I'm flashing back to my first memories; they are of a blacksmith shop in Abbott, Texas. My grandfather is shoeing a horse. He is heating the horseshoe in the roaring hot coals in the furnace. I'm standing on my tiptoes turning the bellows that blows the air on the furnace, keeping the fire going. He heats the horseshoe till it is red hot, then fits it to the horse's hoof, cools it off in water, and nails it onto the horse's hoof. A horse kicked him one day and ruptured his stomach.
He wore a truss the rest of his life until he died from pneumonia at fifty-six. I was seven years old at the time my grandfather died. The next memory is my first introduction to gospel music. It is of a tabernacle that sat next to my house, where in the summertime we had revivals. The Methodists, the Baptists, and the Church of Christ all held their church services in the tabernacle. I am sitting at the table looking out the window, listening to them all. My first performance in church was when I was about five. I was wearing a white sailor suit with red trim. I start to recite a poem my grandmother taught me, but I have been picking my nose, which now starts to bleed. I hold my nose with one finger and while blood runs all over my little white sailor suit I recite my poem:
What are you looking at me for?
I ain't got nothin' to say
If you don't likes the looks of me
Just look the other way
My next memory is of our bumblebee fights. On Sundays we would all go out and fight bumblebees. I was ten years old. The farmers around Abbott would run into bumblebee nests during the week while they worked their fields. They would let us know where to go, and eight or ten of us boys would go out and fight the bees. Some days I would come home with both eyes swollen shut from bee stings.
What fun we had!
We made paddles, sawed out of wooden boxes, that looked like Ping-Pong paddles with holes. One of us would go in and shake the nest and stir up the bees. Then, when the bees were swarming, everyone would start swinging. The bees always headed for your eyes. The next memory is when we (the same bee-hunting boys and me) are all hiding behind a billboard sign on the main road, Highway 81, that runs through Abbott, which is between Waco and Dallas. We have tied a string to a lady's purse that we laid in the middle of the highway. A car would come by, see the purse, hit the brakes, stop, and back up to get the purse. At that moment we would pull the purse back to us behind the billboard sign. The driver would then realize that it was a prank, give us the finger, and speed away. We laughed a lot.
Another great Sunday!
Excerpted from Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die by Willie Nelson. Copyright © 2012 by Willie Nelson. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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