Buddy Holly singing "Peggy Sue" when I recalled something very weird from a winter night in 1966. It was one of those Twilight Zone experiences; a moment in time when your consciousness seems to slip a cog.
One snowy, cold Saturday night that winter, a college roommate and I got a ride to another town not too far our campus. Our friend with the car told us there was to be a dance at the local Legion Hall featuring a local band we had seen and liked before. At the dance, my pal and I met some convivial young ladies who invited us to a beer party at their house. Imbued with youthful hopes, we told our ride that we'd be staying the night and he left without us; we rode with our new friends to their house on the edge of town.
The party setting consisted of dim colored lights, portable record-player stereo music, cases of Hamm's Beer and a big bottle of syrupy sloe gin. The ladies were most accommodating and I thought the party was going well when a carload of local jocks appeared on the scene. Among the new arrivals were a couple of cats who felt that the ladies we'd met more properly belonged to them.
A fight ensued. As gentlemen, we took it outdoors, where my friend made quick work of his adversary, getting the jump on him, as it were. My antagonist had his hands in his pockets and was back-pedaling before his bloodied jock friend hit the snow. The carload of angry boys peeled out, vowing loudly to return in greater force. The girls started weeping about the ugly turn of events, so my pal and I decided to walk to the highway and hitch-hike homewards.
The night was bitter cold by then. Neither of us was dressed warmly. I wore blue jeans, a sweatshirt, engineer boots and a leather motorcycle jacket. The highway was snow-packed and we stamped our feet in the wind while waiting for a car. When finally we saw some headlights approaching, we were ready to posture as nonchalant thumbers, half joking that it might be a carload of jocks armed with baseball bats. It wasn't.
The white 1965 Thunderbird convertible zoomed past us, then the driver slammed on the brakes. The big T-bird slid for a quarter mile on the ice, stopped and sped backwards to where we stood. The eight-foot wide passenger door swung open and the front bucket seat tilted forward so my friend and I could get into what passed for a back seat. The interior lights revealed that the car held two young men wearing sweaters and nice hair-dos. The big front console held two stemmed martini glasses and a silver drink shaker. There were olives on the long fancy swizzle sticks. As the big boat of a car fishtailed back onto the highway I thought to myself: "These cats are most certainly queers. Hope they don't make trouble." I could tell that my pal was thinking the same thing.
The rear window curtain on the convertible top was missing, so it wasn't much warmer inside the car. When the Thunderbird reached an unreasonable speed, the driver turned to talk, "Who do you think is riding shotgun? It's Buddy Holly! Take a look." The cat in the passenger's seat turned around and thats when the cog slipped. Buddy Holly, trademark glasses, pompadour and all, was right there not three feet away, smiling between the bucket seats. My pal and I were speechless. The illusion was complete.
The mystery men then resumed shaking up martinis and sipping them as the freezing wind from the missing window drowned out any further talk. Minutes later, back in college town, my roomie and I got out of the car, said thanks to the party boys, and watched the Thunderbird speed away, taking the Twilight Zone with it. We decided not to tell anyone about this incident, and many years later we still couldn't agree on what exactly had transpired. He's dead now. I still wonder if it wasn't a ghost.
This incident occurred only a few miles from Clear Lake Iowa, home of the Surf Ballroom and not far from the place where Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens were killed in a wintry plane crash. Go figure.