A few years ago, as time goes by, I lost a good friend who lived down in the Mirando City/Laredo area. He owned a large ranching operation and spent his life living and working on his ranch. When I heard the news, my wife and I packed up the car and drove to his ranch home, which was about 150 to 200 miles from my ranch. My old friend’s name was Gene Walker. He was not a widely known man throughout the state, but was well known in the historic Laredo border country. He was loved by many and respected by all that ever crossed his path. He was a fine family man, having raised a good bunch of children in the traditional Mexican border style, teaching them Spanish as their first language.
Upon arriving at his home, we encountered many friends and countless people we did not know who came from far and wide to pay their respects. As we filed through his modest home to speak to his wife and children, we were amazed at the quiet reverence afforded this elderly gentleman of many years.
Mr. Walker was known by everyone to be a devout Christian man and attended church regularly. His family had previously conducted a private burial for their father. After partaking of coffee and pan dulce, all of their visitors were invited to lunch in his honor at the Laredo Country Club. As we drove to Laredo, Texas, we were amazed at the harshness of the area in which he made a good living and raised a wonderful family. It was replete with anything that will bite, sting, or stick you, and is additionally a very dry country. However, the wildlife and livestock that we observed were all in good condition. This speaks well for the country and for the old Rancher. As I drove along, it gave me time to think about the many times that I’ve been with Gene and his wife through the years on visits across Texas, as well as other venues around the world via cruise lines. On many of the ocean cruises, he took some or all of his children along so they could experience those places as a family. Our visits in Texas mainly consisted of seeing each other at the annual Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Convention which is held every March, of which we were both directors for many years.
Upon arriving at the Laredo Country Club, we were all directed to the main dining room, which had been reserved by his family for their guest. We were all seated at large, round tables and served a wonderful border style lunch. After lunch, the eldest daughter of the family got up and welcomed everyone to the gathering and thanked us profusely for the honor paid to their father by our presence. This was all done during the showing of a loop of slides of his life to the gathered crowd of over 200. Following the slideshow, the host invited the attendees that wished to to share their personal remembrances of Mr. Walker. A number of good friends did so offering wonderful recuerdos of their days with the Walker family and the ranching dynasty over which he reigned.
At the end of the lunch and the personal remarks of the guests, there was a man seated at a table next to me, and he asked if he could sing a song in honor of Mr. Gene. He had brought along his guitar and he stood by the table and sang the song “The Cowboy Rides Away”. He did a good job and at the completion of his song, he sat down. Seated at the same table was a little shriveled-up, elderly Mexican man that had not said much the entire time. This gentleman spoke up quietly and asked if he might be allowed to offer a song of respect to his friend Gene. The host immediately allowed him to do so. The little Mexican stranger asked the other singer if he might be allowed to use his guitar to do so. His request was granted and he remained seated, picked up the guitar...and tore it up! He played and sang a traditional, old Mexican death song (La Barca de Oro), playing the guitar in the traditional Mexican style. That style changes from a very slow cadence to a very fast pace, back to slow, and then to medium, and so forth, with much of the tune being instrumental, intermixed with the lyrics of the song. His string work was amazing! I thought he would tear the strings off the guitar before he was through! He played on as in a trance by himself and never let up for 10 minutes. It was the most amazing solo, musical performance that I have ever witnessed. As the song ended, the entire house fell silent. There was not a dry eye anywhere. And then slowly a clapping began in the back and passed all the way through the entire venue! My thoughts were, “How could a little, obscure, old Mexican man play and sing a song like this individual?”
As we all wiped away the tears that came as a result of the wonderful old Mexican death song that was presented in respect of Mr. Walker, we all prepared to leave. Having been seated right next to the guitar artist, I thanked him profusely for his wonderful tribute. He received my accolades with grace and remarked that Mr. Gene was a great old friend of his. When we got to the door, I asked his daughter if by chance she knew who the gentleman was who played and sang the last song. Her immediate reply was, “Oh, that was JOHNNY RODRIQUEZ!” Then it came back to me that this was the “throwing horseshoes over my left shoulder”* Johnny Rodriguez that we grew up with in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. You just never know…
There are few experiences in life which are this special and will stay with you forever, and this was one of them. So, as we go on in life, it is always important to remember that no matter how unimportant we think we are, each of us has the opportunity to bless other folks like us with certain gifts that we have been given by God our Father.
Take care. Gracias Adios y nos vemos
AEB II (paso por aqui)
Written By: Austin E. Brown II ~ June 1, 2022 ~ Copyright 2022