Back in the mid 1970s behind what some called the pine curtain, certainly a designation that was an indication of a different civilization running its trains on its own time there was a small University in a rural East Texas town. It was an old town and Davy Crockett had passed through there on his way to the Alamo. Maybe he should have stayed because it's likely something in the air or water was already present that created the vibe of the place.
Hamburgers and illegal smiles were cheap. Although Crockett was reportedly a fiddle player all long haired guys had guitars for this revolution. They lived in dorms that could best be described as upscale institutional. Hippie girls sunbathed on the lawn outside these dorms which decades later would be paved over for townhouse style student accommodations and the ugly but necessary parking garages. Fifteen bucks got a keg of Schlitz Malt Liquor and enough ice to keep it cool while the word spread of a gathering miles outside of town called a woodsie. During this time U.S. Tico met the Man.
It was school so they had to study a bit and U.S. Tico did get a degree of some sort. It was kind of vague, like his ancestry which he claimed was Norwegian. Maybe U.S. Norwegitico, knowing what is known now. The Man, majoring in music did not finish a course of study but did finish a useful degree 30 years later. As to the music thing about 45 years later a respected conductor told The Man that, "I see you are coming from a different place." Indeed, what we know now.
Again back to the old days though when Pabst's Blue Ribbon was $2.39 for a 12 pack at the gas station on North. and the old Hole in the Wall Bar on Wettermark hosted great Texas Outlaw Country bands and songwriting troubadours like Rusty Weir Steve Fromholz and Ray Wylie Hubard backed by Jerry Jeff Walker's Lost Gonzo Band on most weekends. Those Lost Gonzos could burst ear drums with their version of "Communication Breakdown" U. S. Tico and The Man played guitars also. Cover songs were pretty rudimentary at the time but some heartfelt blues was belted out at the woodsies to the tune of brutally fingered E chord progressions with improvised lyrics bemoaning all sadness, trials and tribulations of student life.
Just like the price of beer always going up, students move on. The day U.S. Tico left he was traveling light. He presented The Man with a set of of maroon dinner plates, more square than they were round and their surfaces scared by the sawing of cheap steak knives against cheaper, tougher meats. A gift? Maybe. The Man would eat off them for most of the next decade.
In fact it was about 10 years before they saw each other again and took a fishing trip together. Big trout cruised between the sea grass beds of Copano Bay and reds tailed on the spoil banks of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. They cooked this delicious seafood sautéed in butter or blackened with Cajun spices and of course better beer than PBR or Bull.
Like the late songwriter Billy Joe Shaver says "the years rolled by, like a mighty rush of eagles..." U.S. Tico and The Man might have met at a rugby club reunion one more time but after that it would be awhile.
There would be wives, kids, careers, happy times, sad times, proud times, grandkids, music, better guitars, many concerts, New Orleans Jazz Fests, hobbies, distractions, the tossing out ceremony of the maroon plates and all the things that happen for men as they wind through the fishing trip of life. One day, it had been maybe 30 years since The Man had seen U. S. Tico, a cryptic message arrived.
"I'm in Costa Rica. It's like college, but you don't go to classes. I have lots of time and am working on something big but need help. I want to venture the adventure! Tell our stories! Talk about music! Play music! The free thoughts are flowing!"
The Man wished he still had those maroon plates. He wondered how much a keg of Bull was these days. It occurred to him that U.S. Tico was not Norwegian. He picked up a guitar and strummed an E chord. It was a good venture to begin an adventure.