Near to the Maddening Crowd

Country and western singer Waylon Jennings sometimes feels as if the whole world is in hot pursuit.

 Jack C—-, the federal agent stationed at Gate 56 of the Dallas airport, signaled to his partner when he saw the pair coming, The signal meant “search” and that signal was followed by an announcement to the 23 passengers waiting for Texas International Airlines flight 925 to Austin: “TI 925 will be delayed momentarily due to transient passengers.”

Those transient passengers, the suspicious pair, carried no luggage, had paid cash for their tickets, and were similarly attired: rumpled leather suits, scuffed boots, and hair a little longer than is allowed in the VIP lounge just down the corridor.

Cowboy singer Waylon Jennings and the writer with him slowed down their loping run for the plane as Agent Jack stepped in front of them: “Please step this way… gentlemen.” Jennings carried no identification and Agent Jack was summoning his superior when a light bulb went on above his head: “Aren’t you … you’re Waylon Jennings, ainchoo? I thought you was an entertainer. Hell, yes, I see you over at Panther Hall. I go over to Panther and get drunk and raise heil ever wunst in a wile. Go right on through, gentlemen.”

Jennings laughed about it all the way to Austin.

“That reminds me,” said the sharp-featured, 37-year-old country singer, “last time we was down here, the whole band went over to Old Mex and on the way across the border the customs agent found a roach on the floorboards. I saw myself doin’ ten to life in Huntsville—and all of the sudden the sumbitch recognized me and he said, ‘I’ll just take care of this for you, Mr. Jennings.’ Whooo! And all it cost me was an autograph and two tickets to my next show.”

Clearly, he had arrived as an entertainer when he could cut through officialdom without even trying.

Jennings had just completed a grueling tour of one-night stands in honky tonks in New Mexico and Colorado, and his return to his native Texas, plus the off-hand tribute of Agent Jack, put him in a good mood as he relaxed for the first time in days. “You know how to find Texas?” he asked the writer. “You just go east till you smell it and south till you step in it!” The bony angles of his face became smooth in laughter. “And you always know when you cross the Texas line ‘cause your wife starts bitchin’ and your kids wanta pee and you feel like goin’ and stealin’ somethin’.”

His laughter died when

Tags: THE CULTURE

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