The boy can recognize Willie and Waylon, by voice and by sight. He knows all the words to “Pancho and Lefty” and sings “Whiskey River” by request. He knows armadillos and cowboys, farms and barns, old pickup trucks and “Go Spurs Go.”
As a 5-year-old, Buddy makes a pretty damn good Texan. But there’s always something overlooked.
I found it in the corner convenience store, while I was buying a bag of ice and a beer, Buddy in tow.
I’m approaching the register when he sidles up suspiciously close to me and says “Daddy, what’s that?”
Behind me is a display of children’s cheap pop guns and cheaper coonskin hats. I’m not sure why. The junction of Manchaca and Slaughter in far South Austin ain’t much of a tourist trap, unless you’re on a world tour of most annoying intersections.
Buddy doesn’t have much interest in guns yet. This is by design. Plenty of time for that. But the coonskin hats have his full attention.
“Why son, that’s a coonskin hat,” I say. “Do you want one?”
I couldn’t buy one, of course. His enormous noggin would require me to special-order an adult-size hat. But I can tell by the look in his eyes that I can get away with the question. “Do you want one?”
He puts his hand in mine.
“Does it bite?”
I’m laughing now, trying to pay for the ice and beer without having a full-on comic breakdown. It’s a legitimate question. To me the coonskin hat is Davy Crockett, the Alamo, Fess Parker, old books and childhood memories. To the boy, the rack of fur and tails is easily just so many varmints, huddled together, and full of unknown intent.
“No, son, it doesn’t bite.” I’m really having a good time with this now. “Are you sure you don’t want one?”
“No.” He’s extra sure.
The cashier is laughing now.
“Why son, what would Davy Crockett think?” I’m playing to the audience.
“Can we go home?” Buddy is a pro at the diversionary question.
I’m laughing so hard the cashier is starting to look at me strangely. Buddy finally steps out from beneath the counter – in the direction of the door.
“Aw, he’s so cute,” she says. Her own diversionary statement, it seems, against this barrel of monkeys I have become.
We get back in the car.
“Son, we’re going to have to go to the Alamo.”
“And learn about Davy Crockett.”
“And get a coonskin hat.”
We’ll get there. I’ll try not to traumatize him on the way.