by: Charlie Scudder
Editor’s note: Dallas Morning News justice reporter Jennifer Emily recently posted on Facebook an unusual query from her 4-year-old daughter, Caroline: “Is Willie Nelson real?” It’s an important question for all young Texans to explore in their own time, and we humbly offer this response in the style of another editorial-page classic.
Yes, Caroline, there is a Willie Nelson. He exists as certainly as country music and Fourth of July picnics, neighborliness and freedom exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Boy! How boring Texas would be if there were no Willie Nelson. It would be as dreary as if there were no Waylons, or T-Bones, or Selenas, or Beyonces. There wouldn’t hardly be any country music then, at least not the way he does it: no “Whiskey River,” no “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” no “Good Hearted Woman,” no “Crazy” to make this life tolerable.
Not believe in Willie Nelson?! You might as well not believe in Luckenbach! You might get your father to hire men to sit in every dance hall in Texas to catch Willie Nelson, but even if they did not see the Red Headed Stranger take the stage, what would that prove? He’s ever on the road again, going places that he’s never been. The most real things in all of Texas are those that neither roughnecks nor cowpokes can see. Did you ever see the lights dancing on the desert in Marfa? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there.
You may tear apart a snake’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there’s a Stetson covering the unseen world that neither the toughest cowboy, nor even the strength of all the cowboys that ever rode through Texas, could lift. It takes faith, pride, love and a guitar named Trigger to reveal the world of sublime, beautiful things that come together to make a true Texan. Is it all real? Pshaw, Caroline, in all the Lone Star State there is nothing else quite as real.
No Willie Nelson?! B’God! He lives, and he lives forever in the hearts of his fans the world over. A few thousand years from now, Caroline, naw, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make every boot scoot deep in the heart of Texas.
Charlie Scudder is a reporter for The Dallas Morning News. Twitter: @cscudder