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Parts of this story sound amazing, even unbelievable, but a truer tale never existed...

I WAS CALLED PEDRO by Jeff Prince and Phill Rodriguez Click to Listen to this Song!

Billy Nix was born on a 20-acre farm in Parker County and learned how to coax watermelons, cantaloupes and peaches out of the sandy Texas ground. As a young man he fought Germans, and carried shrapnel souvenirs the rest of his life. War was hard, even harder after he got word that his parents and brothers were burned up in a kerosene fire back home. After the war, Billy was restless. He leased out the farm and headed west for a spell, supervising fruit pickers in California. It was in those orange fields he met a beautiful dark-haired girl of 15 named Consuela. Whites and Mexicans seldom married back then, but Billy and Consuela did. They took a bus to Mexico and he handed his new mother-in-law a bolt of gingham and a pouch with 10 silver dollars. As for me, I forced my way into this world in a stucco room with a hard sod floor just south of the Texas border. I was called Pedro. A train carried the three of us to Parker County to continue a tradition of growing melons. And for a while, a short while, our life was sweet as the cantelopes growing yellow in the sun, all neat in a row.

In 1948, Pedro gets a baby sister, a perpetually smiling little baby girl named Lolita. The Nix family survives on 20 acres of rolling farmland in northwest Parker County. Billy leases another 120 acres to grow his melons, and earns a reputation as a lovable eccentric for refusing to use the pesticide DDT, which the federal government is just beginning to promote as a safe bug killer. Billy’s insistence on organic farming increases his costs and makes his melons more expensive at market. Yet most people are happy to pay the difference. It’s about this time that Mr. Clark at Veal Station General Store coins the phrase, “A Nix melon is sweeter than peach plum pie.” The motto sticks.

POWERED BY LOVE by Jeff Prince Click to Listen to this Song!

Coyotes crying at a silver moon
Momma wraps me tight in swaddling clothes
Warm in the lamplight glow
Daddy strums his gut-string guitar
Sings to me about Bill Groggan's goat
Taps time on a hardwood floor

Powered by love we were strong as stone
Sure as the day is long we had love
Powered by love nothing could keep us down
Sure as the world is round we had love
Lord we had love

Sister sticks her tongue out at me
As I wash and dry her dirty hands
Momma sings over pots and pans
Daddy leans back in his hard cane chair
Tells a joke he heard from Pastor Biggs
Lights his pipe and hugs us kids 

Early 1950s: Billy is uncharacteristically ill much of the time, and farming becomes difficult. In the early 1940 during World War II, he had been exposed to mustard gas during a bombing off the coast of Italy. Most of his shipmates were dying from various illnesses, one by one, year after year. At night, Billy flips his hard cane chair upside down, sits on a rabbit skin pallet and leans against the chair’s back -- a poor man's recliner. Pedro and Lolita snuggle by his side while he tells stories, reads the family Bible, and provides gruff bass lines on favorite singalongs such as “Bill Groggan’s Goat” and “Amazing Grace.” On a chilly December night in 1954 he shares advice with his son.

NOT SUPPOSED TO STAY DOWN by Jeff Prince Click to Listen to this Song!

Daddy told me to climb on his knee
Wipe the teardrops from my anguished eyes
He said, “Listen up good, I'd stay if I could
But there's some things you should realize
Times can be hard, life can be cruel
Folks we love can't always stick around
There'll come a time you wake up and find
You're knocked out cold and lying on the ground”

“Not supposed to stay down
And we'd all do well to lift a voice in prayer
We all stumble, fall, break down
Some day, some way, somewhere
Not supposed to stay down
Not supposed to stay down”


Walking down a wandering road
Wonder if we’re ever gonna get home
Talking in a troubling code
Wonder if we’re ever gonna get home

Mama told me, get down off her knee
Take myself someplace outside to play
These sticks and these stones have broken our bones
But from the clouds I hear my daddy say

Late 1950s: Billy Nix is bedridden and no longer able to speak or even feed himself. Consuela attempts to handle chores, raise the two children, and care for her husband, but she slowly becomes unhinged. Her madness overflows on the day Billy dies. She cuts potatoes, celery, and carrots for a stew, dumps a handful of roofing nails into the pot, and then squats in a corner with scissors and slices the children's best clothes. Pedro and Lolita hide in the weed-filled melon patch. In 1961,Parker County auctions the Nix land for back taxes, and the state commits Consuela to Rusk State Hospital and places Lolita with a neighboring family. Pedro refuses to be told where to go or what to do, and he drifts among friends’ houses, even living for a few months in an abandoned barn on the old family farm.

HOME by Jeff Prince Click to Listen to this Song!

Twenty acres never seemed so big
Momma never used to break down and cry
Melons never died on the vine
Love seems so far away
Momma's putting nails in the stew
Ripping up all of our Sunday school clothes
Doctor came and drove her to town
Rain is a memory, land is in misery
And home, our home, is gone

Banker man put pencil and pad to the debt
Sold the farm at an auction on the old courthouse steps
Taxes paid but there ain't one thin dime left
State worker says she'll take good care of Sis
Little Sis and Momma I'm sure gonna to miss

And home, our home, is gone
Home, our home, is dried and blown
Down the long rows of weeds
That still bleed with our sweat
And our need of God Almighty
And home, our home, our home, our home

1962: A 15-year-old Pedro borrows a 1949 Ford Econoline and heads to Oregon to become a logger, inspired by a children's book about Paul Bunyan. Cutting trees dulls his pain, eases his mind, and strengthens his body. A logging camp foreman describes young Pedro as “so honest you can play dice with him over the phone.” He plays his daddy's guitar at jamborees, dances, and picnics, and develops a reputation as one of the region's most talented musicians.

LASSO THE MOON by Phillip Rodriguez Click to Listen to this Song!

Left home at 15 headed for the Northwest
Thought it was time for a change
I was there six months, didn’t find anything
But the wind and the rain
Things at home weren’t too familiar, Daddy died six months ago
Mama tried not to remember but she might as well lasso the moon
Six strings took me on the road, there’s a lot to see
’49 Econoline, I thought I was free
Tried to drink out my loneliness
Tried to come to Jesus too
If the search for peace is the answer
Then you might as well lasso the moon
Ran into an old friend on the road, she was good to see
We sat around and talked for hours, ‘til a quarter of three
She made me think of my home and Mama
She made me think of baby sister too
She said, “If you think life out here is better
Then you might as well lasso the moon.”
Turned right down that gravel road
Saw the tree and the swing he made for me

1963: Pedro visits Lolita at her foster home. She is treated well by her new family but carries hidden scars from witnessing her parents’ deterioration. Brother and sister drive to their old farm and walk along a creek path that was once as smooth as asphalt but is now overgrown with wild grasses. “We'll get our home back one day,” Lolita says with such conviction that Pedro doesn't doubt her. They hug and promise to keep in touch, and Pedro points the Econoline south. He settles in Austin, works as a stonemason, and begins making frequent visits to Mexican border towns with co-workers. Eventually, Pedro looks beyond the border and into the country’s heart.

LAREDO by Phillip Rodriguez Click to Listen to this Song!

I get that good time feeling every time I cross that Austin City Limit sign
Like a magnet and steel I get that good southern Mexican feel
Well, I’m almost there -- L-A-R-E-D-O
Well I get that good time feeling every time I cross that Rio Grande bridge
And I always buy me a bottle of Cuervo Gold to take off that eight-hour Fort Worth driving edge
Well I’m home now -- L-A-R-E-D-O

You go across timid but you come back toting the line
When you get over there it’s time to throw away all your high school nursery rhymes
I’m home now -- L-A-R-E-D-O

Mid 1960s: Mexico’s beauty and simplicity appeal to Pedro, and his roots take hold in the land of his birth. For two years he rides fence for a ranch owner and learns Mexican guitar from a wiry vaquero named Arana, a virtuoso despite missing a finger (a spider bite infected his left pinky and forced an amputation). Lolita writes to say their mother has hanged herself with an electrical cord at the state hospital. Forgetting his father's advice on adversity, Pedro succumbs to sorrow. A tequila bender ends with him kidnapped into labor in the Mexico mountains. He falls deeply in love with his captor's daughter, Maria, who sneaks food and kisses to him each night. Despite already being betrothed, Maria elopes with Pedro, sparking a manhunt. A drunken posse tries to shoot Pedro and kills the rich man’s daughter by mistake. A falsely accused Pedro flees for Texas.

TIERRA MIA by Phillip Rodriguez Click to Listen to this Song!

Woke up face down on the wet dirt floor
Bottle of Mescal by my side
The sound of horses came in quick and loud
Vamanos muchachos from a voice so proud
I was strapped to a dark black mare
Her name was Negra she had a cold dead stare
Shanghaied to labor for a landed man
Who had a daughter for whom weddings are planned

Her hair was the color of the setting sun
Her way was easy as the river runs
But we were caught in the crossfire of the sheriff’s gun
And she died, and they lied, I had to ride

The sun at my back and the ride is hard
Thoughts of my mama when the doctor called
I can smell the muddy river it’s ahead of me
The sound of horses crashing through the mesquite trees
Tierra mia calls out my name
Closing in on my old home range
My savior Negra I think she’s fading fast
If she can just get me to Eagle Pass

1965: Pedro crosses the Rio Grande on Negra’s back, and both man and horse fight exhaustion. A bullet has grazed Pedro’s scalp and given him a concussion. Negra goes lame near Eagle Pass and a starved and shivering Pedro builds a fire, cooks and eats the horse that carried him to safety, and mourns for his true love lying dead somewhere deep in Mexico. After his meal, he tumbles into fitful sleep as memories of Maria both sustain and torment him. He awakes and sees a vision of a two-headed rattlesnake coiled beside his bedroll, preparing to strike. The snake speaks: “Do you want to die?”  Pedro wonders if his mother’s insanity has come to steal his mind.

TE QUIERO BONITA TE AMO by Jeff Prince Click to Listen to this Song!

Te quiero, bonita, te amo
I'm lonesome when we are apart
I want you, I love you, you're beautiful
Te quiero, bonita, te amo
When we are apart you are in my heart
When I hold you near me so dearly I kiss you
Lips like summer rain
Memories remain
I'm coming home it won't be long please wait for me

Walk with me awhile
Let me see you smile
You are on my mind
With me all the time

Te quiero, bonita, te amo
I'm lonesome when we are apart
I want you, I love you, you're beautiful
Te quiero, bonita, te amo

1966-68: Pedro becomes a vagrant who musters an existence by playing guitar on street corners in large Texas cities. Memories of Maria saturate his soul, fueled by wine and the Mexican music that Pedro now plays without exception. On impulse he determines quitting music will help him overcome his grief. He sells his guitar and never plays another note. The money buys whiskey for three days, pushing Pedro farther into a cocoon of depression.

HOOKED ON THE BOTTLE by Jeff Prince Click to Listen to this Song!

There's a hole in the roof with the rain dripping through
Hoping it will wash away memories of you
But if it won't I know what will
'Cause there's a bottle on the table and a glass on the shelf
Think I'm gonna have a little taste myself
I've got plenty of time to kill

Since you've been gone I'm drinking every day
And I pay no mind to what my friends might say
If I want to tie one on that's what I do
Heard all the sermons that's all I hear
Here's one thing I'm gonna make clear
I ain't hooked on the bottle I'm hooked on you

Wake up every morning fresh from a nightmare
Heart beating crazy with the pain you put there
Sit on the edge of the bed with a cigarette
Look at the pillow where your head once lay
Say a little prayer for the light of day
And wonder how dark these nights are gonna get

April 30, 1969: A night in the can is nothing new, but a stint in the Nacogdoches County Jail and a conversation with a philosophical jailer change Pedro. The jailer’s simple message and kindly manner inspire sobriety. Serenity follows.

MOMENT OF CLARITY by Jeff Prince Click to Listen to this Song!

County jailer tells me: “Son, you look like death
Bloodstains on your collar, whiskey on your breath
Crawling in the memories that you can't forget
God forgives his children and you without regret"
Staring out a window I begin to quake
Death is what we're given, life is what we make
Moment of clarity bit me like a snake
Kissed me like an angel and turned my fears away

Four walls surrounding me
But my spirit is busting free
I'm alive, I can do good
I'll survive, daddy said I would
I can shine, I’m gonna breathe
Share a sacred immortality
One thing I know for sure
The only thing I know for sure
Life without love is nothing more

County jailer tells me, “Son, you done your time
Go and help a neighbor, seek and you will find
Son, I ain't no preacher, ain't the preaching kind
I’m just a country jailer who stays between the lines”
So I'm on this highway, strengthened by a force
Following a guidepost, staying on a course
Colored by forgiveness, savoring my chore
I go seeking heaven or hell or nothing more

June 1969: Nacogdoches becomes Pedro’s new home. The next year he marries a Cajun girl. A son is born. Life is tranquil and Pedro is content, although he frequently envisions Maria’s girlish face and almond brown eyes, and he has silent conversations with her every day.

NACOGDOCHES SUNDAY AFTERNOON by Phillip Rodriguez Click to Listen to this Song!

Sitting on a sunny Sunday afternoon
Ain’t got nothing to look forward to but that full moon
In the middle part of June
Going to jump in my car, head out for the lake
I’m an easygoing kind of person, don’t like to cause much wake
On a sunny Nacogdoches Sunday afternoon
Sitting and watching the trees blown by the wind
You know it’s just gotta be, just gotta be heaven sent
There isn’t any end
That moon is shining, that wind is sure blowing
Ain’t too much you can say, what a way to end the day
With a sunny Nacogdoches Sunday afternoon

And all the things we used to do
Didn’t seem to measure up
To the pictures that we drew
It was over way too soon

Now the day is coming to an end
Think I’ll get on the phone, call up an old’ friend just to see if she is in
That moon is still shining, that wind is still blowing
Ain’t too much you can say, what a way to end a day
With a Sunny Nacogdoches Sunday afternoon
With a Sunny Nacogdoches Sunday afternoon

1972: The humid consistency of summer is jarred when Pedro’s wife leaves town with, of all people, a traveling minister. Pedro continues working as a contract logger at an Angelina County paper company and raising his son, Little Pete. They share a bond stronger than the pine trees Pedro cuts and hauls for a living. Several years pass, when an unexpected telegraph arrives to blow them in a new direction, one that will provide comfort for years.

ANGELINA LUMBER by Jeff Prince and Phillip Rodriguez Click to Listen to this Song!

Cutting Angelina lumber
Got my little son but my Cajun lady's gone
Just a ragged old shack, muddy river out back
Me and my boy put a penny on the railroad track
Cutting Angelina lumber
Eight long hours on the end of a 10-foot blade
Big trees fall and the scorpions crawl
With the good Lord's help I made some sense of it all

Telegraph found Angelina
Signed with love, sisterly love
Melons as fat as a spring calf
Come on home, come on home
Come on home, it said come on home
On our way, brand new day
Sometimes life works that way

Leaving Angelina lumber
Let the pine trees grow as tall as birds can fly
Sister's back on the farm with the firebox warm
Working the fields where life and love were born

Prologue: In 1973, Pedro Nix returned to Parker County and settled with Little Pete on the old farm with sister Lolita. The next year, Pedro married a Parker County nurse named Susan Ellis, and the couple shared three devoted decades. Susan buried Pedro in a little cemetery just north of Weatherford on April 11, 2002. Despite rainy conditions, more than 300 people showed up to say goodbye to this good man, who had become a successful oil driller, developer, church deacon, reserve fireman, and loving father of four college-graduated children, until he succumbed to cancer at 55. At the funeral, Susan’s knees sank into the wet grass as she kneeled beside the grave. Tears fell for the man she loved, and for the portion of his heart that she could never capture. Susan alone had heard Pedro's final words, spoken a week earlier in a hoarse whisper as he tossed about, sweaty and delirious in a Fort Worth hospital: “Maria…te amo…my sweet Maria.”

All Songs Copyright © 2004, PrinceRodriguez




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