Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Close Encounter of the Country Kind

Following high school graduation, Takashi, realizing how short his time with us was and wanting a farewell experience with his "brother" Chris, asked Dan and me if he could treat Chris to a couple of days somewhere - just the two of them. He wanted to go to "a resort," where they could play tennis, ride bikes, and golf. Our initial reaction was that they shouldn't be going anywhere overnight without chaperons. But Takashi was 19 and Chris was 16, and it seemed so important to Takashi. So we agreed, and helped Takashi book a reservation at Sunriver, in southern Oregon. It had all the amenities that he wanted.

The boys packed up the car and headed down to Sunriver on a Thursday morning, to spend Thursday and Friday nights there. Chris was familiar with the facility, as he had been there with the church youth group more than once. Naturally, Dan and I, being somewhat nervous about this adventure, gave lots of instructions. Drive safely. Call often. Be good. Be safe. Have fun. Be home on time. And so on.

We kept in close phone contact, and the boys seemed to be having the time of their lives. The weather was perfect and they were outdoors most of the time. Saturday morning came all to soon for them, and it was time for them to come home. They started taking things out to the car, from their room, and loading up for the trip home. Back and forth they went, stashing away golf clubs, tennis equipment and suitcases. Each trip to the car, they chatted with this fellow who was smoking a cigarette and leaning up against the van in the next parking space. As Chris described him to us, later, he was "an old man, with lines in his face." Chris thought he had seen him somewhere before, but couldn't figure out where. He asked them where they were from, and what they were doing there. The boys explained that Takashi was an exchange student from Japan, about to return home, and that this was his farewell gift to Chris. Once they had everything stashed away in the car, they walked over to say good-bye to the old fellow. That's when he pulled out two tickets from his pocket, and offered them to the boys, saying, "I wonder if you'd like to come to my concert tonight. Here are a couple good tickets for you."

Chris took the tickets, and looked at them. "Johnny Cash, In Concert." That's when Chris remembered where he'd seen the man's face before. There had been posters taped to windows all over town, advertising the Johnny Cash concert. "When is it?" asked Chris.

"It's tonight at 8:00," replied Mr. Cash.

The boys looked at the tickets, but remembered that they had made a solemn promise to be home on time, and didn't think they should call and beg for another night away from home. So, they thanked the man, handing back the tickets, and told him that they really had to be home by that evening.

When Chris and Takashi got home, Chris asked me, "Do you know who Johnny Cash is?" I told him that I certainly did. "Is he kind of old, and does he have deep lines on his face?" I assured him that he did. (Dan and I had never been fans of country music, so we'd neglected to introduce the boys to Johnny Cash.) And Chris then told me the story of their encounter.

I have always regretted that the boys didn't call home and ask if they could stay for the concert. After all, it really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and would have been a great ending for their big adventure. But, instead, they said their good-byes to Mr. Cash, and drove on home, just as they had promised us.

Dan and I figure that Johnny Cash enjoyed his visit with our two teenagers, who took the time to be friendly and talk with him as a complete stranger, not just because he was "Johnny Cash." I doubt that he often had such casual and naive conversations out in public, and I've always hoped that he found their refusal of his generous offer amusing rather than rude!


Anonymous said...

Wow! What a great story. IF they had ONLY gotten a couple of autographs to sell on ebay now and help fund your retirement....and perhaps you would have become a country music fan too :)


Jane said...

What a great story! Johnny Cash was an incredible man - too bad they didn't get to stay for his concert.