Boyd got up so excited this morning he rode the two toughest broncos on his ranch outside Barstow, did some clever horse trading by phone, and then picked up his girlfriend and drove west four hours to Paso Robles to see Willie Nelson in concert for the first time. Weeks earlier he’d paid a premium for seats front row center and now wanted to get inside the dang amphitheater instead of standing in a long line under slowly setting sun.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, and motioned for a member of the event staff.
“Yes sir,” she said, stepping up.
“It’s almost eight and the way this line’s crawlin’ no way we’re gettin’ inside before eight-thirty.”
“Don’t worry. Willie doesn’t come on till eight-forty-five.”
“Can’t wait. How long’s he singin’ tonight.”
“An hour and five minutes.”
He almost jumped. “Is that all?”
“Yes, he’ll finish about nine-fifty.”
“That’s only half a concert.”
“Sir, Willie’s eighty-six years old.”
Boyd grabbed the big cowboy hat from his head and almost crushed it.
“Boyd, please don’t embarrass me,” said Peggy, his girlfriend.
“Willie’s the one who should be embarrassed.”
Boyd stewed until they got through security and, flashing his android, entered the amphitheater. He showed Peggy where they’d be sitting and said, “You go on.”
“Where you going, Boyd?”
“To have a word with Willie.”
He pointed for her to go sit down and walked fast down stairs toward the stage and straight to a security guard posted in front of a likely gate.
“Boyd Hollins to see Willie Nelson.”
“Willie’s busy before concerts.”
“What the hell’s he doin’?”
“Warming up his voice.”
“Willie likes doin’ that with his friends and I’ve known him twenty years.”
“Where’s your pass?”
“Willie told me I wouldn’t need one.”
The guard said, “Just a minute,” and as he put his hand in his pocket Boyd ran by and in seconds spotted Willie’s huge tour bus and sprinted straight to it and the door a roadie had just opened.
“Willie in there?” asked Boyd.
“What do you want?”
The guard, breathing like a buffalo, grabbed Boyd’s shoulders from behind but the former rodeo pro spun and with both hands pushed him onto his ass.
“Damn fool, treating Willie’s friends like that,” he said, winking at the roadie and stepping onto the bus.
Willie Nelson sat in a big chair, smoking a joint that penetrated the bus.
“You shouldn’t be doin’ that before the concert, Willie.”
“We have a no asshole rule here. Who’re you?
“Boyd Haskins, your biggest fan.”
The security guard and roadie and two other men scrambled on board and surrounded Boyd.
“It’s all right, boys,” Willie said, “as long as Boyd’s a mellow dude.”
“I am, Willie, I am.”
“All right, have a seat and join me.”
“I don’t smoke,” said Boyd.
“Then you gotta go,” the singer said.
“I used to smoke all the time till I had lung problems, just like you.”
“Don’t worry, this weed’s green and smooth, my own special brand,” said Willie, extending the joint.
Boyd coughed the first couple times he inhaled but soon figured things out and got real loaded and was thrilled listening to Willie recall his smoking adventures with Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson.
“Nice meeting you, Boyd, but it’s time for the show.”
“It’s been an honor, Willie.”
Willie sang some of his hits and a few by others, including Hank Williams, and flung his cowboy hat into the delighted audience and put on a headband and a few minutes later tossed it to the fans and Boyd thought what a talented guy Willie is and in damn good shape for eighty-six, or even a lot younger, keeping strong by doing karate exercises and singing and traveling and writing more songs.
Sure enough, Willie quit singing after sixty-five minutes and walked away before turning to wave at those who chanted for more. The band played a couple of minutes more and the show ended. Boyd stood and stepped to the stage where he asked his buddy the security guard, “Isn’t Willie going to play an encore?”
“He never does. He’s already on the bus. And no, you ain’t gettin’ back there this time.”