GROWING UP, WILLIE NELSON’S 4TH of July picnic was always the official start of summer for me. Willie and “Family” moved their traveling picnic
several times over the years, and my first, 1987, when I was old enough to go and still young enough to wear the belly-baring tee shirt.
I lived in Spicewood at the time, and had met Willie and his bunch on numerous occasions, when the wife of his bus driver invited a bunch of us to go roller blading on the tennis courts while Willie kicked back with a doobie and watched, then we went swimming in the pool (which had a mosaic of an Indian’s face at the bottom), followed by a drunken procession of tiki-torch bearing golf carts (Willies was a Rolls Royce cart btw). There were no lights on the course, and somewhere along the way, we lost one of the girls, who turned up later, unscathed but mad as a wet hen.
The Western Town where they shot scenes from Lonesome Dove was still intact, and a fun place to hang out, especially when I got an invite from Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, the Greater Tuna guys, for a campfire show called Hillbilly Heaven, that included Austin singing stars Kelly Willis as Patsy Cline and Jimmy Dale Gilmore as Hank Williams . . .
Willie’s picnic, even though it was a staple of summers past, is part of my Old Austin.
The one where musicians could still make a living and you could open your door to strangers. Old Austin is a small town, where we would sneak out to go to the Armadillo World Headquarters and hang out with honest-to-gawd real live musicians.
Through time, Austin has grown and changed, and it makes me a little sad to realize that I’ve changed too. I’ve put away my old Willie’s 4th of July back stage passes and ticket stubs, tucked safely away with my Mama’s linen and good china.
But my memories of Austin the way it used to be are still as fresh as splashing barefoot in the cold water of Barton Springs.
Willie confirmed my Mama’s biggest fear–that my heroes really have always been cowboys. And they still are it seems . . .