“Pour me another cup a coffee … put another nickel in the juke box … I’m a truck drivin’ man,” sang Ralph Williams while wearing his cowboy hat, tapping his foot and drumming out the rhythm to a good old song from the days of Buck Owens and his Buckaroos on Hee Haw.
Did that ever bring back memories of former dance halls in Montrose, such as the Wagon Wheel, Arcadia and Dominics! Last week’s history page in the Montrose Press told Williams’ story of playing with the String Busters at those places—but wait — there’s more.
Williams compares his younger days to Las Vegas. “You know what they say, ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,’ and that’s just the way it is with my younger days. What happened in the past, stays in the past.”
So, he didn’t tell me much, but a little.
He was married, but later divorced. He and his wife had one child, Earl, born in 1958. Earl married and had three boys while living in Salt Lake City, driving a truck for Wonder Bread. Sadly, Earl passed away on March 31, 2011 at the young age of 52. Of course, his death devastated Ralph and changed a lot of things for him.
“I try not to get too down. I know that everybody’s got a life’s road,” he said.
He showed me a poster on his wall that he picked up at a yard sale. It says, “Never regret growing older; ‘Tis a privilege denied many.”
“That means a lot to me, especially since my son died,” Williams stated.
His walls are covered with photos of things and people who have meaning to him. “Here’s one we have in common,” he said, showing me a photo of John Strole who was a mainstay in my husband’s insurance office. I wondered what the connection was.
“I met John when he was the parts man for Sylvester Implement.” said Williams. “John came here from Illinois in the early ‘60s. I worked at Sylvester’s as a transport driver until I retired in 1997.”
Another photo depicts his interest in old automobiles. He currently owns “Lil Blue,” a 1926 Ford coupe, which he intends to keep original as far as exterior paint, but he would still like to do some work on sprucing her up a bit.
“I keep records of everything; trouble is I use the bachelor’s system of filing. I have a whole stack of obituaries. Almost everyone I once knew or was my friend, is now gone,” he lamented.
One thing he is happy about and treasures is the fact that his father, Bert Williams, wrote the story of his life, calling it his “narrative,” which began Jan. 7, 1905. It is a great history of the Delta area, especially. You will be reading future history columns from this “narrative.”
A true life-changer for Williams was taking a bad fall early last summer at the age of 86, breaking his hip. Since that time, he spent weeks in the hospital and nursing home, so is glad to be back in his own home with caregivers assisting him. His constant companion is little Peanut, his dog whose small bed fits on the seat of William’s walker. Where he goes, she goes.
Using his sense of humor, Williams likes to bring smiles to those around him. Like all of us during this allergy season, he had to pull his handkerchief out of his pocket more than once.
“I think I’m goin’ to enter my nose in the Olympics. As much as it runs all the time, it oughta do pretty good.”
He lifted his baseball cap from his head, revealing his thinning hair, saying, “I think I’m going to go rabbit huntin’; see if I can’t get me a little hare.”
And the best yet, “One of my young caregivers tells me she’s in love with me. I don’t quite know what to do with that, but wish she’d told me that 45 years ago!”
Marilyn Cox, a native of Montrose County, grew up on a farm and was always surrounded by countless family members who instilled the love of family and history. She retired from the Montrose County School District and, for 21 years, served as curator of the Montrose County Historical Museum.