Roxy Gordon Memorial – Sons Of Hermann Hall (Dallas, TX)
In years to come, anyone who stumbles into Talpa Cemetery in West Texas may see a small memorial stone engraved with the titles of four songs that, in their oblique way, tell Roxy Gordon’s story.
The songs are Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll”, Jimmy Gilmer’s “Sugar Shack”, and Little Eva’s “Locomotion”.
This is where Roxy Gordon was born and died. Roxy is not buried here; his remains are incense in the wind while the cemetery waits for Talpa’s 127 living residents.
Two hundred old friends and a few curious strangers came from the far corners to Sons Of Hermann Hall on Mother’s Day in Dallas to remember Roxy, a Choctaw and West Texan by birth and Assiniboine by adoption. He shared the same birth date, March 7, as his friend Townes Van Zandt, and died Feb. 7 at age 54. He was a storyteller, writer, and American Indian activist with the ability, and inclination, to say and write exactly what he thought. He believed there is little difference between what you do and who you are.
On the reservation, he was called First Coyote Boy. Coyote is the trickster who teaches us by reshaping our perspectives. He is rogue, hero, and survivor. In Roadrunner cartoons, he is scheming victim. In Navajo mythology, displeased with the slow process of decorating, he threw a bag of stars into the sky to create the Milky Way.
“Every now and then,” Roxy once wrote, “we all get a little crazy, which for me is usually just a matter of getting bored with being comfortable.”
The people who knew Roxy revered his ability to connect creative people with one another.
“The history he kind of moved in and out of in the 1960s and 1970s, and the people, and the stories were things a lot of other people didn’t get access to,” said songwriter/multimedia artist Terry Allen. “Roxy could make a connection between the reservation and David Allan Coe and what was going on at the Fort Worth Art Museum.”
The crowd at Sons Of Hermann Hall included at least three convicted felons, half a dozen outlaws, another dozen wannabes, and perhaps a saint or two. Middle-aged hippies and young musicians and cowboys and Indians and meaningful mutations. Many spent, and spend, time on various battle lines from Vietnam to Wounded Knee to gentler, sometimes no-less-dark nights when creation will not come and nothing else seems to matter.
Moments from Sons Of Hermann Hall:
Mississippi Choctaw Glenn Watson sprinkling sage, cedar and sweetgrass incense all around the room, and offering a prayer his flute.
The Ackermans’ spin on Roxy’s four favorite songs.
Roxy’s widow, Judy, her voice soft and hoarse, singing along to “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”.
Retired Dallas Symphony Orchestra tuba player Ev Gilmore accompanying Mance Lipscomb biographer Glen Alyn on a short set of blues songs.
Poet Charley Moon reading Roxy’s hypnotic “(Running Your Horse in) Smaller Circles”, from the English label Road Goes On Forever Records; Max Johnston fiddling in the background.
“I’m sorry it took a friend dying for me to see all these people,” said Richard Dobson, who came from Switzerland to do five songs.
Steve Young closing with a borrowed guitar, sharing the sentimental Dobie Gray hit “Drift Away”: “Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul, I want to get lost in your rock ‘n’ roll, and drift away.”
Proceeds from the event went to the Leonard Peltier Defense Fund and to establish the Roxy Gordon Writers Fellowship.
Why do these moments, and others, matter?
One day earlier, at a caricature of an unrelated festival in a Dallas suburb, the grass came in squares stuck to the ground, yellow and dying next to a concrete pond. Nobody seemed to know the difference when a cover band of middle-aged businessmen and women sang another Rolling Stones song, “Honky Tonk Women”.
We can imagine circumstances where middle-aged people sing meaningfully about meeting “gin-soaked barroom queens in Memphis.” Mostly, though, the thought is silly because — in the middle of the day in the middle of a suburban park — we know it’s not real.
The country-flavored rock ‘n’ roll played in Roxy’s memory at this Sunday gathering at Sons Of Hermann Hall was real.