(This is also posted on my NASCAR blog.)
Matt Humphrey of the Orlando Sentinel posted on his blog a short while ago some thoughts about running across a picture of Marty Robbins in his race car. Matt’s a young’un who knows his NASCAR and music history, as he demonstrates with his warm appreciations of Robbins as both stock car driver and country artist.
One of the few recent additions to my diecast collection is a Marty Robbins car. It took a bit of searching to find at something other than scalper prices, but one selling for a reasonable amount was located. Looking it over gives cause for a wistful smile.
Robbins was my Dad’s favorite singer, especially every time he traded his white sport coat and a pink carnation for cowboy gear and turned out a collection of gunfighter songs and trail ballads. It took little if any prompting for him to pull out one or more of his albums and play them on the console stereo that dominated our living room so he could soak in Robbins’ lush vocal harmonies accompanied by simple acoustic guitar riffs tying each line together. My mother, whose own musical tastes ran more toward the Perry Como side of things, oft wisecracked about how Robbins’ character in each song almost invariably died at the end only to spring back to life on the next track so he could repeat the process. Which was in fact the case. I am reminded of Gene Wilder’s line in my pick for the funniest movie of all time Blazing Saddles: “I must of killed more men than Cecil B. De Mille.”
My Dad loved the Old West, which on the surface is a tad odd as the entirety of his formative years were spent in Indianapolis. Nevertheless, there it was. He also loved cars and auto racing (how I wish he could have seen Cars), passing the fever down the line. He wasn’t into stock car racing much, greatly preferring the open wheel variety. In my house, the Indianapolis 500 was as mandatory as the Super Bowl and World Series. Watching IRL provides a warm connection to memories of as a kid spending hours sitting with him watching the races together. Sometimes I wonder what he’d think of the sport as it is today. I’m quite sure he’d prefer Sarah Fisher over Danica. Dad loved plucky Midwest girls. Self-absorbed, not so much.
I do remember watching the Daytona 500 one year with my Dad when Robbins was in the race. Had quite the accident. I was horrified, seeing no paossible way anyone could survive such a crash. My father, a far more seasoned observer of such things thus knowing Robbins had come to no harm, said in the general direction of the television even as Robbins’ car was still doing its best pinata impersonation, “Stick to singing, Marty.” Dad never was much for cutting people slack.
I was blessed to have such a father, blessed to where looking back brings both a smile and a tear while looking ahead brings nothing but joy at the knowledge of how one day we will be reunited in the presence of our Father. For now, the smile outweighs the tear as I quietly sing “El Paso” to myself, letting the memories work their melancholy magic yet magic just the same.
Thanks for the cause to smile, Matt.