At Ranchito Hondo, Hondo, Texas...
In the last post, I promised a story about Ray Price. Here it is, as I wrote it in my column current in my hometown newspaper:
* * *
I’m going to use another column or two to tell a few stories about flying the mail at night between East Texas and Dallas while most of you were asleep; this was between the years 1968 and 1973. In last month’s column, I shared about the existence of the flights that were reminiscent of the early days of mail flying but resurrected for the second time fifty years later. I also mentioned that the terminus of the outbound evening flight was in Dallas. The airport then was Dallas Love Field, where all the other mail planes (and airliners carrying mail) converged. The new DFW International Airport hadn’t opened at the time.
The mail planes all parked near an executive terminal, where they were unloaded, fueled and loaded for the outbound flights in the early morning. On one memorable arrival (I can’t remember the date), I was walking toward the executive lounge after unloading the airplane, and I noticed a sleek Learjet parked near the terminal door with the airplane’s door open and the interior lights on. As I walked past the jet, I saw that the flight crew was not aboard (they were inside the terminal) and that there was a sole occupant sitting on the rear bench seat with his reading light on. As I passed the open door, I recognized him immediately as none other than the county music legend, Ray Price.
Mr. Price had obviously just finished a concert in the Dallas area and was awaiting his crew to complete their preparations and fly him to his next stop. I assumed this because he was dressed in his sequined stage attire, but with his coat and tie removed.
I couldn’t help myself; poking my head in the door, I gulped and said, “Hello, Mr. Price; I just wanted to tell you I’m a big fan of yours! He looked up immediately at the intrusion and flashed a grin. “Come on up here; what are you doing out there, young man?”
I had not expected this, but I sheepishly climbed the stairs, and he motioned for me to sit down in one of the mid-cabin seats, which I did and turned toward him. Before I could even think of what to say in such a private environment, he began to ask ME questions about what I was doing out there in the middle of the night. I explained that I was a mail pilot, and he seemed genuinely interested in the nightly gathering of mail planes. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t, but he obviously wanted to put me at ease. We chatted a bit—I was too star-struck to remember the details, and I even forgot to ask for his autograph! I could see that his eyes were tired, and I suspect his having to make small talk with a nobody like me was not helping him get some needed rest. Soon, his pilots boarded, and I scurried off the jet, thanking him for being so generous with his time. He waved and smiled, as if we were old friends; the copilot closed the door, and Ray Price was gone.
My friend, David Stallings, the publisher of Around the Town, and I have had conversations about the days of his business relationship with Ray Price, and David was not at all surprised about the down-home friendliness the star had shown me. “That’s just the way he was,” said David. “He loved people and loved his fans.” I believe it, David.
|Ray Price, Country Music Legend|
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should every day.