“What’s old Duane doing now?” I asked.
“Yep, 75 years in the Huntsville pen.”
“He must have done something heavy.”
“Yeah, it seems Duane got mixed up with some dope dealers down around Houston and they leaned on him a little, and you know ol’ Duane, he started to shove back and—well there you have it.”
“That’s way uncool man.”
“Say, did I ever tell you about the time that Duane and I stole a U-Haul trailer?”
I sat back and relaxed while he got his thoughts in order. This man was an excellent story-teller, so I hit on the extended bottle of Jack Daniels and prepared to listen to a a good story.
“It was about 25 years ago, give or take a year or two, me and Duane were running wild there in West Texas. We were runnin’ the bars, playin’ guitar for beer and whatever the kitty would bring in. When all of a sudden one day, Duane said he had us a gig over in Borger.
Now the only wheels we had was that little 1958 Metro that I used to drive. You remember it. It wasn’t big enought to cuss a cat in. We needed something bigger so ol’ Duane says, ‘heck , we’ll steal us a U-Haul.’
I was young and dumb in those days, so I jumped right in there on a deal like that. So I agreed to a midnight run on the Depot Service Station, they had the local U-Haul concession, and we’d just pick us up our U-haul and be on our merry way.
We picked the trailer up around two or three in the morning and we took the thing over to Lefty’s Garage and painted the trailer. We only had two colors of paint, a sort of institutional green and a day-glo orange. Duane had a few purple stickers, so we put them on there for a touch. We painted stars and bars, and a big ol’ half-moon, then we got ready for the gig that night by drinkin’ a half-gallon of Black label and eatin’ fistfuls of pills.
‘We’re doing it just like Hank Sr. done it,’ Duane kept saying. We partied from the Pair ‘O’ Dice lounge on out to Rocky’s and back–then we was eating more pills and drinking more whiskey. Duane was in a jovial mood and I wasn’t feelin’ no pain as we loaded the guitars and amps. The only thing we were worried about was some oily holding knuckle drill on us that night.
So with the evening star twinkling in the western sky, and the little metro tying every bundle, me and ol’ Duane set out to make our name in the country music business.
We were laughin’ and drinkin’ and just having a big ol’ time when up ahead you could see these flashing blue lights. ‘Insurance check’ Duane says ‘let me do the talking’ and I readily agreed as we pulled up to a stop opposite the state troopers.
“Hey officer, my names Duane and this ol’ outlaw’s my sideman, and yeah, we got insurance papers on this trailer but we just borrowed it from my brother-in-law. We got us a country music show.”
It didn’t impresss the highway cop one bit.
One trooper walked to the back and pretty soon he came back and whispered something to the cop that was talking to us.
No kiddin? I heard one say. Then he said, “better unload boys, we got something we need to talk about.”
They arrested us and took us to the Gray County Jail where we pled the grand larceny charge down until we didn’t have to serve but ninety days.” Old Rufus was the high sheriff then so he’d let us wash the county cars and keep the courthouse grounds lookin’ neat. So the ninety days passed pretty fast. Saturday nights he’d let us take the guitars out of the evidence room and pick for the prisoners and we kept in practice that way too.
“But I’ll tell you this, Shoe”, he said standing up and dusting off his pants before heading back to where his dogs and parrots slept in the shadows.
“If you ever steal a U-Haul trailer, make sure that somebody paints the back of the damn thing.”
Written by Bob Briggs
August 24, 1996