As I move closer to retirement, I am able to reflect back on a pretty good ride. I have been able to meet some pretty incredible people and have become friends to many of them. I have sat and talked with actors, athletes, politicians, and musicians. Many of their pictures grace the walls of the diner.
They have allowed me to have many stories. And these stories together create the fabric of our lives. I was asked once for a good story for someone popular that is not on the wall. I always share this with them.
Willie Nelson was singing at the Sisters Rodeo ground. I believe it was on a Thursday evening.
I rolled in around 730 that morning and went through my regular ritual, checking stock, appearance, and scanning the crowd to insure that they all look satisfied. The crowd that morning was somewhat quiet but the flow seemed to be going well. The counter was fairly full which I found often in the truck stop. Lonely drivers who wanted some conversation while they stopped from their long tedious lonely drives. At the end of the counter, I saw a rather long haired man stooped over his meal in silence. In fact, that seat was the 'safest' seat in the diner. Tucked down in the corner with only the back of your head being seen by someone heading down to the bathroom.
My servers seemed to all abuzz over something so I went over to their huddle to disperse them, reminding them that they were there to serve their customers. One of them turned to me with wide eyes and said, "We think he is here!". "Who is here?", I queried. "Willie....he is playing tonight in Sisters. It has to be him.".
OK, I told them I would find out and let them know. I was sure that it was someone else but just wanted to get them back to doing what they needed to be. I grabbed a pot of coffee and began working my way down the counter, greeting drivers and locals who were gathered there.
I approached the man at the end and I had to admit that he did look the part. His braided hair was covered by a ball cap that he had lowered over his eyes as he attacked the breakfast in front of him. He had a silvery well kept beard. I filled his cup in front of him, put the pot down on the counter and asked if I could ask him a question.
He peered out from under the bill of his cap at first not saying anything. Then he said, in that very distinctive voice, "I am not him, I just look like him, I am a truck driver, I drive a truck.". "Understand", I said back. "Enjoy your breakfast. You will not be bothered.". He looked up at me and smiled. "Thank you very much!", he stated.
I went and told the girls that he was just a driver. They took my word for it and went about their business. He finished his meal, paid, and left. Only then did I tell them the truth. Soon the whole room was buzzing with excitement. And I had another story for my memory.
Willie Nelson had just eaten at Jake's.