For my own reasons I am not quite finished with the Luckenbach era, May and early June 2009. However, I am finished with long, rambling pieces about it and am simply going to post little character sketches here and there as we proceed along with other light and airy subjects.
On my very first short reconnaissance of Luckenbach when I decided on the spot to move there, the first man with whom I actually had a conversation was Cigar Box Steve. Later, I came to refer to him as CBS. He was working at the The Armadillo Farm as a general handyman. I found him whacking weeds under his big hat while I was trying to find the proprietor to inquire about a space.
The next time that I saw CBS, he was on the outdoor stage in Luckenbach singing songs that he had written, accompanying himself on one of his homemade banjos. Yes, they are made out of cigar boxes.
Ultimately, we became quite close. He is the only other person with whom I have ever shared the accommodations of the camper trailer. We traveled together up to the Tyler area for a unique little music festival held annually in the woods near Pine Mills, Texas, called Pickin’ in the Pines. We camped out there for four or five days during the festival.
CBS was actually a Yankee, too, from Michigan. He worked at The Armadillo Farm during the winter where he casually cohabited with a shy woman in a trailer. By “casually” I mean that when he was there, he was there, and when he wasn’t, he wasn’t. I am not sure how all that worked, to tell you the truth. He routinely headed back north for the summer. We parted company after the music festival in Pine Mills. He was hitching a ride on to Kentucky to work on the construction of an outdoor stage there for some event.
CBS’s songs are all a bit melancholy, conveying as they do a feeling of displacement from the world of the late 1960’s amid a current, clearly inferior world. The two that I have videos of are “Left Over Hippies from the Sixties” and “We’re Getting High on the Right Stuff.” I just watched them again, grinning all the way through. Still, I do not think that OS is quite the right market niche for them. More importantly, I do not know what I had taken that day, but I was surely full of myself on these videos, which would compromise the enjoyment of them for others.
Before leaving CBS gave me some of his things for my camper. He knew that at that point I had determined to head on further south. An aluminum Coleman® coffee pot, an additional folding chair, a larger Coleman® cooler complete with food in it to back up my little Igloo®, and his sorry-assed towell. One can always use another old towell though.
I would like to point out a subtle thing in this little photo of us taken just before we parted ways. Before it was snapped, CBS put both his hands on me, one on my shoulder and one on my forearm. This is not a thing that straight men commonly do, at least not where I come from. CBS and I are both certainly straight, each with our own catastrophes to show for it. But to this day, I am touched by that gesture.
He is a good man and was a solid friend. I owe him, too. I am determined to find him and see him again someday. When I do, I am going to put my arms around him.