[dropcap]I[/dropcap] almost saw a Willie Nelson concert when I was twelve. It would’ve been my first concert. Ever. Willie was a lot younger then, and had a worse voice than he does now. KXRP announced it on the radio every few minutes.

“Come see Willie in August,” the announcer would blare. “Live at the arena, singing the hits we know by heart.”

Oh I knew them by heart alright.

And I planned to sing some duets with old Willie.

It took me most of the summer to save up enough. I found a job cleaning out my neighbor’s horse stalls every morning. It was easy work. They paid me nine bucks a week to shovel whookie and clean tack. By the end of July, I’d saved enough. I called the radio hotline, sent in my cash, and received my ticket in the mail.

But, it wasn’t meant to be.

On the day of the concert, I came down with a one hundred and two degree fever. Mother said I was so hot my brains were about to boil into a pot of collards. Daddy had to look after me while Mother worked the night shift.

And so it was, while Willie crooned to his fans, Daddy force-fed me Jell-O in bed. He stayed at my side all night. I remember he sang softly, “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” He sang it with his eyes closed.

He knew every single word.

And his shaky voice put Willie’s to shame.

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