Hey porter! Hey porter! What time did ya say? How much longer will it be till I can see the light of day?
Hey porter! Hey porter! It’s getting light outside. This old train is puffin’ smoke, and I have to strain my eyes.
The year was 2002. My son was eleven. The ranch camp I attended was having their 50th anniversary. A big shindig (that’s a Texas thing) was planned for the weekend. It was deep in the heart of Texas. The Texas Hill Country. My dilemma: As I so often do, I made plans at the last possible minute. All the cabins were booked up. The solution: I had a 4-wheel drive pickup truck, so I boot-scootched the truck into the middle of some sixty-year old fig trees lining Wallace Creek. Nobody went down there except the horses and deer. We pitched a tent in the truck bed, blew up some air mattresses, and we had our own private paradise to sleep in after the days activities. All we heard at night was the gurgling creek and crickets.
On the drive up to the Hill Country, I played a Johnny Cash CD that had just been released. We talked about stuff that eleven-year-old’s talk about. We had a lot of fun.
During the days at camp, we went fishing, swimming, hiking, and clowned around with all our hillbilly friends. At night, we retired to our tent in the back of my pickup. I thought it was just another thing parents do with their kids till we went to sleep. I opened a flap on the top of the tent so we could watch the moon and the stars. As we were dozing off, my son started singing, “Porter oh porter, what time did you say…” Wow! I cracked a big Texas smile. It was dark. He didn’t see me. He had been listening and absorbing everything (and I mean everything) I did or said, and everything around him.
It turned out this wasn’t just one of those obligatory weekends a parent spends with his child. We had bonded in a way I couldn’t have even imagined. He and I thought we were just camping, but we were wrong. We had a great weekend, burned a lot of memories, packed up the tent, and drove home. I know that weekend is something neither of us will ever forget – even after I’m gone. Now that’s what I call a win – win. Sometimes I almost wish I could revisit that time, but I know it’s in the past and now I can only relive it in my memories. That is exactly why we should never waste a single precious minute because you’ll never get it back. Yes, we listened to Johnny Cash the whole way back. I wanted to make sure and reinforce what good music sounds like.
And to borrow from Harry Chapin: And as I drove home it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.