Every day events in our life happen that shape history. I sometimes play the “IF” game with myself. The most simple occurrence, the conversations we have, the chance encounters change the course of everything that will happen for the rest of our lives and will impact the lives of so many others.
The most important chance encounter that changed my life happened by simply stopping at a beer joint one afternoon. The old 281 Club, that many of you remember, used to set on the side of highway between San Antonio and Marble Falls at Round Mountain .
One day as I was returning from home from a week spent working down in Devine, I did something very uncharacteristic of me. I pulled in a beer joint and went in alone. I don’t think I even saw a car that I recognized. I wasn’t old enough to drink in that establishment, but generally if you didn’t go in a place acting like a kid, you didn’t get treated like a kid. I was 18, but looked every bit of 15. I bellied up to the bar and ordered a Pearl Beer.
My friend Tommy Houy and I had made Pearl our beer of choice while driving around, yes driving around drinking beer in high school. Something we did probably 3 or 4 nights a week. I know that would seem like a stretch, but we both lived unrestrictive lifestyles that allowed for that. We each had jobs and had money and parents (parent, just a dad in Tommy’s case) that didn’t ride herd on us. My dad’s rule was I needed to be home in time to go to work about sunup, when I was working for him. Otherwise no one ever asked. During the school year, I’d go home most of the time, but when my brother lived in town, I’d just go there rather than take the 9 mile crooked road home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure my folks worried about me, but they weren’t obsessed with keeping up with me. Of course there were no cell phones and pagers, so when you showed up was when you showed up.
I realize that when I write I sometimes run off the track for a few moments, but that’s the same way I talk so nothing new here.
Okay I’m back at the 281 Club. It was sometime in April, 1971. I’d been out of school for 10 months and was on my career path, I guess. I’m not sure I knew what a career path was but, I was driving a truck for Nelson Lewis or working on a construction project if nothing needed to be hauled. Hence my being in Devine. Nothing needed to be hauled.
As I was sitting there for a few minutes, my eyes finally adjusted to the dark smokey room and I noticed a table of familiar faces over across the way. So I sidled over there and had a seat by this pretty lady. Her name was Maxine Sharp at the point in time. She was there with her husband and a few of others regulars to the county line scene, but I don’t recall who all for sure. My money is on two of them being Punk and Marie, but that really is just a guess.
The conversation with Mrs. Sharp finally got around to her oldest daughter, Madeline. She told me that she was currently living in Kingsville with her dad. She had attended Southwest Texas University in San Marcos for the first semester after high school, but hadn’t found that to her liking. She had worked a while, but decided to move down with her dad.
Madeline and I dated, actually we hung out some in our junior year, but had been serious about each other in our last year of high school. I won’t say we went steady exactly, but we neither one spent much time going out with anyone else. I think I was really going steady with Tommy Houy, but he never gave me a ring or anything.
I had serious feelings for the little gal from Round Mountain but when she headed off for San Marcos everything changed. I figured she was settling into college life and I was busy with whatever I was doing.
I don’t remember spending very long there that day visiting with Maxine. I told her to tell Madeline hi and when she was back up this way, have her call me. I’m not sure exactly how the story played out after that, but I want to think that mother and daughter talked that night, and daughter moved back to Round Mountain the next day. I don’t think Kingsville was an exciting place back then. I guess I got a call soon after.
We made a date and soon thereafter it became that almost every night I’d show up in Round Mountain, then we’d head off to Johnson City to Charles Restaurant for dinner. The nights I couldn’t go, we talked on the phone for hours.
One thing lead to another and by the time November rolled around, there was nothing or nobody that could have prevented us from getting married. Later this year Before this year, on November 6, we will celebrate 50 years of marriage.
I often wonder if that chance encounter at the 281 Club hadn’t taken place on the spring afternoon, how much different many lives would be. Perhaps it would have all only been put on hold for a week or a month, but in all actuality the course of our paths would be vastly different.
So to say that every action we take in life doesn’t really matter, I say differently.