by Cassie J. Sneider
Sometimes I feel like there is no way anyone should believe me when I talk about anything in my life. Why should you? Every story I tell sounds like a dream from a mesculine-induced nap. If you don't believe me, you might listen politely to whatever I am saying, nodding and giving occassional looks of surprise.
You may have heard me talk about my Fake Grandpa, or the 81 year-old steel guitar playing trucker I met in January. Well, friends, I spent my whole Saturday with him, and here is the evidence:
Grandpa doesn't like the neighborhood kids fucking with him.
So he keeps a few loaded shotguns by the door. (Also, note that in the reflection in the gun cabinet, I am inintentionally posed like Sheryl. I can be glamorous, too!)
This is Grandpa Johnny Dutton, wearing an Electric Bubblebath shirt for added authenticity. (I did not prompt him to wear this shirt, nor did I photoshop it onto a google image. This is the real deal.) I drove 4 hours to San Angelo, TX so we could lay down some tracks of his steel guitar playing and my awful, grating Bruce Dickinson rip-off voice.
Grandpa used to race cars for Goodyear on a test track in West Texas. He is the one in the picture across the way who is stepping out of the white car. He brought that car up to 157 miles an hour. The one in motion in the picture only made it to 149.
Grandpa has a lot of "folk art" at his house. He is pretty much exactly how I imagine I will be when I am 81. Actually, I am sort of that way now. Before I moved out, my room was starting to look like a budget Applebees.
Grandpa tuning up a dobro.
Anyway, Grandpa has a love/love relationship with the neighborhood cats.
They love to shit in his yard.
And he loves to trap them and set them free on the outskirts of town. That metal black cat sign is displayed outside his front door as a warning. You shit in Grandpa Dutton's yard at your own risk, motherfucker.
Grandpa has this sweet old truck I'm putting on Ebay for him in the near future, so if anyone has any interest in this little number, let yours truly know.
After catching up a bit, Grandpa and I hopped in his CB-laden truck and headed on down to a place called The Chicken Farm so he could introduce his New York Granddaughter to a group of musicians called The Chicken Pickers.
Introductions were made, my accent and lack of "y'all"s were commented on, and a fiddle was stolen by Grandpa. Then we were off to the studio to record!
Now, the recording studio is a studio in the loose sense that it is a building that equipment. Many generations of equipment, in various stages of disrepair, all plugged in, floor to ceiling, into a series of unsafe powerstrips. I did not take enough pictures of the studio, but I hope you will trust me when I say that it is a doublewide trailer with several attached plywood, room-like boxes for a drumroom and greenscreen room with many, many video monitors, a closet for a vocal booth, and seriously, millions of wires chewing the electricity right out of San Angelo.
..This is David. He is the producer. David has tremors in one hand, but it looks like he is air-drumming to the music in his head. He and his wife used to run a San Angelo public access show, but the studio closed down. David records Grandpa pretty much all day, unless he is recording a Tejano or Mariachi band. His wife, Priscilla, teaches dance at a studio in town. She looks very much like Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"
You gotta pay the bills somehow.
I can't wait for my tattoos to look like I got them in World War II! Here Grandpa is demonstrating that you can play pedal steel with a tabasco bottle if you're in a pinch.
Grandpa and I layed down the worst-ever recorded version of the Dylan/ Cash song "Wanted Man." My voice is about as poingant and resonant as somebody singing "Happy Birthday" into an answering machine. I think I am finally ready to give up that ghost. Scratch "Recording Legend" off of my list of credentials.
So, after a long day of recording, Grandpa and I went back to his swinging bachelor pad to say goodbye. But before I went, I asked him if he would take a few more pictures so I could show my yankee friends back home.
"What's that?" you may be asking yourself.
I said the same thing the last time I visited Grandpa.
"Possum feet," Grandpa answered.
"Why do you have possum feet in your yard??" I asked, bewildered. Were they good luck charms?
"That's where I clean them."
The possums that wander into grandpa's traps are not as fortunate as the neighborhood cats. In Grandpa's left hand is a squirrel tail and possum hand. In his right is a possum tail.
I hope you enjoyed the story of my visit with Grandpa Dutton. And I hope some of you have gained a newfound appreciation for the truth I speak when I call you at 5AM and say, "Dude, you are not gonna BELIEVE what happened!"