For as long as I remember, my father has seemed sincere in his belief that Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” should become our national anthem.
During my senior year in high school, my father was principal of the school I attended. Like his love for Willie and “Blue Eyes,” my father also had a soft spot for underdogs or anyone who needed a bit of extra support.
There was a girl named Sheila in the 10th grade that year. Sheila lived on a chicken farm way out in the woods. As I remember, she loved old movies and Willie Nelson. She was, in fact, quite brilliant. She had a shocking, quirky sense of humor that kept us laughing. Determining the thin line between truth and fiction in the outrageous stories she told was a task. At 15, she decided she would befriend our family. Her parents were hard working, much older good folks. Her siblings were grown and long gone. Sheila farmed alongside her parents. Like good farming families everywhere, their schedule was set and strict. They went to bed early, and their home was quiet, real quiet.
Sheila thought our family was bordering on bizarre with our various interests, late nights and constant motion. She appreciated our energy. We recognized that this was a girl who would make her own way in the world. In my father’s eyes, maybe Sheila needed support to get where she wanted to be.
That was probably why he suggested the three of us go see Willie Nelson’s concert in Hattiesburg. On the hour drive to Hattiesburg, Dad laid out his reasoning to Sheila about the national anthem.
Once inside the arena, the three of us took our seats. In the midst of much rowdiness, we sat listening to Willie like we were in church. When Willie sang “Blue Eyes,” my father stood at attention throughout the entire song. He may have placed his hand on his heart.
I graduated from high school a month later. My family moved. We haven’t seen Sheila since. We’ve wondered out loud through the years, “Whatever happened to Sheila?” But we couldn’t find her. This week she contacted me. My first question was, “What on God’s green earth have you been doing for the last 28 years?”
I got the following written response – and nothing more.
Well, your dad would be happy to know I became a roadie in Willie’s band and was involved in a political stunt to get “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” made into the national anthem. Of course, since it’s not the anthem, you can tell our rebellion failed. (Our signs now sell real cheap on ebay). Sensing that the political oppression would be too much, Willie and I parted ways. I just took to running, and I ran! When I needed to stop, I did. When I needed to learn something, I did. Along the path, I’ve met some fantastic people, picked up some good vibes, a fine horse and motorcycles, shared some common sense, met a few crazy people and decided that tent camping at the Grand Canyon in 14 degree weather is not fun.