With all the mishigas of the past week, national and personal, I've held back on this, my Sam Shepard story. This was, maybe, twenty years ago. I was working for a company that parceled me out like a paid friend to a number of people, most of whose caregivers needed some kind of time off. One of them was a retired farmer named Lamoine. His wife needed three hours a week to herself on Thursdays for shopping and sociability. One afternoon I arrived and there was a red truck with Minnesota plates in the drive, and a big red lab in the bed. I said, "Hey, bud!" to the dog and he came to the gate wagging and sniffing my face and mouth. We bonded real quickly, and I went over to the house and knocked on the door. Sam Shepard opened it.
Now I knew he was buying land from Lamoine but hadn't expected he would be there visiting. I stuck out my hand and said, "I'm Bob." He stuck out his and said, "I'm Sam Shepard." Now at this point there were several different things I could have said: "Buried Child. Wow No one saw that coming."; "Fool for Love; what the hell was that?"; even, "I saw King Kong, Jessica has great tits." But I ended up saying what struck me right then and there.
"Wow. Sam, you got bad teeth."
Because he did. His whole top row of front teeth were set back like a firebreak line of trees to protect his palate; he wore false teeth when he acted or was in public. He smiled a little and covered his mouth. We got along okay.
Cut to a week later and my wife and I are in a nearby WalMart. It starts raining and we're wandering around the place, not looking anymore for anything in particular. And suddenly Sam Shepard is standing in front of us. I went up to him and said, "Hi, Sam." And he put out his hand and said, "Bob, right?" He had his falsies in. I introduced him to my wife and we talked for a little bit about the area, the horses he planned to stable on what used to be Lamoine's land. And then the rain let up and he said, "Well, gotta go." We said goodbye and wandered around a little longer because we didn't want to seem to be following him.
A few minutes later we were checking out and the cashier was all agush, pointing to another cashier a few rows over, saying, "She just checked out Sam Shepard!" And we said, "Oh, yeah, Sam. Nice guy. Bad teeth."