Dickie Betts and Road Music by: Cat Bentivegna Adami
When my father went "on the road" it was always in an American car -a Camaro, a Caprice Classic, and then after he turned forty - it had to be a Cadillac. I could write an entire book just based on my father's mutual love for Hillbillies - whether pool players, or gangsters - and how he referred to them as "rebels." They staked him, played him, and protected him. They called him "Eye-talian." My father always said he was a "sucker for a Hillbilly woman" especially if they carried a pistol in their purse. His best friend unknowingly dated a "murderess" and he just thought that was the funniest thing in the world. "Don't mess with them rebels" he would say. When Sarah Palin was running for Vice President of the United States, I told him I thought this was an insult to educated women everywhere. He laughed at me. "Are you kidding? What's NOT to like? She jumps out of f***ing helicopters with a shotgun. This is my kind of broad!" He used to tell me that you have to overlook the fact that Hillbillies weren't educated. "They're the greatest fighters in the world - Scotch-Irish stock mostly. If you go to war, you want a Hillbilly on your side - period. I'm talking about reality here, Catherine - SURVIVAL." Music was important to him and he was old fashioned, from having a musician father, and referred to songs only as "numbers." "Turn it up!" he'd say, "I love this number!" He loved the Allman Brothers and used to quiz me on Dickie Betts who he said was the greatest guitarist of all time. We spent many summers down south, where we had the lay of the town by my father's many southern friends. They brought him moonshine and took him to the best barbeque spots. My father would go to the Piggily Wiggly and go shopping and cook them a giant Italian feast in return. He had carte blanche in every "joint." Hot Springs, Arkansas was a mobster resort town in the nineteen twenties and thirties for the likes of Al Capone. My grandfather played there and went to the bathhouses. My father fell in love with it as well - especially the racetrack - Oaklawn. Late for the first race one day, my father asked my best friend Margeaux if she "knew how to drive" she said "yes" and he jumped out of the car and ran across the highway to place his bet. Margeaux was only thirteen and couldn't see above the dashboard. The valet saw we were hitting the brakes too hard and waved his hands for us to stop driving and parked the car for us(note - my father did win a lot of money on that first race.) I watched my father play pool for tens of thousands of dollars at the Bowling alley in town. I would eat grilled American cheese sandwiches and drink Fanta orange soda out of a bottle. I would have to beg an adult to drive me back to the hotel so I could swim. After driving all night from Chicago to get to our summer vacation spot, my father would wake me up as the sun was rising, and we were driving through the majestic Ozark mountains. "Wake up, my Aing, we're here!" he would yell and grab my small hand and kiss it a few times, real fast. He would turn up the Allman Brothers on the stereo and he would be singing and tapping the steering wheel. He'd roll down all the windows and breath in the fresh country air and smile. "Pool keeps me young" he was quoted saying in the 1977 Chicago Reader article "Shooters," and you know what, he was right.