I never met Bob Nolan so there are
no personal recollections of the man to share with whomever reads these words.
Those lucky enough to meet and maybe even get to know him on some level, are the
ones who have been given an extra special gift. All I can offer are my own
cherished and indelible memories - acquired in my own search to find out about a
writer who could say more in a few sentences, than I could in many pages. It is
BECAUSE of Bob Nolan, I have these memories. And while he’ll never know it, he
changed my life.
It really started with Bill Jacobson and Mary Rogers in Colorado, and their
wonderful magazine about the Sons of the Pioneers. And all the Pioneer and
other Western music they shared with me. They also introduced me to the
unforgettable Bill Wiley, probably one of Bob Nolan and the Sons of the
Pioneers’ biggest fans. Then on to Rex Allen, who in turn, spoke a few kind
words to Roy Rogers and thus enabled me to interview him one morning in the
early 1990’s at the Roy and Dale Museum in Victorville. We chatted about the
beginnings of the Pioneers and his friendship with Bob Nolan and he took my arm
and led me on a private tour of the museum. I knew as we walked and talked,
that he had told the stories many times over the years, but he made them seem
special and his friendship with Nolan come alive. Even after nearly 60 years, he
spoke so well and admiringly of Nolan as a man and a songwriter.
Rex told of his Nolan friendship and of the tribute held at his ranch in
southern California. And during a visit to his home in Sonoita, sang me a verse
of 'Cottage in the Clouds' - a Nolan/Perryman collaboration. And again thru
Rex, I spoke with Snuff Garrett and heard his funny and insightful stories
during a telephone call and later, at the Nolan tribute in Tucson. And as the
years passed, and intrinsically interwoven with my research, the Reinsmen
appeared. Ah, what a talented and generous group of gentlemen - one and all.
Whenever I hear a Bob Nolan song, I immediately think of those guys and am
thankful they recorded so many - so well. And Patsy Montana - telling of how
she had a crush on Bob Nolan when she was a young woman and how decades later
volunteered to bring him an award from Nashville that he didn’t want to accept
in person. And how she was so surprised to find him in a t-shirt and bib
overalls working in his garden when he accepted it. The twinkle in her eye and
laughter in her voice as she told the story and showed the photos she took -
Patsy Montana photo to Michelle
And the kindness of Ken Carson -
evidenced in his warm letter
felt so honored! And Bob Morgan, who shared his memories and music. And Hi
Busse, whose stories were legendary. And Ranger Doug, the idol my post-youth.
And Elizabeth McDonald, who tirelessly brought together so many pieces of puzzle
of Nolan's birth and early life and disproved so many supposed 'facts'... So
many kind people who just wanted to talk about and share what impact Nolan had
on their lives. So many of them are now gone...
Of course, the story doesn’t end there, although there certainly are enough warm
thoughts already to last me a lifetime. For the past few years I’ve been
involved with raising horses, and for a time, helped with some ‘dude’ rides at
the base of the Cascades in Oregon. Out on the trail, I would invariably think
of a Nolan song while riding thru the woods or along a cool, clear stream. And
when the sun would shine thru the trees. Or after a rain when the mist would be
rising. And now, in the Piney Woods of Texas, I again see and feel Bob Nolan in
the wind and heat. And as corny as it sounds, ‘The Mystery of His Way’, and
‘The Wonder of It All’ seem even more alive.
Each memory is like a piece of a quilt - my Bob Nolan quilt. It’ll never be
finished, but it’s been quite a sewing project with each little patch a moment
in time I can’t and hopefully won’t ever forget.
Needlecraft by Michelle