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Excerpt from an interview with Earl’s Ma
From the Port Arthur News, Port Arthur, Texas. USA
Emma can you tell us a little bit about Earl…
Rumor is…He just showed up on your porch one day. Is that true?
“Yes, it was a Thursday morning, February 15, 1968.
My husband Luke had gone out back to the fields and I went
Out to the front porch like I do every morning to watch the sunrise
And drink my tea and when I opened the screen door, right there at
My feet was an old busted up guitar case with a baby boy in it,
He was all wrapped up in a blue blanket, sound asleep.
Lord knows I almost had a heart attack and I screamed like
A hog being branded with a hot iron, two hot irons!
Luke came a runnin’ like greased lightening…
He musta heard me a mile away.
The whole county musta heard Me scream that mornin’.
I picked the boy up and took him inside.
He was still asleep, slept right through all that screaming and all.
Inside the blanket, there was a note, it said,
“We are going out on tour tomorrow and we cannot take baby Earl.
Please look after him and tell him someday
that his momma Janis and his daddy Ben love him
so much and someday, if all goes well,
we’ll come back home and get him.”
Did you make an attempt to find his parents?
“No, we just took him in and cared for him. Luke said the
Right thing to do was contact the authorities.
I said yes I know but… let’s wait a day or two…
but since we couldn’t have no babies of our own,
I just kept puttin’ it off and puttin’ it off and puttin’ it off.
I wanted to keep baby Earl and didn’t want to give him up to the county.
He was a beautiful baby boy.
I probably shouldn’t mention this but the dang boy’s manly parts
looked the size of a horses manly parts.
Luke and I were afraid that when it came time for the boy to walk,
he’d just be tripping over that thing all day long and
breaking stuff around the house with it.
But he sorta grew’d into it and the boy walked
just fine when the time came.”
What about school and all? Did you send the boy to school?
“Not really, we just set him down outdoors most days
and when he was about 5 years old, Old Luke gave
the boy an old guitar he had laying in the barn.
It only had one string on it but the boy took a likin’
to it right off and from that day on, we could not get
the dang thing out of his hands. He would sleep with it,
eat with it, he would have it strapped across his
back working in the fields. He just took a real good
liking to that old guitar. He could make that one string
sound real pretty but one day we got him all the strings
for that guitar and the boy lit up like a firefly on a hot
August night. I thought his face would rip right in half
from that big smile he got from having those strings on
that there old guitar. I think he just plucked around that
guitar until eventually, he got it sounding real real good….
like the jukebox in town, that’s how he got it to sound.
He was still real young when he got it to sound real good
like the jukebox.”
Did his ma and pa ever come back for him?
“No, they never did but one day, about 2 years after
Earl showed up, I recall it well, it was October 3rd, 1970,
we got a letter in the mail and it was written on paper
from a record company office in California and it was
from Earl’s ma alright, I recognized that handwriting
right off immediately. All it said was, “In a few days,
I’m coming home to see my baby Earl. And it was just signed “JJ” this time.”
What would you say to her if she did show up?
“Luke said he had a mind to whoop
Her if she did but sometimes young girls just
do what they think is best,
I guess and that’s the way it went.
I tell you this, I would never have given the boy back
if she did come. What’s on my property
is mine and that boy was on my property near
two years by the time that letter came.
The boy was mine. That’s how I reckoned it. His
momma never did come back, not to this very day.”
Didn’t folks ask questions?
“Sure they did but the closest neighbors is about
a mile away as you can see and And it
wasn’t much fuss and all with folks being nosey.
We just grow’d the boy up and kept
him. Then one day when the boy was all grow’d up,
and listening to the radio and all, he
tells me he wants to go play his guitar in the city
and try to make something of his self.
He was a old enough young man by then for us
to set him out there and let him be his
own man. He could play that guitar now like ringing a bell
and we thought he would be alright.
He was an intelligent boy, even though he never got no
schoolin’ or nothing like that.
We gave him $400 and took him to the bus stop
on the corner of 6th Street and Mobile Ave.
around 7 o’clock in the morning….
and gave him a big hug and wished him well.
I cried and cried and cried for missing that boy
but he was all grow’d up now and he
was his own man now.
Luke done real good by that boy.
He was so much like Luke that it was
almost like having two Luke’s around and that was fine by me.
When my husband finally passed about a month ago now,
Earl came home and when he walked through that door, it
was like having Luke right beside me again.
It did my heart some good. After we buried Luke out back,
Earl took off again. He said he had a band now
and they were doing just fine. That was
the last I seen of baby Earl but he calls me from time to time
and sends me a little
something from time to time.
He always tells me, if he ever hits the big time, he’s gonna
buy me a big house in town and I won’t have to worry
about the farm no more. I tells him
I like it here and I ain’t needing no big house in town.
He just laughs and says I’m crazy.
Earl’s been playin’ all around the country now
for quite some time.
If you happen to see my boy,
ask him to stop on home when he gets the time.
I miss that boy, ev