By Margaret Moser
It's not a contradiction in terms to say that Doug Sahm's funeral was one of the most joyous, life-affirming events I have ever attended. There were more musicians from every strata of music in one place than imaginable and pickup trucks were parked by Harleys parked by lowriders parked by SUVs...
The line to walk through the chapel for viewing was endless. I could see Joe Ely hugging a crying Dawn Sahm Schaftlein, who would again break into tears when she saw me -- it had been years since I'd seen Doug's daughter but she caught the bouquet at my 1977 wedding. Jimmie Vaughan squeezed my hand comfortingly as we walked to the casket. Saints medals, offerings of affection, feathers, necklaces, little pieces of mojo and occasional contraband were being left in his casket as he lay there, cowboy hat and shades intact, his steel guitars flanking him. I slipped off one of my rings and left it with him. It seemed like such a miserably insignificant token, just a Celtic circle of silver infinity when what I got from Doug Sahm will bring me joy for the rest of my life.
Shandon was first in the receiving line, looking a little lost but brave; a young man who has lost a bandmate, his mother, and his father in a short period of time. He's also inherited his father's professionalism, playing a Meat Puppets show 48 hours after his dad's death. Doug would not have had it any other way. On the end was Dawn, married and the mother of Doug's two grandchildren and tearfully exuberant in her appreciation for all the people paying their respects to her father. I still see them at Soap Creek Saloon as kids, Shandon rapt in front of the bandstand and Dawn swaying dreamily as her dad played fiddle.
But the face that got to me was Shawn. He'd worshipped his father from birth and loved the opportunity to play with him while pursuing his own bands too. And for all the lessons he'd learned at his father's knee, he was for the first time publicly stepping up on his father's behalf since his father would not be there to do it himself. Because I have known him since he used to try to charge a quarter to "let" you park at Soap Creek, I am guilty of thinking of him with the greatest of affection as just the son. Today, at his beloved father's funeral, I saw him as a man. My heart went out to all three standing there, so proud to be Sahms.
An hour and a half after the service was supposed to start, the viewing line was stopped until afterward so the services could begin. Doug's friend Sister Terry spoke movingly about him and his spiritual quest. His brother Victor spoke eloquently and poignantly of Doug the young boy, the one few of us have ever seen and even fewer knew. His three children shared their heartfelt emotions with words of love and stories with warmth and humor. I am sure everyone inside the chapel would agree it was appropriately respectful and relaxed.
I wouldn't know. I was outside with the larger portion of the crowd who couldn't fit into the chapel. Most gathered around a speaker in back of the chapel and strained to hear the tributes. They went on for a while and I wandered away after the kids spoke, seeing something resembling a tailgate party happening. Yes indeedy, mixed drinks on the left and a cooler of beer on the right. I took a beer and Artie Osborne and I toasted the Texas Tornado. And isn't *that* what a funeral should be?
There was a get-together afterward but I left before the services were over. It was a pleasure to see the turn-out and so many friends. Doug Sahm was a personal friend and the shock of his death was astonishing but I had not had time to grieve for my friend, my newspaper put me on the job. For the four days following his death I had been working almost round the clock to help prepare the Austin Chronicle's tribute to Sahm. But the day of the funeral deadline was over and like everyone else, I could simply let myself mourn the loss of possibly the most talented man I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
Did anyone notice the moon was full the night before the funeral? That kind of a moon is called a frosty moon. It lit the sky with such luminous beauty it made me stop and wonder what kind of invisible energy crackles around us. And for the services, the day was balmy with clear blue skies a light November wind. A frosty moon and November wind... just the sort of thing Doug would have liked.
Adios, Texas Tornado. You old son of a gun.