Fast forward to the dogs days of the summer of 1977. Melodye with an E & me were married (another story for a another time) July 17th. Now here it is August and we’re moving to Ft. Worth, TX. I spent the fall of 1976 as a seminary student in Ft. Worth at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a male roommate, Kenny Alford (yet another story for yet another day) but I missed my bride-to-be badly. I came home that December of ’76 not to return to Ft. Worth until Smelly, one of numerous nicknames I had for Mel, and I were betrothed.
Now it is time for us to make the journey on I-20 west to Cowtown and the great state of Texas. The small U-Haul trailer is loaded with our meager possessions and hitched to the Pinto wagon with the faux wood paneling.
I remember that last hot August night (a nod to Neil Diamond and one of my favorite albums) in lower Alabama. It was humid enough to suffocate a possum. That is if the possum in question hadn’t been run over by a car. I watched as Smelly stood with her hands on her hips mulling over how she might rearrange some items in the U-Haul. My heart was filled with joy and I could feel the love in my eyes. Let’s bust Tejas wide open !
Now it is less than 24 hours later. It is rush hour in Dallas and we are almost out of gas. Mel is driving, for some reason, and she is terrified. I didn’t want to bypass Dallas. I wanted to SEE the Big D. I was excited to be in the Metroplex with the one to whom I was cleaving.
We somehow made it through Irving and Arlington and all the points in between Dallas and Ft. Worth. We have managed the mixmaster, a conglomeration of merging freeways there, and we are breezing down I-35 south to Seminary Drive. A friend of ours who sang at our wedding, Julie Warren Cook, said to call when we got near and she would direct us to her parents place at the Seminary.
Julie’s dad was the dean of students and her mama was the administrative assistant to the president of the school who, at that time, was Dr. Robert Naylor. We arrive at the Barker’s abode to a house full of people and food. The Texas Rangers are on TV and in a battle for first place in their division and all the males in attendance have gathered in a bedroom to cheer on the locals.
Later in the evening it is time for us to go to our very humble home. It is a one bedroom apartment, located at 1800-D J.T. Luther Drive, complete with vinyl sofa and matching chair, a tiny kitchen and a small bedroom and bath. Hey ! The rent was $150 a month and that INCLUDED utilities ! Turn the AC down baby ! We are going to live in comfort from this oppressive Texas heat !
The following evening we were invited to the Barretts, Jo Ellen & Steve, for dinner. We are so happy to be reunited with our dear friends and share in the joy of the call that has brought both families here.
When we arrive at Jo & Steve’s we exchange hugs & greetings. Then Steve drops a bombshell on us… Elvis is dead. We are stunned. My mind races back to my childhood in Camden, AL. I remember a handsome young man from Memphis, via Tupelo, and the 45 RPM records of his that I nearly wore out… Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel, Hard Headed Woman and the birth of rock ‘n roll.
Speaking of rock ‘n roll…