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Willie Nelson: An Epic Life| Chapter 2

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Joe Nick PatoskiAbbott, 1938

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life
April 2008


Eyes had been gazing at him wherever folks tended to gather ever since he could remember. His first audience was a group of families at the Brooken Homecoming, an all-day reunion, picnic, and songfest in a shady grove by the small community eight miles southeast of Abbott, Texas. His grandmother had dressed him up in a white sailor suit with matching shorts. The stage was the back of a flatbed truck. The five-year-old boy showed little sign of nervousness other than picking his nose, as young boys are known to do. There was praying, singing, eating, visiting, more singing and more praying and so much nose-picking that when it was his turn to stand and recite the Psalm his grandmother had taught him, the white Navy suit was splattered with blood redder than the boy's red hair. The boy acted like the nosebleed was no big deal. He followed the prayer with a poem he recited while holding one nostril shut with his hand. In a voice that was small but not shy, he said:

What are you looking at me for?

I ain't got nothin' to say.

If you don't like the looks of me,

You can look some other way.

The audience clapped and cheered. The boy beamed. He'd remembered all the words. The people seemed to like him. He liked the attention, all eyes on him. He liked making them smile. The people listening felt like family. He flashed a not-so-shy grin of gratitude. From that moment forward, Willie Hugh Nelson, who earned the nickname Booger Red for his bloody nose, was determined to give a good show.

Copyright 2008 Joe Nick Patoski

Chapter 1, 2, 3


Read my MVP Q&A with Mickey Raphael, which ran in the next to last issue of No Depression.

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