It’s time I came clean.
I need to announce something I’ve kept fairly hidden for a long time. And before several of you fling yourselves at your computer screens waving rainbow flags, it’s not that particular announcement. There’s actually a waiting list should I ever make that announcement. I’m not even kidding. Maybe it’s my snazzy sense of fashion.
Regardless, I need to admit something. Ready? Brace yourselves.
I play banjo.
I know, right? It explains so much. But really. 1994 Oklahoma state champion. True story. Now, let’s skip ahead to 4 weeks ago.
I’m on a road trip. I’ve driven from Tulsa, to Albuquerque, to Sedona, to Las Vegas, to Albuquerque, to Clovis, NM….and then around 3AM I’m coming through Amarillo, TX. Let me pause here and say that I don’t normally have much issue with Texas, other than the drive from Houston to El Paso will make you want to gouge your eyeballs out with cactus plants and if, on the rare instance, you see a goat on the side of the road, you’ll get out of your car and chase it around the desert trying to get a picture of it for Instagram. I know. I’ve done it.
Amarillo. 3AM. My cruise control is set halfway between 75 and 80. The speed limit is 75mph.
Flashing lights. Seriously? Ok. Pull over, window down, wait. Wait.
Texas deputy sheriff walks up to the passenger side of the car, somewhere between big ole’ boy and holy cow McDonald’s should sponsor you, and says, and I quote, “Ya’ll knew how dadgem fast yur goin dadgem speed dadgemrememberthealamo.”
Ok. Maybe I wasn’t completely fair with that portrayal.
Big Ole’ Boy – ” Sir, you know how fast you were going?”
Me – ” …uh….77? 78? ish?”
B.O.B. ” Yessir. 78 miles PER hourrrr.”
Me – ” But….uh….isn’t the speed limit 75?”
B.O.B. ” Ah…yessir…yes it is…”
Me – * blank stare *
B.O.B. – ” Where you coming from?”
Let me pause the story here. I had met up with two former brides/current friends in Albuequerque and in Clovis to hang out, say hey, have lunch/dinner/laugh and be dorks. It happens. Most clients stick around and become great friends. Cool, huh? So when I try to explain this to the deputy, I said that I was a wedding photographer and I’d visited two former brides in a couple of different towns on my way home which is how I ended up coming through Amarillo.
Somehow, that information translated into I had been married twice before, and I just went and visited two of my ex wives.
B.O.B. ” You…ahh…uh…you mean you have ex wahves (really, he said wahves) in different states, sir?”
Yes, haven’t you read the internet rumors?
Me – ” No, sir. I’m a wedding photographer. They’re former clients and we keep in touch. We’re friends.”
I’m actually thinking the two ex wives story was sitting better with him than that bit of info.
B.O.B. ” You mean….uhh…they actually WANT to keep in touch with their photographer?”
I swear on my box of Wheat Thins he said that with as much disdain as he could muster. At which point my inner smartass took over.
Me – ” Yeah. Actually. It happens a lot. Google me. I’m Brett Birdsong.”
*beats head on desk*
Anyway. He waddles back to his patrol car where, evidently, Bubba Ray Jr. the 2nd was hanging out nomming on some BBQ or whatever they eat over there at 3AM in their squad cars. Somewhere between ” Hey, this guy was only going 3 mph over the speed limit” and the eternity it took them to discuss what to do with me/eat a box of donuts/watch a Dallas rerun/build a campfire and spit tobacco at varmints, they magically decided that my car needed to be searched for drugs. Really.
B.O.B waddles back up to the passenger door – ” Sir, do you mind if we search your car?”
Me – ” Search my car? Why?”
B.O.B. – ” Because your story about visiting former brides is kind of odd.”
You’re kind of odd. Can I search you? For cookies? Crumbs? Anything?
Me – ” Uh, no. Actually. You can’t.”
B.O.B. – ” Wellsir, ok. We’ll have to have you wait here for 45 minutes for the drug dog to show up and walk around your car, then you can be on your way.”
It’s 3AM. I have to pee. I don’t want to sit in my car for 45 minutes while they cook a chicken and rub mashed taters on each other and giggle about bodily noises they can make on demand. Did I mention I’m cranky at this point? I’m cranky at this point.
Me – ” Ok, fine. Search the @#^@* car. ”
It’s about 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside. I’m in gym shorts and a T-shirt and flip flops, because I had complete intentions of driving all night and being comfortable. Instead I’m standing on the side of the interstate, wrapped in a blanket, while two grown men the size of Rosanne Barr and Tom Arnold together pull everything out of the trunk of my car, mumbling to themselves. One of them asked if I had a weapon. Yes. It’s my charming wit and personality.
Me – ” Yes. In the laptop case.”
B.O.B #2 – ” Ok. That’s fine.”
That’s fine? No…nothing? That’s fine. And kept on looking.
They continue pulling everything out of the trunk……..and then they stopped.
Both, at the same time, flashlights shined in the trunk of the rental car, just….stopped. My brain instantly went into panic mode. Oh my dear lord, what truck driver at what rest stop hid stuff in the trunk of this car that they just found?! I’m going to die. I’m going to get eaten by large, hillbilly officers in Texas, and no one will ever know. I’m going to end up in some cold case file because all they found left of me was…
B.O.B. #2 – ” Sir? Is that……..is that a banjo?”
What? Process. Process. Think, man, think. They’re not touching you. You’re not dead yet. Did he say banjo? Yes. I brought my banjo. You idiot. Why did you bring your banjo? There’s probably some anti-banjo law in Texas and you just broke it and now you just got voted into the purdy mouth club. Damn you, Mumford and Sons. This is somehow your fault.
Me – ” ….uh…..yes?….yes. It’s a banjo. I play banjo. I brought it with me. I’m not sure why. You want me to play it for you? You can open the case. It’s a banjo.”
I wish to everything holy I’d had a video camera at this point in the insanity. They both look at each other, and simultaneously say, ” He plays banjo.”
Which then turns into a back and forth of, ” Daaaaaaaadgum, mah boy plays banjo.” …” Fer gosh sakes, that’s purdy slick that yer boy plays banjo.” …” Yeahhhhh I like banjo, he’d done been at it fer bout near 4 years now”….
Back and forth. Drug search stopped. Fat bald guy shivering his buns off on the side of a highway while Lester and Earl discuss the history of the banjo and every possible family member that’s ever referenced a banjo in their entire lineage.
This comes a very close second place to the sheriff that stopped me outside of Transylvania, Louisiana that, while in the midst of writing me a ticket, stopped a friend of his driving by in a truck and proceeded to buy chickens out of the back of this dude’s truck and put them in the trunk of his patrol car. That….yeah. I still don’t have proper words for that experience.
Finally, after concluding that they both liked the banjo real well, they put everything back in the trunk and wished me a good night, and thanked me for my courtesy, then left.
I think I tried to briefly Facebook something about the experience, but there’s only so much you can type into a status update while you’re fleeing for your life, trying to get out of Texas.
All that to say, I’m still alive.
And just to prove I actually DID go through Clovis, NM, here’s a shot of an abandoned church outside of Fort Sumner, New Mexico. I’ve got several landscapey-type shots to add in with this trip, stories about Vegas and chicken burritos, but will save those for another time. The blog will be back to regularly scheduled craziness shortly, I promise.
Thank you guys for making this the most awesome year ever ~