Monday, March 13, 2017

Where Woodie Guthrie Learned to Play the Guitar

Part 9—of Fifty Years in a Thousand Miles--Pampa and More Old Friends

I was reluctant to leave Calvin, Linda and Dalhart, but the sun had set and I had set my sights on making Pampa before bedtime. As I reflected on our story-swapping while driving, I realized that Calvin saw me as the boy he knew, not the boy I thought I was. I saw Sidney as the boy I knew, not the boy he really was.

As I mentally wandered over the various phases and careers of my life, I figured that people who knew me during each of those careers and times saw me in a different way. I know I had trouble convincing folks that their CPA could also be their broker and financial planner. Later, I had the same problem convincing them I could be a novelist. 

I drove through Hartley, another old high school competitor, then Stinnett, where another of the stockbroker-CPAs I once worked with and trained, lived. Then Borger, where old friend and brother-in-law Jack Thornbrough grew up. 

Thunder and lightning roiled all around me as I traveled. I had the top-of-the-earth feeling one gets out there at high altitude. There are no mountains, but plenty of hills and valleys and the lighting displays are magnificent. I met a car about every thirty minutes, so I felt all alone. I seemed to be heading into the heart of the storm, but only got concerned once when heavy rain slowed me to about twenty.

They gave me room 137 (again) at a Best Western in Pampa and thunderstorms raged all night. The thunderclaps were the loudest I have ever heard and the wind blew so hard that water got under my door. 

The next morning, I asked for a telephone directory in the hotel lobby. The thirty-something clerk  asked, “What’s a telephone directory?” Really? I wondered if anybody would know in a few years.

Another clerk finally found one and I called Mike Ruff, another founding member of the 1st Global Registry (a specialized broker-dealer that I co-founded back in 1991).  Mike was still a practicing CPA, Certified Financial Planner and broker in Pampa. He and his wife Nancy, a Presbyterian minister, had been good friends to Jan and me.

I invited them to the motel, but they insisted I drop by their house. Over coffee, we kicked around old times, but mostly talked about where we were in the present. Nancy had undergone brain surgery to remove a debilitating tumor. She said that doctors gave her little chance of surviving the surgery, and even less of living a normal life if she did survive. Blindness was almost a certainty if she lived.

As he stood beside Nancy’s bed after surgery, Mike received a call from his doctor. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Nancy survived her surgery and so did Mike. She still has her sight and shows little negative side effects from the debilitating illness. They were prayer warriors throughout and turned it over to God. They remain their old cheerful selves.

As we posed for photos, I got a text from a friend asking for financial advice, even though I have not been in the business for almost twenty years. I read the question to Mike and told him that this would be his life after retirement. We got a good laugh out of that. Old friends are good. We should keep in touch more. I left inspired and happy that I stopped for the visit. 

I left Pampa (the place where Woodie Guthrie learned to play the guitar) and headed toward Oklahoma.
I passed through Mobeetie, another famous western town with a jail that has been preserved. I wanted to stop, but had already told Bob and Sharon Messenger I would make Hollis, Oklahoma before noon. I also saw the sign that pointed toward Canadian, home of Mike Gardiner, another  1st Global rep that was a good friend. He is also in A River of Stories. Wished I had the time to stop and visit.

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