This story begins about noon in early July, 2000, with me sitting in the Luckenbach bar, listening to bartender/musician Jimmy Lee Jones charm the tourists and thinking about drinking.
A lady walks up to the bar, "Excuse me ..."
Jimmy Lee interrupts with a look of practiced shock: "Why? Did you fart?"
Sometimes this doesn't work well with the tour bus blue hairs, but soon there's smiles all around and beers sweating on the bar.
VelAnne walks in and catches me daydreaming, "Hey! you wanna go to a pool party at Ray Wylie Hubbard's house?"
This is the best question anyone has ever asked me, but ... "nah, I gotta go to Austin. Gotta meet up with some folks for 'Happy Minutes' at the Showdown. Hell, I oughta be moving."
"Come on, when you gonna get another invite like this? Hey, you can follow me down to Wimberley on the way to Austin! We'll even stop at the Devil's Backbone Tavern."
VelAnne's got me now. She knows I'm a sucker for evocative combinations of words. I was smitten by the phrase "Snake Farm" long before Hubbard set it to that addictive groove.
Well, we soon depart and we don't stop at the Devil's Backbone, which wasn't on the way, and we don't arrive at a jammin' party, full of guitars and groove and poetry and people.
Instead there is just Judy Hubbard, who tells us that Ray has taken young son Lucas to a birthday party.
... and let's pause for a minute to consider Ray Wylie Hubbard at a child's birthday party:
"Hi, I'm Jimmy's dad. I work down at the First National Bank. What do you do?"
"Oh, I just write these old songs about reptiles and outlaws and dangerous places and talking to the devil."
"Oh ... that's very ... uh ... hey, I think it's time for cake!"
Anyway, it begins to dawn on me that VelAnne, my favorite ADD person in the world, has misunderstood the invite: Ray went to the party, and VelAnne was invited to hang out at the pool. There was almost certainly nothing at all about a 30-year-old journalist in this scenario.
However, Judy is gracious and invites me in and says I can swim, too.
And I think, I should just politely decline, admit to the misunderstanding and head for cold beer and friends in Austin.
Well ... it's hot. And, man, Ray Wylie Hubbard's pool. Who the hell needs the Fountain of Youth when you've got the Pool of Cool? The Lagoon of Groove? The Basin of Badass?
OK. Just for a few minutes. And not more than a dozen have passed when I spot something amiss. I'm leaning, up against the wall, you could say, trying to look inconspicuous and watching Judy and VelAnne visit, when I notice something wriggling in the far corner of the pool, behind the ladies.
It's not too close to them and too far for me to tell what it is. I glance around and notice the pool net on the fence. With that knowledge in mind, I start easing toward the suspicious wriggling, ready to climb out and arm myself at a moment's notice.
If I play this right, I can solve the whole problem before the ladies ...
"OH MY GAWD, JUDY THERE IS A VARMINT INYOURPOOL!!!!!"
VelAnne sees and shouts at the precise moment I've figured out it is not a snake, but a harmless mouse who has wandered in from the surrounding woods and fallen in.
(Why then, the serpentine motion? It's a reptile mouse? No, it's just the tail wriggling ...)
Now I'm an educated man, you might be surprised to learn, even if I learned all my physics by playing billiards while I shoulda been in class. I know that what I'm about to say isn't physically possible, but I'm going to stand by it:
Judy leaped on top of the water, Looney Tunes-style, and skedaddled past me with a whoosh for the far edge of the patio.
It's true, I tell you.
By then, I've got the net in hand. "Don't kill it," she tells me from the moral high ground of 20 feet away. I'm not sure she would've been so particular if they were still swimming partners.
It's easy to scoop up. A little harder to shake out gracefully back into the woods.
That's the end of the story. I don't know if the ladies returned to the pool, but there was no sense in me doing so. It was very little valor, but still a fitting coda to my visit. I drive on to Austin to tell my tale to deaf ears.
But it's OK. One of these days, Ray Wylie is gonna write "Dave and The Aquatic Varmint Blues."
I'm feeling it. Any day now.