Foothills of the Ozarks, Missouri Breaks. 1953. Middle of the night. A lone gas station. Texaco. Trees, humid night air, buzzing insects around the tall single spotlight illuminating along a dark, flat country road. A large touring car pulls in quietly and cuts its engine. Packard, with Tennessee tags. Must be headed on down to Tulsa or maybe even Los Angeles. The attendant puts his Texaco cap on his sweating brow and puts on a smile for the customer. A lonely job but he was glad to have it. “Fill ‘er up?” He put the pump in the tank, locked it off, then washed the windshield and checked the oil. A small man wearing a cowboy hat emerged slowly from the back seat, he pulled a guitar out with him. “Mind if I play you a new song I just wrote?” The attendant nodded. Suddenly the night became even quieter; the guitar, the stranger’s voice, the words, all made the night seem infinitely bigger. The attendant tried not to let his sudden emotion show as he lowered the heavy hood gently to it’s click. The song was entrancing and beautiful and faded off into the woods amid the crickets. “What do you think?” The small stranger in the big cowboy hat asked the attendant. He nodded, forced his voice to work through the intense feelings he was suddenly experiencing. “Right purty song, mister.” The thin stranger smiled, it made his night. “Hank. Call me Hank.” They drove off, that picker and his driver and the attendant went back inside to close the gas station for the evening. The night felt huge, and lonely. He was alone now, he let the tear drop fall from his cheek. No one would see.

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