Saturday, June 22, 2013

Old Guitar

It was the summer of 1976 when I worked at the Sportsman Package store. I was between jobs and my cousin hired me to pump gas, and check oil.
Walker County was a dry county and the Sportsman was less than a half mile across the county line in Jefferson County.
So we pumped a lot of gas and we sold a lot of beer cold enough to crack your teeth.
Late one Friday night an ancient Oldsmobile as big as a barge rolled into the parking lot, gravel popped under the wheels as it coasted up to the pumps.
A guy rolled out from behind the wheel wearing jeans and a cowboy shirt with sweat stains half way down his rib cage.
He walked over to talk to me about a problem he had. The veins in his eyes looked like roadmaps and he smelled of whisky, cigarettes, and I've smelled roadkill that was less offensive than his breath. He'd been drunk a long time.
"I'm outta gas," he said matter-of-factly. "And what's worse, I'm out of beer. I ain't got no money either," he said with his hands shoveled deep into his back pockets.
"I do have something to trade," he explained.
The Olds was a two-door hardtop and he had all the windows rolled down. He leaned into the back seat and pulled out an ancient guitar.
"I've got this," he said. "It ain't much to look at, but it plays sweet." He handed the guitar to me and I gently took it, and held it up to the florescent lights to see what kind it was. It was an old Gibson. It had a small wood screw in the headstock where it looked as if it had been dropped but it was steady.
There was what looked like a bullet hole from a small caliber pistol near where his heart would have been if he'd been playing it when the shot was fired.
I stepped my foot up on his bumper and put the guitar across my knee and strummed a few chords. I had to agree, it wasn't much to look at but it played sweet.
I didn't have a lot of money either, but I filled his tank up and laid a cold case of Budweiser in his back seat.
"I thank you" he said as he cranked the Olds. "I wish I had time to tell you the story of that guitar, but I'm late."
He drove out of the parking lot and I never saw him again. I still have that old guitar.


  1. Rick-That is an absolutely fantastic story. I love it and how wonderful that you still have that old guitar- xo Diana

  2. Anonymous12:41 AM

    Neat story--sweet guitar!!

  3. What a great story.

  4. That is amazing that you still have that old guitar :)

  5. Thanks y'all. I'm going to use parts of this one for my column this week.

  6. Very cool story. And the story of what happened to the guitar remains a mystery...

  7. Great storey Rick, but I would have loved to see that sweet old guitar with the bullet hole in it. There's something about a picture that reinforce the word.


  8. No matter if they are old. Guitars are nice!

  9. Now that story would make an amazing blueprint for a book. It gave me goosebumps just wondering who he was, where he'd been, and what happened to him....I love that you still have the guitar!

    1. Wow! Thanks for your kind words Yaya. That would make a good story for a book.

  10. Lovely story, Rick. Do you still play this guitar?

    1. Yes Julia, I do still play it. It sounds great. Deep, resonate, and soulful.

  11. What a neat story. I'm glad you kept the guitar. I can imagine he's told the story from his side for years now, too. Thanks for visiting me! You have a nice blog!

  12. Ohhhhh, that poor ol' fellow. Bet he hated to part with that old "geetar" but he must have needed the gas and wanted the beer.

    Nicely written story, Rick. I can see a title like "Notes for Suds" or "Down the Hatch for an Old Tune." ha!

    Thanks for stopping by. Susan


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