The spring of 1964 found this military brat living at 803 Jefferson Avenue in Sequin, Texas. Mother had just celebrated her thirty-first birthday that February. My father was in South Vietnam on a one-year tour of duty with the United States Air Force. At ten, I was the man of the house.
My brother was a third-grader at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School. I was a fifth-grader at the same school. My teacher was Mrs. Englebrock.
One of the neatest things that year was my house ‘s location. It was right across the street from the school. I could see the house and driveway with our 1958 black and white Pontiac Catalina out my class’s window. It allowed me to keep an eye on mother like dad asked me to do.
My school had an open campus. That means I was able to go across the street and eat lunch with my mother. While my younger brother took his peanut and jelly sandwich where he could eat with his third-grade classmates in the cafeteria, I liked to go check on my mother.
As winter turned into spring that year music became a major focus in the USA. The British once again had invaded the America.
Jefferson Avenue Elementary School jumped on the musical bandwagon. The principal decided the school would have a musical talent contest. No lip singing was allowed. The contestants were required to sing, play a musical instrument or both – sing and accompany yourself on an guitar, for example.
I had been trying to learn to play the guitar since I was around five years old. My fingers were finally getting long enough for me to play several chords like G, C, and D.
I decided to sign up for the contest. We did a fundraiser for the March of Dimes and Easter Seals I think. I remember the contest was somewhere around Easter. The entry fee was twenty-five cents. I mowed a neighbor’s yard to raise the money.
Spring of 1964 found my mother’s brother Vernon living with us and attending Seguin High School. One of the items, he brought with him were 33 1/3 RPM long play record albums. A favorite album he played was Ricky Nelson’s Travelin’ Man. I decided I would play and sing Travelin’ Man in the talent contest.
I remember mother wasn’t so sure I should do it. She knew my singing voice wasn’t solo quality. She didn’t know if I had the poise to do it. She feared I would embarrass the family and myself.
My fearlessness confused her. She couldn’t understand how I could be so calm.
Well, the big day arrived. Mother was nervous. My brother just said I better not shame the family or him. He never mentioned me. I promised I wouldn’t. Neither one was so sure.
I had my six-string acoustic 1958 Gibson Hummingbird Guitar. I placed the capo on the second fret and fingered a C chord. I strummed it a time or two in the ready room trying to find the right pitch.
Then it was my turn. I loved hearing my name over the loudspeaker. I walked out on stage. I stood in front of the microphone.
I played the song on my guitar without any problems. I remembered the lyrics and sang flawlessly. I wish I could say that. Oh, my guitar playing was beautiful. My pitchy voice did the best it could. I didn’t win, but the applause warmed my heart.
What surprised me was how my efforts, while flawed, had the girls oohing and awing over me. I became one of the most popular guys in my grade.
The spring of 1964 showed me that the joy wasn’t in a perfect performance, but in the journey and the effort. It didn’t hurt that the girls suddenly wanted to be with me and be seen with me.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of The Liberator Series. The Rebuilder – Book 1 is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released October 2015. The Mission – Book Two will be available Spring 2016, The Traveller – Book 3 will be available Summer 2016, and The Seer – Book 4 will be available Fall 2016.