Andalusia, Alabama—my wife and I got our picture made with Hank Williams Senior.
The broad side of a brick building bears the painted portraits of Hank and Audrey Williams. It is the exact spot where they were married in ‘44.
I sang “Hey Good Lookin’” to the spitfire brunette beside me.
She said, “Hush, people’re gonna think you’re out of your mind.”
I am out of my mind. I’ve been a Hank fan since I was knee-high to a beer bottle.
Not long ago, I played an eightieth birthday party with my band. The birthday boy’s wife hired us to play four hours of Hank Williams music.
After driving miles of dirt roads into the sticks of Conecuh County, we set up in a sheet-metal barn with a rusted roof, and concrete floors.
The smell of horse manure was offset by the aroma of barbecued ribs.
If I live long enough to be eighty, I will barbecue ribs at my barnyard shindigs.
There was a table with all the usual fare. Pimento cheese, potato salad, devilled eggs, raw tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, okra, white peas. Coolers of cheap beer.
A few young folks danced. The birthday boy wore a ten-gallon hat and made his way to the dance floor. He dosey-doed with his wife of sixty-some-odd years.
They were something to see.
“Saw Hank play once,” said Birthday Boy. “Was the biggest fun of my life, my daddy and my best gal was with me.”
He removed his hat and kissed his best gal. To watch the elderly lock lips is a blessing unmatched.
“You’re the best damn present God ever gave me,” he said to her.
Hank couldn’t have said it better.
I drove home that night, thinking about that couple. Sixty years is a long time to share a master closet with someone. I thought about my own best gal.
I didn’t dance with her at our wedding—I was too afraid of making a fool of myself because I can’t dance worth a cuss.
Funny. When doctors found an irregular growth in her breast, my first thought was about dancing. I wished I would’ve two-stepped on our wedding day.
When doctors said the tumor was benign, I swore to myself that one day I would.
I pulled into our driveway at two in the morning. I found my wife at the kitchen table.
“You’re up late,” I said.
“Just wanted to make sure you got home safe.”
I turned on the stereo and cranked Hank Williams. I asked her to dance.
We tried. I was god-awful. I nearly broke her toe. So we slow danced—teenage style. She rested her head on my shoulder.
My coonhound tried to nose between us.
“This is silly,” she said. “I’m ready for bed.”
She was right. It was silly. God knows I’m no dancer, and nobody in this world can change how they’re made. You are who you are. And I’m more comfortable with words.
So I said the first ones that came to mind:
“You’re the best damn present God ever gave me.”