It was Christmas morning, 1917 and a sleepy-eyed young man made his way downstairs. He was ten years old and desperately wanted to see what Father Christmas had brought him.
He longed for a six string guitar, but his momma had warned him not to get his hopes up too high. She had cautioned that Santa might not be able to carry a present that fine all the way to the remote town of Tioga, Texas.
“What in tarnation would you be wantin’ with a guitar anyways, Gene?” she asked him on Christmas eve after he had told her for the two-hundredth time that that was the only thing he craved and that if Santa Claus brought just this one present he wouldn’t ever ask for another thing.
Orvon Grover Autry’s momma had called him Gene since he was a tad. It was a name he thought suited him. It was the name he would use his entire life.
“I wanna learn to play it Momma,” he said, “I’m already makin’ some words; I just need to make some music to go with ‘em.”
“Lemme hear them words, son.” She said as she tucked him into bed. It was early, but it was Christmas Eve, and he knew Santa would only come if he was sleepin’. He wasn’t about to push his luck.
Gene sat back up, leaned against his pillow, cleared his throat and sang in his yet unchanged soprano, “I’ve got spurs that jingle jangle jingle, as I go ridin’ merrily along.”
“Them’s some mighty fine words, boy.” His momma grinned in that lopsided way that she always did and kissed him on the top of his head before tuckin’ him in again.
“Sleep now.” She stood and left the bedroom leaving his door cracked open, just a bit.
His face lit up as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and spotted the handmade instrument resting against the boughs of the tree. He walked slowly, reverently, across the room so that he could reach out and touch it.