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The first time I heard Lynyrd Skynyrd I was with Troy Dean. We were driving through the night, cruising down Highway 39 in his white Trans Am on our first and only date. Being on a date meant driving around doing nothing.
Troy was singing along with the music. He was singing with such feeling, veins popping out on his neck as he wailed his don’t ask me, I got the impression he was trying to tell me something.
I didn’t know him very well. I knew his father owned the local drive-in theater. It was the only theater in our small north-Georgia town. Troy had to work there, selling popcorn. We both went to Lincoln High. He was a senior. I was a sophomore.
He pulled the car up to a Minimart and went in for beer. I leaned closer to the console to make out what was there, glowing in the green light of the instrument panel.
Along with the Lynyrd Skynyrd cassette box, there were others—Credence Clearwater Revival, The Who. There was a Saint Christopher medallion, easy to recognize—they were popular then, even with the Baptists—with the small robed figure carrying a staff, framed inside an oval of silver. Matchbooks from bars I’d heard of. Troy was eighteen, and back then that was the legal drinking age. The ashtray in the console was full of dimes and nickels.
The swinging door of the Minimart chimed, and I closed the ashtray.
Troy had straight blonde hair and pale blue eyes that flitted around like birds. He had a habit of jerking his head from side to side as if there might be a sniper in the area. This head-jerk made his hair fly out like somebody in an ad for wild-smelling cologne. It was maddening and sexy.
I wanted to know about Troy. What was behind all that silence, that slightly tipped-back profile and the focused attention to the road? Didn’t he want to check out my low-riding bell bottoms or the halter top that was tied in a bow, no knot, at my back?
But I could take a hint. I couldn’t get a word in anyway, the way he kept rewinding the tape.
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published 15 June 2011