biography of a famous literary figure.

When I was at BGA, Eddie Rabbitt’s daughter was one of our students. Eddie was just a regular down-to-earth fellow — with a tremendous talent.  

On more than one occasion, Honey would answer the phone on Sunday and hear: “Mrs. Boyd, this is Eddie Rabbitt. We’re having some of Demelza’s teachers and a friend or two of mine for pizza later this afternoon. Could you and Dr. Boyd join us as well?”  

We usually could. Eddie always made his own phone calls.

The Rabbitts lived along Old Hillsboro Road just south of Highway 96. The house was nice but not an ostentatious mansion that some stars have. The dining room table would be covered with about a dozen pizza boxes.  

Eddie’s friends were always interesting people from the music industry. Often, part of the evening was spent around the piano with Eddie playing and all of them singing country songs and telling stories.

Eddie loved to tell about his meeting with Elvis. Eddie happened to be in Las Vegas one time when Elvis was doing a show there. Since Eddie had written “Kentucky Rain,” one of Elvis’ hits, one of Elvis’ entourage asked Eddie if he’d like to meet him.

Eddie related how this fellow got him back stage right after a show. He pushed open the dressing room door and there sat The King, all slumped over, exhausted from the performance. His escort said, “Elvis, this is Eddie Rabbitt. He wrote ‘Kentucky Rain.’”

Eddie said that Elvis roused up, looked at him and uttered those four words he’d never forget: “Pleased ta meetcha, boy.” Then Eddie would throw his head back and have a hearty laugh.

The last time Honey and I saw Eddie was at a performance Demelza was in at school. He was in treatment for the cancer that would soon take his life and had lost most of his hair. When someone mentioned the messy, rainy weather, Eddie replied, “Of course, you know how I love a rainy night” (one of his hits).  

A showman to the end.

A friend of mine grew up on a farm in Williamson County. There were five kids who were all expected to pull their weight in farm work.

 For many years, a Black couple were tenants at the place. After the man died, his wife, Annie, stayed on to help around the house. The main meal of the day was dinner (at noon).  

When they all came in hungry from the field and gathered at the big table, Annie would serve her plate from the kitchen and go out to the back porch or yard to eat separately.

One day in the late 1950s, they were all seated at the dinner table waiting for their father. He came in, started to sit down, then stopped and stood looking around the table for a time.  

There was a vacant place on one side. He turned and walked to the back door. He said, “Annie, come in the house and bring your plate.” She did and he continued, “There’s a place there at the table. No need in you eating outside.  Come and eat with us. That’s your place from now on.”  

And it was.

I asked him what he thought about his father doing something like that. He said, “If Daddy said it was right to do, then it was right to do.”

The world needs more daddies like that.

Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the  retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and may be contacted at coondogspress@bellsouth.net.

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